The New England Patriots still have two games remaining on their schedule, but they already know that their season will be over afterwards: the team has officially been eliminated from playoff contention after losing its eighth game of the year on Sunday; the Miami Dolphins were able to defeat the Patriots with a final score of 22-12 to end their already small odds of sneaking into the tournament as one of the AFC’s wild cards.
Let’s now take a look back at the contest to see how New England opted to use the talent on its roster, and who played the biggest roles versus the Dolphins.
Total snaps: 55
OT Michael Onwenu (55; 100%), OT Justin Herron (55; 100%), G Joe Thuney (55; 100%), G Shaq Mason (55; 100%), QB Cam Newton (55; 100%), WR Damiere Byrd (53; 96%), WR Jakobi Meyers (53; 96%), C David Andrews (48; 87%), WR N’Keal Harry (36; 65%), TE Dalton Keene (29; 53%), TE Devin Asiasi (27; 49%), RB James White (27; 49%), RB Sony Michel (23; 42%), FB Jakob Johnson (21; 38%), C James Ferentz (7; 13%), RB J.J. Taylor (5; 9%), WR Gunner Olszewski (1; 2%)
New England approached the game in Miami with the same basic personnel philosophy it had for most of the season: the offensive line and quarterback positions were relatively set, while Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd served as the top-two at the skill positions. There was still some movement, though, especially along an O-line that saw David Andrews miss seven snaps because of a calf injury and rookie Justin Herron start at left tackle in place of Jermaine Eluemunor.
At wide receiver, meanwhile, the Patriots again used N’Keal Harry as their number three receiver: the former first-round draft pick played around two-third of snaps, which was par for the course for him recently. The tight end spot was also handled by some young talent, as Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi split reps to help replace injured TE1 Ryan Izzo for another week. The two rookies did share the field as well but only on one snap.
The running back position, on the other hand, saw Sony Michel and James White carry the load with Damien Harris inactive. They did get some support from undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor, who returned to the field for the first time since Week 3: Taylor had one carry for two yards on his five snaps and also drew an illegal contact penalty.
Total snaps: 73
S Devin McCourty (73; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (70; 96%), LB Terez Hall (64; 88%), CB Jonathan Jones (56; 77%), DT Adam Butler (51; 70%), CB Jason McCourty (50; 68%), LB Anfernee Jennings (45; 62%), DT Lawrence Guy (45; 62%), LB Tashawn Bower (43; 59%), LB Shilique Calhoun (40; 55%), S Adrian Phillips (39; 53%), S Kyle Dugger (39; 53%), DT Byron Cowart (36; 49%), LB John Simon (32; 44%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (28; 38%), CB Stephon Gilmore (24; 33%), LB Josh Uche (20; 27%), LB Chase Winovich (19; 26%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (16; 22%), CB Myles Bryant (8; 11%), DT Akeem Spence (6; 8%)
As was the case on offense, the Patriots also had to adapt on the fly on defense because of injury. All three levels of the unit were impacted: along the defensive line, John Simon hurt his hamstring in the early fourth quarter; off-the-ball linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley left the game in the second with an arm issue; cornerback Stephon Gilmore injured his leg in the late second quarter and like the other two did also not return to the contest.
With the three starters unable to finish the game, New England had to reshuffle all over the unit. Simon’s role as an outside linebacker was filled by Tashawn Bower and, to a lesser degree, Anfernee Jennings. Bentley’s job in the heart of the defense, meanwhile, went to Terez Hall with Jennings also seeing some increased action. Gilmore’s CB1 responsibilities, on the other hand, went to J.C. Jackson with Jason McCourty seeing added snaps as the second perimeter cornerback.
What else stands out from the Patriots’ defense? Defensive tackles Adam Butler and Lawrence Guy saw a heavy workload, for example, and were on the field for 51 and 45 snaps, respectively. While it was the fourth highest total for Guy this year, Butler set a new personal season-high. In fact, he had not played as many snaps in a single game since the 2018 playoffs when he was on the field for 52 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Total snaps: 22
CB Justin Bethel (18; 82%), S Cody Davis (18; 82%), WR Matthew Slater (18; 82%), S Kyle Dugger (15; 68%), LB Chase Winovich (14; 64%), WR Gunner Olszewski (13; 59%), S Adrian Phillips (13; 59%), LB Terez Hall (12; 55%), LB Anfernee Jennings (12; 55%), FB Jakob Johnson (9; 41%), P Jake Bailey (9; 41%), CB Jonathan Jones (8; 36%), LB John Simon (8; 36%), K Nick Folk (6; 27%), LS Joe Cardona (6; 27%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (5; 23%), LB Josh Uche (5; 23%), CB Myles Bryant (5; 23%), S Terrence Brooks (5; 23%), OT Michael Onwenu (4; 18%), OT Justin Herron (4; 18%), G Joe Thuney (4; 18%), G Shaq Mason (4; 18%), WR N’Keal Harry (4; 18%), OT Korey Cunningham (4; 18%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (4; 18%), S Devin McCourty (3; 14%), DT Byron Cowart (3; 14%), DT Akeem Spence (3; 14%), CB Jason McCourty (2; 9%), LB Shilique Calhoun (2; 9%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (2; 9%)
New England used 32 different players in the kicking game, with nine of them being used exclusively in the game’s third phase: the three specialists — Jake Bailey, Nick Folk, Joe Cardona — as well as core coverage personnel Justin Bethel, Cody Davis and Matthew Slater; Terrence Brooks, Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor also saw their only snaps on Sunday on special teams.
Eluemunor in particular stands out as this usage represents another change for the 26-year-old. He started the year as New England’s number one right tackle in lieu of Marcus Cannon opting out, but was replaced by Michael Onwenu after suffering an ankle injury. He returned as the number three at the tackle position, but filled the starting spot on the left side after Isaiah Wynn hurt his knee in Week 11. Eluemunor started the previous three games, but lost this job as well to another rookie (Justin Herron) this week.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham
After seeing the field each of the last two games, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham had to remain on the sidelines throughout the contest in Miami. This was no surprise, as the Patriots still had a theoretical chance of winning until the late fourth quarter. It never materialized, but it still forced Stidham to watch from the bench instead of playing in his fifth game this year.
QB Brian Hoyer, WR Donte Moncrief, CB Joejuan Williams, RB Damien Harris, TE Jordan Thomas
The Patriots entered the weekend with 14 listed as questionable but no players initially ruled out. That number jumped to two when Damien Harris (ankle) and Donte Moncrief (thigh) did not make the trip to Miami. On Sunday, eventually, three other players joined them on the inactives list — all of them healthy scratches.