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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 34-33 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Welp...

  • Game time at kickoff: 82 degrees. So we’re that much closer to pinpointing the exact temperature at which Tom Brady starts to melt.
  • Not that Brady played poorly at all; in fact, quite the opposite. But that doesn’t change the fact that Tommy B is now 7-10 in Miami, 1-6 at Miami in December. The NFL has to be very well aware of this fact when putting together the schedule, and we’re all but guaranteed for New England at Miami to be a December staple until Brady retires.
  • It’s annoying, too, because offensively, they had a very good day. Gronkowski had his best game of the season, Brady was spreading the ball around, the playaction was working. If not for two missed kicks and a freak play, I think we’d all be pleased with the offense overall. New England’s opening drive was more or less exactly what I was hoping they would do: running Michel up the gut, establishing the run, and picking on rookie CB Fitzpatrick. Mismi seemed hell-bent on stopping the run no matter what, and New England played to that by running out of a lot of bigger sets. Six point took up almost half the quarter.
  • As for the defense...
  • Always nice to finally get in the end zone on an opening drive only to surrender a TD to the opponent in which Miami only needed a single 2nd down to get into the end zone. Plays of four, 15, 13, 36, and seven yards lost the Patriots their lead before the offense even finished going over the in-game screenshots.
  • There seems to be a direct correlation between giving up opening drive TDs and losses. The Patriots gave up an embarrassingly easy opening drive TD to the Dolphins. They did the same against the Titans and Jaguars.
  • When the Patriots lost to Miami last year, I made a comment how when Jay Cutler runs a naked bootleg, smokes your entire defense, and picks up a huge first down with his legs, you just kinda realize it isn’t your night. The 2018 version of that is when Brandon Bolden takes a break from special teams to take a long run to the house, you should also realize that it isn’t your day.
  • Seriously...what is it about that stadium? It’s like some weird vortex when nothing goes right. Poor execution. Horrible coaching decisions. Odd bounces. At Miami is to the Patriots what Hooters is to a group of high school freshmen; the second they walk in the door, they’re reduced to a gaggle of bumbling, incoherent buffoons.
  • On the plus side, the Patriots 3rd down defense was excellent yesterday. On the negative side, the Dolphins needed so few 3rd downs to score that I’m not sure how much weight that stat carries.
  • Perhaps what’s moat frustrating is that, given New England’s last possession of the second quarter and first possession of the third, the Patriots could have put this game away. Instead they had two drives that ended in no points. Missing a wide open Chris Hogan on 2nd down and taking a sack on third to leave points on the board is the worst back-to-back Tom Brady play that I maybe have ever seen.
  • But again, let’s keep some perspective here. If the Patriots had won that game, they’d be...right in line for the 2 seed. But since they lost, they’re...right in line for the 2 seed. And as I mentioned, the offense looked good. It’s just one of those things. The Patriots haven’t swept the AFC East since 2012, and have only done it twice in the Belichick era. It’s far from the end of the world.
  • Ever notice that Cordarrelle Patterson almost always stumbles over his own feet every time he catches a pass?
  • Or maybe it’s just his patented juke. Make ‘em think you’re about to trip all over yourself, then make a cut and go.
  • New England’s first punt of the day was preceded by a 2nd down reception to a wide open Gronk in which he very, very easily should have been able to shed the tackle and pick up the 1st, but he couldn’t do it. That may have been the most telling Gronk play of the entire season.
  • But again, Gronk was solid yesterday, and remains a top 5 tight end in the league. He’s just not unstoppable anymore, and that’s fine.
  • And a safety/defensive back, Gronk is most certainly not. WHY THE HELL WAS HE OUT THERE ON A NON-HAIL MARY PLAY!!!
  • In 2009, the Patriots ran a Sammy Morris dive on 3rd and short that never, ever worked. Their 2018 version of the Sammy Morris 2009 3rd down fullback dive is the stretch run for a loss.
  • If I ever find myself in the Patriots locker room asking questions at a press conference, I think the question I’d ask is, “coach, you seem to run a lot of stretch runs for a negative yards on crucial third and short situations. Would it be fair to say that you call the plays that you think give you the best chance to win the game?”
  • The answer I’d get: yes. Just one word. I’d likely then promptly be thrown out.
  • Ironically, the FB dive works incredibly well this year, as James Develin has suddenly become a touchdown machine.
  • If a butt can cause a fumble, a but should be able to recover one. Just saying.
  • Danny Shelton has been a healthy scratch the past two weeks. For the past two weeks, the Patriots have gotten gashed up the middle by running backs. Coincidence?
  • This game should have been over multiple times. There were just too many self-inflicted wounds that Miami took advantage of, so credit to the Dophins. It also has to be a great feeling for Dolphins fans, knowing that no matter how crappy your season is going, no matter how irrelevant to the big picture you are, and no matter what your record is, the Patriots are almost guaranteed to come to Miami in December, drop a game, hurt their playoff seeding, and force Pats fans to sweat for another few weeks. It’s games like that that you really enjoy as a fan, so I hope Fins fans are milking the hell out of it this morning.
  • Also...what a WILD week in the NFL. The Rams were held to six points. The Steelers had the game won, then gave up the lead, then pulled some classic Steelers stuff to get into FG range only to blow it. The Chiefs went to OT against the Ravens. Cowboys/Eagles ended on some madness. Sometimes you’re on the right end of these weeks, and sometimes you aren’t. What can you do.
  • I’m already over this game, because it ultimately had very little impact on the overall playoff picture, but if you are still feeling down this morning, consider this: there were a large number of Jets and Bills fans at Paddy’s of Park Slope yesterday. The Jets/Bills game was playing on the main TV with the sound on, and there was a lot of passion in the room. Except, the Jets fans were rooting for the Bills to win, and the Bills fans were rooting for the Jets to win, as both teams are rooting for draft pick at this point. So think how much worse we could have it.

What happens next week against the Steelers is going to define the 2018 season for the Patriots. How they bounce back from that kind of loss, on the road against a desperate team, will say everything we need to know about this team’s mental toughness. Everyone in the NFL seems pretty vulnerable right now, so it should be a pretty crazy final few weeks.