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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

Related: The Lane Breakdown: 10 takeaways from the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins


And just like that, the 2021 regular season is in the books. Time to turn our attention to the playoffs.

The New England Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins on the road. What else is new. No big deal. We all saw this coming all the way back in...well, like 2001, since this is just what happens down there in the 21st century. I’m gonna go ahead and take a wild stab at saying the Pats are going to lose in Miami next year as well. The postseason is all that matters at this point, so what can you do.

  • Here’s the absolute most important thing to keep in mind here: this game might have ended up working out in New England’s favor. I think I’d rather play the Bills than the Bengals at this point, and the team I want to avoid most in the postseason is Kansas City should New England find themselves able to pull off an upset this Saturday. As the six seed, odds are it will be Tennessee in the Divisional Round should it come to that, which is just fine with me.
  • That said...what exactly is it about Miami? Is it the food? The water? The Patriots play other warm weather games. They play divisional and conference opponents on the road. They bring their best game against pretty much everybody. And the 2021 Patriots are, for all intents and purposes, a completely new roster. But none of that matters; there’s just some kind of vortex down there and it’s simply impossible to explain why the Patriots always play so badly at Miami. New England will win down there maybe 25% of the time for the rest of eternity and we’re just going to have to assume a loss at Miami every year no matter what.
  • Miami’s opening drive saw Tua eat up more than half the quarter to go seven for seven with zero negative drives. New England’s opening drive hit a pick six to more or less put the game away before it even really started. The good news about that is that I was able to just relax and settle into the reality of it all before I even finished my first beer of the day.
  • I wish I had more to write about this game, but it’s all pretty simple. One team showed up, one team didn’t until it was too late. One team made the play to ice it, one team couldn’t get the opposing offense off the field when they needed a key stop. One team ran effective plays, one team didn’t. Sound familiar?
  • One thing that the Dynasty Patriots had going for them was that they were able to dip into the well when they really needed to and deliver on both sides of the ball. If they were down 10, they’d score, find a way to force a three and out, and then they’d score again. If they were up by four, they’d find a way to milk out the clock and kick a security field goal. If they needed a drive, they got one. If they needed a stop, they got one. I’m confident that these new Patriots will be able to get there...but it won’t be this season.
  • If you saw something interesting and creative surrounding anything Miami did outside of that horrible botched fake punt that got them 15 yards due to a penalty, you’re more astute than I am. The Patriots couldn’t stop the run, coverage cushions left the comeback routes wide open, stupid penalties and dropped interceptions and dropped passes short circuited drives, and now here we find ourselves.
  • What this all leads me to believe is, The Miami Vortex aside, that the 2021 Patriots have just kind of run out of gas. And that’s OK- sincerely. They have some obvious holes they’ll need to address in the offseason, and there are some very uncharacteristic discipline issues that I’m sure will get taken care of, but the regular season is now over and we just need to roll with it now.
  • I’ve been writing Fan Notes since 2011, and I’m going to write the following for the very first time: New England’s special teams unit is a real liability. Twice the Patriots found themselves on the ass end of a penalty that kept a Fins drive alive, and while one was completely bogus, the other was the kind of dumb mental error you expect to see in preseason from a guy who will be selling insurance in a few weeks, not from one of your stalwarts.
  • That’s on the coaching staff as well; everyone has to do better there.
  • What I have said on multiple occasions this season is that Brandon Bolden has been an absolute godsend. I still don’t want him getting the ball on third and short, but he has been among the most reliable weapons this offense has and he’s having a career year.
  • Then again...they gave it to Brandon Bolden on 3rd and short in this game and he took it to the house. Only took 18 weeks!
  • And yes, that Brandon Bolden penalty on the fake punt was complete crap. I’ve seen more contact in a Premiere League soccer game that didn’t draw a foul. But honestly if you’re still getting mad at flags like that, I’d advise you to just let it go. Those absurd and awful calls are just part of the game now and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. Yes, the game is significantly worse because of it. Yes, there is very little about this sport that still resembles the one I fell in love with over three decades ago. But that’s the way it is now. New England is going to be on the giving and receiving end of that nonsense going forward now. No point getting upset over it.
  • I’m going to go ahead and say the same about whining about the officiating. Yes, it was absolutely atrocious in this game. Bad calls, bad spots, you name it. But you don’t blame the refs for a team’s loss. New England could have won this if they decided not to wait until halftime to show up and if they just get the defense off the field one more time.
  • Did I hear the announcers saying that Kendrick Bourne was eight receptions short of 250,000 yards, which would trigger some kind of bonus? I’m trying to figure out how to best rank all of that ways that that makes zero sense. Is it that you can’t directly link receptions to yards? Is it that 250,000 yards is 227,105 yards more than Jerry Rice’s all-time record? Is it that neither of those two buffoons even realized that they misspoke? Is it that the comment came on a jet sweep, which doesn’t even count as a reception? Gotta love who the NFL marches out for these games sometimes.
  • I wish Mac Jones would take off a bit more. It’s great that he’s always looking downfield to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers and doesn’t default to a scramble, but multiple times this season Jones has rolled out with an easy first down and more in front of him. and he hucks one deep for an incompletion instead. Something else he’ll be working on this offseason.
  • I also wish that opposing running backs would take off a bit less. I was surprised to learn that Miami didn’t rush for 200 yards yesterday and that New England just held them to a paltry 195 on the ground. Not that any of us are surprised at this point, but still.
  • Glad to see that the Patriots swapped out Harry for Wilkerson again for this game. Harry’s zero catches for zero yards on one target really made a difference.
  • More good news is that if the Patriots have been saving all of their Jonnu Smith packages for the playoffs, the wait is officially over.
  • At least Hunter Henry has shown that he’s able to take over a game when he needs to. He’s great on the chip blocks and sit routes and he’s more or less the key to what makes the playaction more effective.
  • If the Patriots decide that they’re done punting for good this year and are just going to go for it even if it’s like 4th and 30 from their own 2 yard line, I think I’d be OK with that.
  • My final takeaway from the 2021 regular season: there is absolutely nothing that this Patriots team can’t do. They can win by 30, lose by 30, play perfectly, play poorly, commit no penalties, commit all the penalties, beat playoff teams, lose to scrubs. They are one of the best teams in the league and one of the weakest. Not knowing who you’re going to see week to week is kind of poetic, in a really weird way.

We’re on to Buffalo for the third time. Third time’s a charm, right?