The New England Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday afternoon in a crushing 22-12 defeat by the Miami Dolphins — the first time since 2008 that they will not participate in postseason play. The Patriots entered the game with just a 2 percent chance, according to FiveThirtyEight, and they were eliminated in unceremonious fashion by failing to find the end zone and stop the run for a second straight game.
The Patriots defense had a strong plan for the first half as it shut out Miami with a strong pass rush and a timely turnover. However, Miami committed to the ground game after intermission, scoring 22 points while gashing the Patriots defense on 42 carries for 250 yards. The offense, meanwhile, failed to really gain control of the game at any point and settled for just four field goals in the loss.
That loss raised a lot of questions now that everyone has their sights set on the 2021 season, but the biggest one would have to be the quarterback position and whether or not Cam Newton will be back.
Loser: QB Cam Newton
Like it’s been the entire year, the Patriots’ offensive issues aren’t entirely Cam’s fault. However, he still has some part in them. For the second straight game, New England failed to find the end zone and while Newton was definitely better throwing the ball on Sunday as he had been in past weeks — he completed 17 of his 27 passes for 209 yards while chipping in 38 on the ground — the unit as a whole failed to convert in some crucial moments: it went just 2-for-9 on third down.
Newton wasn’t the biggest problem on Sunday, but when you don’t score touchdowns the finger is going to be put on the quarterback. We all know that.
Winner: S Adrian Phillips
There weren’t too many bright spots in Sunday’s game but Adrian Phillips certainly popped up all over the television, flying around and constantly making things happen on defense. He picked up his first sack of the season as well as finishing second on the team with six tackles.
Phillips has certainly been the Patriots’ most consistent offseason signing despite being put in a tough situation on the team’s defense: he is undersized as New England’s hybrid linebacker but has to play the role due to the team’s lack of depth at the position; as a result, he is not finding himself in a spot to consistently succeed. However, Phillips has really stepped up and has been one of the team’s better players down the stretch in 2020.
Loser: OT Justin Herron
Herron got the start at left tackle over Jermaine Eluemunor, filling the void at left tackle that was created when Isaiah Wynn was sent to injured reserve ahead of Week 12. The 2020 sixth-rounder has had some bright spots this season and has been pretty consistent in his role as a swing tackle, but Sunday was a rough one for the rookie. He was blown up by Zach Seiler leading to a sack on Cam Newton and really didn’t provide much help in the run game either.
The Patriots’ offense has struggled since its game in Houston and it is a testament to what Isaiah Wynn brings to the unit when he is on the field. He is eligible to resume practice and reenter the lineup since last week, but has not returned thus far.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
Another promising game from the Patriots’ top wide receiver in 2020. Meyers turned in his second 100+ yard receiving game against the Dolphins, hauling in seven catches for 111 yards. His biggest play came on almost the same concept that saw Jarrett Stidham hit Gunner Olszewski for a 38-yard touchdown in Los Angeles two weeks ago: Cam Newton faked the bubble screen to N’Keal Harry, read the safety perfectly on the fake, and hit a wide-open Meyers who displayed strong yard after the catch ability.
There haven’t been many bright spots at the wide receiver position for the Patriots this season but we know one thing is for sure: Jakobi Meyers can play and make a difference in this league, no matter who is playing quarterback in 2020.
Loser: The defensive line
Coming off a 24-3 loss in Los Angeles last Thursday where the Patriots were gashed for 187 yards on the ground, the Dolphins took a similar approach on Sunday. It was New England’s worst showing from a run-stopping perspective all year long as the Dolphins got them for 250 yards — 178 of them coming in the second half. Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler struggled to make things happen as run-stuffers in the middle of the defensive line, despite going against a Miami O-line fielding three rookies.
The Patriots will need to beef up their front seven this off-season because they simply don’t have the players to make consistent plays up front in the run game. The last two weeks made that painfully clear.
Winner: K Nick Folk
Where would this Patriots team be without Nick Folk? Both he and punter Jake Bailey have been the only two players who have consistently done their job on a week-to-week basis this season. on Sunday, Folk hit all four of the field goals he attempted and improved to 25-for-27 on the season. He has also hit 24 straight field goals and hasn’t missed an attempt since Week 2 back in Seattle.
The Patriots lost a big piece when they decided to move on from Stephen Gostkowski this offseason, and even selected Justin Rohrwasser in the fifth round this past draft. However, Folk has probably earned himself a nice little extension next year. He has been money.
Loser: WR N’Keal Harry
Another Sunday, another week of N’Keal Harry being a complete non-factor in the offense. After coming off arguably his best game as a pro last week versus the Los Angeles Rams where he showcased his contested catching and ability to go up and get the football, Harry was non-existent on Sunday.
The 2019 first-rounder was targeted just three times and caught one ball for 12 yards. Harry certainly hasn’t been put in the best situation to succeed throughout his first two seasons after missing the first nine weeks last year and being in an offense that is limited throwing the ball. However, he hasn’t really shown any sort of promise in his 19 career games — especially considering the natural expectations that come with his draft status.
Loser: LB Chase Winovich
Winovich did make a nice play in the second quarter as he hit Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, forcing him to make an inerrant throw leading to J.C. Jackson’s big interception. Other than that, however, Winovich was a non-factor in Sunday’s game. The second year man failed to set the edge on numerous plays, one of them leading to Miami’s biggest play of the day: Winovich overcommitted on the run and allowed Salvon Ahmed to get the outside, leading to a 31 -ard scamper on Miami’s go-ahead touchdown drive in the third quarter.