Fourth-and-two in Indianapolis in 2009 stung, Week 17 at Miami in 2015 was frustrating, the “Miami Miracle” left you speechless but eventually was overshadowed by a Super Bowl win six weeks later. All of those infamous regular season losses that come to mind did not cost the New England Patriots a first-round bye in the playoffs.
For me, it is therefore hard to find another regular season loss during their dynastic 20 year run that cost the Patriots as much as yesterday’s 27-24 defeat at the hands of Miami Dolphins.
With a banged up Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and key pieces to the secondary, the Patriots headed into their regular season finale having next weekend off all but official. However, the spoiling Dolphins had other plans as they torched New England’s mighty defense for 389 yards while journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick helped ex-Patriots assistant Brian Flores earn his first win over his mentor, Bill Belichick.
The Patriots were bad in all phases of the game yesterday. They failed to move the ball offensively, and the defense couldn’t get stops when they needed them to the most. They looked asleep the entire first half as a Brady interception went for six early in the second quarter, putting the team in an early 10-0 hole.
They battled back in the second quarter to tie the contest, and then the defense followed it up with a quick three-and-out. The Patriots had roughly 1:45 left in the half and failed to call a timeout to stop the clock with all three in their pocket. Instead, they let the clock run out and took a conservative approach to end the half. They took zero shots down the field and didn’t show the urgency they needed to, especially with the ball to start the second half.
In a game where the Patriots were hoping to get an early lead and get the starters some much-needed rest for the majority of the second half, they had to scratch and claw their way to finally grab a late lead in the fourth quarter — until Fitzpatrick led the now-5-11 Dolphins down the field on a 13-play 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Mike Gesicki go-ahead touchdown with 24 ticks left.
It was a blown opportunity to take control of your own destiny in the AFC and to continue to build on the positivity from the impressive win over the Buffalo Bills a week earlier.
“There’s obviously not too much to say,” Belichick said to open his postgame press conference. “Obviously, we didn’t do anything well enough today to deserve to win, and we’ll be playing next week.”
With the rolling Tennessee Titans coming to town on a short week and taking the league by storm since Ryan Tannehill took over as their starting quarterback, the Patriots will be tested right away. If they can survive this test, they’ll head to Arrowhead for a clash with the Kansas City Chiefs. And if they can get through that, they’ll likely head on the road to Baltimore against a team that has not lost since Week 4.
The Patriots went from sitting comfortably in the number two spot in the conference to now arguably having the toughest road just to get to a Super Bowl yet. All because they couldn’t beat the Miami Dolphins... at home... with almost their entire active roster playing regular snaps. This is why, if the Patriots can’t string a run together and fall in the playoffs either at home or on the road, it will be hard to find another regular season loss that might end up costing them this much.