For the first time since the 2008 season the New England Patriots will not be playing in the postseason. They fell to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday 22-12 in a game that officially put the nail in the coffin to any playoff thoughts. Their 2020 season will therefore come to an end on January 3, 2021 against the New York Jets.
As it has in most games this season, the Patriots offense struggled to string together consistent drives and even when it did, it failed to capitalize — ending the game with all of their points coming on field goals. The defense, meanwhile, completely fell apart in the second half as the Dolphins, who ended up running for 250 yards and three touchdowns, exploited its biggest weakness and gashed the unit on the ground.
On top of all of that the team saw Stephon Gilmore, Ja’Whaun Bentley, David Andrews, and John Simon leave the game with injuries.
Once again the positives were few and far between but we’ll find them as we always do. Here are the Patriots’ unsung heroes from Sunday’s loss in Miami.
Jake Bailey - #ProBowlVote Take Three (ft. Matthew Slater)
The #Patriots look like they’ve got their punter for the next 10+ years. It feels like Jake Bailey makes phenomenal plays weekly and this is just another example of that. Also, #ProBowlVote. pic.twitter.com/dgMULIbRgb— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
For the third straight week Jake Bailey did something silly on a football field. He had a couple of absolute rockets in the two-game series in Los Angeles, and this week he dropped the ball perfectly for Matthew Slater who did what he does best. Having a pair like the two Pro Bowl selections is invaluable for a defense’s success. If only they could stop the run.
Nick Folk, the Patriots future at kicker
Nick Folk has connected on 25/27 field goals, that’s a better percentage than Justin Tucker and Harrison Butker. Former #Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is 18/26 on the year. pic.twitter.com/u94oDNvbCD— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
Nick Folk has now hit 25 consecutive field goals for the Patriots. Without his consistency this team could easily be in a much worse situation. He’s done his part to keep things normal in New England, no easy task in 2020.
Sony Michel shows some fight
Sony Michel has been running HARD the last few weeks, really every game he’s played since LV. He’s even gotten involved in the passing game. Having a one-two punch to complement whoever your QB is next year is going to be a great advantage for them. pic.twitter.com/UMkqM6Atbn— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
One of the lost stories in 2020 has been the fall of Sony Michel. Not only did he sustain an injury that landed him on injured reserve, but he also lost his job during that stint as Damien Harris took over with his impressive play.
Despite the tribulations, Michel continues to be solid in his relief role. In his past two games — the second of which without Harris active — Michel has averaged over 10 yards per carry. That includes his 74-yard performance on Sunday. The Patriots appear to be set with early-down backs for the foreseeable future.
S Kyle Dugger
After watching that horrendous performance the Patriots put on it’s easy to want to focus on the future. Luckily enough, the future of your defense just played the best game of his career and was easily the unit’s best performer. The numbers aren’t eye popping — he finished with five tackles and one pass defended — but Dugger impacted the game on multiple levels and has shown growth whenever he’s been afforded the opportunity.
The second-round draft pick started the game by displaying his ability in the run game. It’s his biggest strength and the reason he’s seen the field as much as he has in his rookie year. Keeping the defense ahead of the chains helped the Patriots against the run early on as they shut out the Dolphins in the first half.
We all know how good Dugger’s been in the run game and he displayed his skills a few times on Sunday. He’s the fill man here and does a great job of avoiding a block altogether and making the tackle. pic.twitter.com/wAsqDkkqrC— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
He had another similar play late in the third quarter, forcing a third-and-long. Dugger has been great at making plays that set the defense up for future success.
He came back later in the game and had another great run stuff. This time he bench presses Bowden and makes the tackle at the LOS. Something that sets him apart from some other rookies is his mentality, he’s not catching blocks, he’s delivering blows and working through them. pic.twitter.com/wJ66Ut4aMp— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
If you’ve followed the Patriots all year you know that Dugger’s biggest strength is defending the run. His biggest weakness however has been covering tight ends, as it’s completely new to him because he played primarily as a single high safety in college.
The Lenoir-Rhyne steadily improved throughout the season and had possibly his best rep Sunday, sticking with Adam Shaheen during a scramble drill and completing the pass breakup.
Something he’s struggled at is man coverage. He’s gotten plenty of opportunities and displayed the skills to be competitive, he just needs reps to get comfortable. He’s on record saying he never really covered TE’s in college as he was the single high safety for Lenoir-Rhyne. pic.twitter.com/hkgxhrY3AW— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
Though he’s rounded into shape as a bonafide starter on defense, we all know that rookies need to show up on special teams if they want consistent playing time. Kyle Dugger has SHOWN UP during this season and made a phenomenal play on Sunday.
He just also happens to be one of their better special teams players. Here’s a nice rep from Sunday where he makes a tackle downhill on a returner. I can’t stress enough how difficult that is. pic.twitter.com/Y6Dpf5eus3— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) December 21, 2020
Having a guy play consistently on three levels as a rookie is very special. It doesn’t happen every day. The Patriots got themselves a steal in Kyle Dugger, the future of their defense.