With seven seconds left and up 33-28, the New England Patriots looked like the certain winners of their week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins. However, the final play turned the team’s fortunes around rather quickly: one forward pass and two laterals helped Miami go the entire 69 yards that they were away from the end zone to come away as the victors. It was a crazy ending to the game.
And while that infamous final play decided the game, it was not the reason the Patriots lost: New England had multiple mental and performance errors in the first 59 minutes and 53 seconds of the game that equally contributed to the game’s outcome. The Patriots left points on the board, had negative plays, and just allowed Miami to stick around until a final play unlike any other the Patriots have ever had.
Take the kicking by Stephen Gostkowski. After the Patriots’ first touchdown of the day, he missed the extra point attempt. This in turn, put New England at a disadvantage and might have influenced the play calling for the entire game — especially near its end (more on that later). To add proverbial insult to injury, Gostkowski also missed a field goal in the third quarter that would have put the Patriots up nine points.
Take the defense and its inability to stop the run. Miami was able to move the ball at will on the ground on a defense that failed to generate a serious push up the field and slow down 35-year old Frank Gore. The Dolphins entered the game with the 23rd most rushing attempts in the NFL for the 24th most yards (2,432) and the 32nd most touchdowns (4) — and they ran wild over a Patriots unit coming off its best game of the year.
Take the Patriots’ breakdown at the end of the first half. After its second punt block, New England set up shop at the Miami 15-yard line with 30 seconds and one timeout left. The team ran four plays and used its timeout before quarterback Tom Brady allowed himself to get sacked on what was the final play of the half. Your normally don’t see errors like that from as experienced and successful a player as Brady.
Take the Patriots’ decision making on their final offensive series. Up 30-28, New England drove all the way down to the Miami 4-yard line inside the two-minute warning. However, the unit failed to reach the end zone and up two points decided to add to the scoreboard instead of being aggressive and going for it on fourth down to put Miami in worse field position — a decision that might have been the better one (this is, of course, easy to say in hindsight).
Take the Patriots’ decision making before their final defensive play. With six seconds left and Miami 69 yards away from the end zone, a deep Hail Mary pass was unlikely. However, it appeared as if New England was planning for it anyway by sending the appropriate package on the field — one that included tight end Rob Gronkowski as a deep safety instead of Devin McCourty. It is not unreasonable to think that McCourty might have been able to track down Kenyan Drake before he reached the end zone, something a stumbling Gronkowski failed to do.
Ultimately, the final play was a microcosmos of the Patriots’ game — and season: New England’s mistakes and inconsistency caught up to the team at the worst possible time. One of the defining traits of championship teams is how they bounce back from adversity. The next few days might therefore define the 2018 New England Patriots.
Welp -- here goes nothing. Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show!Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 9, 2018