The New England Patriots needed a victory over the Miami Dolphins to keep their playoff hopes alive. Even though they did compete throughout the entire game, their lackluster offense and bad run defense eventually doomed them and their postseason chances: Miami came away victoriously with a final score of 22-12, knocking the Patriots to 6-8 on the year.
Patriots (6-8) 12 : 22 Dolphins (9-5)
The Patriots started the game on offense, but they went nowhere on their first series. An incomplete pass by Cam Newton was followed by back-to-back plays that actually lost yards for the team. Onto the field came punter Jake Bailey, who flipped field position with an impressive 56-yard kick.
Luckily for the Patriots, their defense delivered a three-and-out as well. The third and final play of the series was a short throw from Tua Tagovailoa to Patrick Laird, with New England linebacker Shilique Calhoun making an impressive tackle just short of the line to gain to force a Miami punt.
New England’s next defensive series went better, with Sony Michel registering a 16-yard run to help the offense reach the Dolphins’ side of the field for the first time. When the team had to take to the air, however, it once again struggled — leading to another punt. Once more, though, Bailey and the Patriots’ punt coverage team delivered: the ball was placed perfectly, with Matthew Slater pitching it back to set Miami up at its own 2-yard line.
Despite the favorable starting field position, the Patriots’ defense allowed the Dolphins to quickly create some breathing room and more. Miami had no issues marching the ball down the field to set up a goal-to-go situation. However, the drive did not end with points: on 3rd-and-goal from the New England 3-yard line, Chase Winovich hit Tagovailoa just as he was releasing the football. The pass ended up in the hands of Mr. INT himself. J.C. Jackson:
New England started the second quarter deep in its own territory after the Jackson interception, but was able to methodically move the ball down the field. A nice mix of runs and intermediate passes allowed Newton and company to reach Miami territory, and, even though the series eventually stalled, to take the lead on a 45-yard Nick Folk field goal. [Patriots 3 : 0 Dolphins]
The Patriots opened the next series with a 9-yard sack by Adrian Phillips, and did not let up: the defense forced an incompletion on the following play before stopping a third down run well short to force a punt — one that was returned 13 yards by Gunner Olszewski to set the New England offense up at its own 40-yard line.
The ensuing drive came close to turning into a three-and-out, but Newton escaped pressure to find James White for a 21-yard gain on 3rd-and-6. This conversion allowed the Patriots to again reach scoring territory, and go up 6-0 on a 36-yard field goal by Nick Folk. [Patriots 6 : 0 Dolphins]
That kick almost never happened, though, as Newton fumbled the football on a third down run. The initial ruling on the field was a Miami recovery and return for a touchdown, but further review showed that the ball had touched Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins while out of bounds. Instead of the Dolphins taking a 7-3 lead, the score therefore shifted to 6-0 Patriots.
Miami’s next drive, meanwhile, saw the Patriots’ best defender go down with an injury: Stephon Gilmore remained on the ground after a third down play with an apparent knee injury. He later went straight into the blue medical tent before walking gingerly into the locker room.
On the field, meanwhile, the Dolphins drove into field goal range — converting a 4th-and-8 along the way — to set up a 52-yard field goal attempt just before the half. However, Jason Sanders’ kick sailed wide to the left to preserve the first-half shutout and New England’s 6-0 lead.
With Stephon Gilmore remaining the locker room to start the second half, Miami quickly marched down the field to take its first lead of the day: behind a productive running game, the Dolphins covered 72 yards in nine plays to go up on a 1-yard touchdown run by Salvon Ahmed. [Patriots 6 : 7 Dolphins]
Trailing for the first time all day, New England’s offense needed to get some momentum back on its next possession. What followed, however, was the unit’s first turnover: Newton fired a deep pass to Jakobi Meyers, but the ball was knocked out of the wideout’s hands by Xavien Howard and recovered by ex-Patriot Elandon Roberts. Miami’s next drive therefore started as the New England 47-yard line.
As opposed to the Patriots in the first half, however, the Dolphins failed to take advantage of the takeaway: New England forced a quick stop to force a punt. That punt on 4th-and-7 was originally faked by the home team and converted via a pass from Matt Haack to another former Patriot, Kamu Grugier-Hill, but a penalty against Miami wiped the trick play off the board. On 4th-and-12, Haack did eventually punt the ball away.
Cam Newton and the Patriots offense bounced back nicely on its next series, with Meyers catching two passes for 43 yards on the drive. While the possession once again did not end with a touchdown, New England was able to re-take the lead on a 45-yard field goal by Nick Folk. [Patriots 9 : 7 Dolphins]
Miami, however, was able to produce another good-looking drive on its next possession. Attacking an inconsistent run defense, the team was able to march into the Patriots’ red zone yet again before the end of the third quarter.
It did not take long for the Dolphins to find the end zone in the early fourth quarter. Tagovailoa was able to scramble up the middle on a 3rd-and-goal from the Patriots’ 3-yard line to put his team up front again. A successful two-point conversion later, New England suddenly found itself down six points on a day that had not seen a touchdown by the team. [Patriots 9 : 15 Dolphins]
The Patriots’ next possession came close to turning into a quick punt, but Newton and Damiere Byrd connected on a 24-yard pass on 3rd-and-15 to move the chains and keep the series alive. Eventually, it turned into another scoring drive: while the Dolphins again kept the visitors out of the end zone, Nick Folk’s fourth field goal of the day — this one from 42 yards out — brought New England within three points again. [Patriots 12 : 15 Dolphins]
Down three points, the Patriots needed to force a quick punt to give its offense a chance to at least tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Instead, however, they surrendered another long touchdown drive that again saw some bad run defense along the way. Miami eventually found the end zone with a little more than three minutes left to go on a 1-yard sneak by Tua Tagovailoa. [Patriots 12 : 22 Dolphins]
At that point, the game was essentially decided. The Patriots eventually did drive into Miami territory again on their next drive, but a sack against Cam Newton on 4th-and-3 all but ended the contest — and effectively New England’s season.
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