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“It’s going to test our character”: Patriots react to their last-second loss against the Dolphins

New England came close to winning in Miami, but failed to seal the deal.

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

For much of the game, the New England Patriots were in a shootout against the Miami Dolphins. However, a field goal and subsequent kickoff that left only seven seconds on the clock seemed to have sealed the deal in the visitors favor. Alas, it was not meant to be: the Dolphins were able to cover 69 yards on a last-second play consisting of a forward pass and a pair of laterals to win the contest 34-33.

New England was in collective state of disappointment and shock afterwards. “That’s as tough as it gets,” Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon, who had a very good day and finished the game with five catches for 96 yards and a crucial pass interference penalty drawn, told reporters after the game. “A buzzer-beater like that type of a game, or a way to end the game, I’ve never seen anything like that in my career.”

Naturally, the final play was the biggest story after the game — and a frequently discussed topic in the press room and locker room. “Obviously, it’s a real disappointing ending for us today,” head coach Bill Belichick said during his postgame press conference. “There’s a lot of things we could have done better. It came down to one play, but there were a lot of things besides that. In the end, we’ve just got to do a better job than we did.”

Belichick was not the only member of the organization to stress the theme of doing a better job. “We just have to do a better job [with] leverage, tackling. Seven seconds, we just have to make that play,” defensive captain Devin McCourty said. The veteran defender played a central role on the Hail Mary play — not just because of his involvement, but because he was not on the field despite being one of the Patriots’ fastest players and surest tacklers.

Instead, tight end Rob Gronkowski was part of the package New England opted to send onto the field. He also was the last line of defense against running back Kenyan Drake, who scored the game-winning touchdown. “I just saw the ball going lateral, hook and ladder and stuff,” Gronkowski said. “I didn’t think it was going to get to me, and then just saw the guy trucking down the field. [...] You saw what happened from there.”

The fact that Gronkowski was on the field was evidence that the Patriots were trying to get ready for a potential Hail Mary pass down the field — despite the pass having to travel around 70 yards through the air. “Every time we practice it, it’s for the Hail Mary,” the tight end, who had arguably his best game of the season and finished with eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, said.

However, Duron Harmon said that the Patriots knew a Hail Mary was unlikely given the distance. “You just know they’re not throwing the ball 75 yards to like the end zone,” the safety said (via the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels). “We knew that. We knew it was going to be a lateral situation. If the ball was at the 35-yard line or 40-yard line, we’d think Hail Mary, everyone get back, play the tip. But it was where they were, position, on the field, we knew it wasn’t going to be a Hail Mary.”

“If they throw the ball up in the air, you want a guy like Gronk to bat the ball down,” continued cornerback Jason McCourty, who was on the field for the final play as opposed to his twin brother. “Obviously, if we know exactly what the play is you can sub all 11 and get the exact people you want on it. You just don’t know. You’re trying to prepare for any and everything. We just didn’t do a good enough job.”

Quarterback Tom Brady also acknowledged that the team failed to do a good enough job to win the game, while simultaneously congratulating the Dolphins for their execution at the end. “They made a good play,” Brady, who — like Gronkowski — arguably played his best game of the year. “I think we all have plays on offense for kind of those desperation plays, and I thought they did a good job executing it. They got it to their fast guys.”

However, the 41-year old is ready to flip the page to the next challenge: the Pittsburgh Steelers who like the Patriots are fighting for playoff positioning. “We get back to work,” Brady said when asked about what can be done after a loss like today’s. “If they didn’t make that play at the end, we’d do the same thing.” Returning to work and trying to bounce back also was a recurring theme for the team after the game.

“We’ve got to come in and go to work on Monday,” center and offensive captain David Andrews said. “That’s all we can do. We’ve got a big challenge this week with Pittsburgh. We’ve got to come in, go back to work and get this ship corrected.” “I think we’ve got a tough group of guys,” Josh Gordon said. “We can handle it. We can bounce back. We’re on to Pittsburgh now at this point.”

“We’ve just got to keep working hard. We’ve just got to keep grinding. We’ve got to keep focusing and just come together as a team more,” Gronkowski said. Despite this mentality, however, the Patriots appear to know that this last-second loss will test their mental toughness moving forward. “It’s going to test our character. It’s going to test our mental toughness,” noted Gronkowski.

Defensive lineman Trey Flowers also sees it the same way. “It’s going to be tough, but we still have a lot of games left,” he told reporters. The next one will be big for this team as it tries to get back on track towards the postseason — and to put the memory of that final play against the Dolphins behind it.

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