The New England Patriots ended their season with a whimper.
Given a chance to get one final tune up before their first playoff game in two years, they started slow and made the Miami Dolphins look like the team that should be headed to the playoff. A mistake riddle game on both offense and special teams set them back at every turn, before the Dolphins were able to outlast a late game comeback attempt.
Not only did the Patriots suffer the loss and a bit of a gut punch, they saw multiple players go down and leave the game with injury. Isaiah Wynn, Christian Barmore, and Sean Davis did not return while Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris were banged up even further throughout the course of the game.
Now, the Patriots await the result of the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders game to see where they will be traveling next weekend. A Raiders win will send them to Buffalo, and Chargers win sends them to Cincinnati. If you’d like to take in all that happened in New England’s latest loss in Miami, you can find a drive-by-drive recounting below.
Final Score: Patriots (10-7) 24 : 33 (9-8) Dolphins
January 9, 4:25p.m. ET | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fl | Broadcast information
Patriots Inactives: S Kyle Dugger, LB Dont’a Hightower, RB J.J. Taylor, QB Jarrett Stidham, TE Devin Asiasi, | OL Yodny Cajuste (COVID), DB Myles Bryant (COVID)
Dolphins Inactives: WR Preston Williams, RB Salvon Ahmed, TE Hunter Long, LB Vince Biegel, DE Darius Hidge | CB Noah Igbinoghene (COVID), DB Sheldrick Redwine (COVID)
The Patriots will be without their top tackler and defensive signal caller on Sunday as Kyle Dugger (hand) and Dont’a Hightower (knee) are inactive. Dugger missed the week of practice while Hightower was mostly limited. J.J. Taylor, Jarrett Stidham, and Devin Asiasi continue to serve as healthy scratches while their usual partner in crime Shaun Wade is out with an illness but not on the inactive list. Yodny Cajuste and Myles Bryant continue to occupy the COVID list while N’Keal Harry and Joejuan Williams will return to the lineup after being controversial healthy scratches last week.
The Dolphins have a few former starters who are healthy scratches as their injury report was empty on Friday. Preston Williams, Salvon Ahmed, and Vince Biegel are some notable names.
New England had its choice at the coin flip as the away team and Matthew Slater chose correctly with heads. New England deferred its choice to the second half meaning Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins will start on offense.
Jake Bailey’s opening kick was returned to the Miami 23-yard line by Dolphins newcomer Phillip Lindsay. That is where Tagovailoa and company opened up, firing a screen pass to rookie Jaylen Waddle who picked up nine yards on the first play from scrimmage. Tagovailoa hit Waddle again for a gain of four on the next play, resetting the chains. Two plays later, the Dolphins hit Waddle again for his third catch of the day, giving him the NFL record for most receptions in a season by a rookie. Miami picked up a pair of first downs to move past midfield before an encroachment penalty by Carl Davis gifted them five more yards. Miami moved the ball with relative ease early on, effectively using their RPO style on New England’s undermanned defense. On 3rd-and-3 from the New England 25-yard line, Tagovailoa hit Myles Gaskin for a gain of seven to move into the red area. On the next two plays Miami netted nine yards setting up another third down where Tagovailoa would hit Waddle in the end zone for a touchdown. A great first drive for Miami. [Patriots 0 : 7 Dolphins]
New England opened their first drive with a pair of runs by Damien Harris following a Miami touchback. On 3rd-and-2, Jones attempted his first pass of the day and delivered a strike to Xavien Howard who returned it for a touchdown. [Patriots 0 : 14 Dolphins]
Back out after a disastrous first drive, the Patriots went back to the ground but Miami was called for a too many men penalty and New England picked up a free five yards. Harris converted for the first down with a gain of six before the Patriots fed him the ball through the air on a running back screen for a gain of five. Back to the ground, the Patriots fed Brandon Bolden who was stuffed for a loss of one, bringing up 3rd-and-6, that is when Jones’ pass was deflected at the line forcing a punt. Following the drive it was announced that starting tackle Isaiah Wynn would be questionable to return with an ankle injury while running back Rhamondre Stevenson was questionable with a head injury.
Miami started at their own 11-yard line following a solid punt by Bailey. They started on the ground with a seven yard run by Duke Johnson, before Tagovailoa pulled another RPO and fed Durham Smyth for a gain of 19. Miami faced another third down following a pair of runs, this time with three yards to convert. A Tagovailoa overthrow fell into and out of the arms of Devin McCourty, leading to a fake punt attempt that should have been unsuccessful but Miami was bailed out due to a phantom unnecessary roughness call. The drive lives for Miami. With their fresh set of downs, Miami ran a screen before letting the clock run out on the quarter.
As the second quarter opened, rain started to fall in Miami Gardens. Facing another third down, Miami went back to the RPO for a gain of 11 on the ground and a first down. Practice squad call up Sean Davis stayed down following the play and eventually left the field. With a fresh set of downs inside the New England 20-yard line, the Dolphins kept it on the ground with the rain picking up. That led to a 3rd-and-7 where Tagovailoa tried J.C. Jackson in coverage of DeVante Parker, but saw the pass batted away in the end zone. Miami kicker Jason Sanders converted on a 30-yard field goal to extend the lead. [Patriots 0 : 17 Dolphins]
Gunner Olszewski returned the following kickoff to the New England 26-yard line. Mac Jones’ first pass attempt was knocked down again, before he finally connected with a non-running back, hitting Hunter Henry for a gain of 36 yards. Damien Harris took a check down for six yards before Kendrick Bourne took an end around for nine. New England faced a 3rd-and-inches inside the Miami red area and chose to feed Brandon Bolden who took it into the end zone from 15 yards out. [Patriots 7 : 17 Dolphins]
The Dolphins next drive ended before it began as a Kyle Van Noy sack on third down forced a three and out. New England has started to catch up to Miami’s RPO’s.
New England’s next possession opened up with a check down to the returning Damien Harris who took it across midfield for a quick first down. From the Miami 45-yard line, they were faced with a 3rd-and-10 where Jones fired a pass into the direction of no-one. After just a singular first down, the Patriots punt.
Jake Bailey’s punt sailed into the end zone to set Miami up at their own 20-yard line but they backed up five yard due to a false start penalty. Jaylen Waddle dropped a pass that would have led him into the end zone before Duke Johnson was able to pick up just three yards to force a 3rd-and-12. With their rush unit on the field, Josh Uche got after Tagovailoa and forced an incompletion and punt.
The Patriots were backed up to their own 19-yard line to start the series but quickly moved around midfield following a long completion to Nelson Agholor. Following an incompletion and the subsequent 2:00 warning, Andrew Van Ginkle made his presence felt by dropping Mac Jones for a loss of eight. On 3rd-and-18, Kendrick Bourne took a screen for 17 yards. That was enough for Bill Belichick to go for it on 4th-and-1 but Mac Jones was called for a false start and New England punted.
Bailey’s punt backed Miami up to their own 7-yard line but the Dolphins decided not to take the game to halftime, instead looking to move the ball into scoring position. They fed Duke Johnson three straight times to pick up 25 yards before a Tua Tagovailoa pass bounced off the head of Ja’Whaun Bentley. Luckily for Miami, Matthew Judon was called for a roughing the passer penalty to push them to mid field with 0:22 left. On 3rd-and-1 from the New England 44-yard line, Tagovailoa was sacked and the clock ran out on the half. [HALFTIME - Patriots 7 : 17 Dolphins]
New England opened up the third quarter with the ball down ten points. They started at their own 25-yard line with Mac Jones hitting Kendrick Bourne for a gain of six before Damien Harris and Jonnu Smith combined for eight on the ground and a first down. New England picked up just one yard over the next two plays before the Dolphins were flagged for pass interference on a third down incompletion, bailing the Patriots offense out. From there they fed Rhamondre Stevenson, who ripped off three straight runs for 28 yards that pushed the offense deep into Miami territory. A pair of Brandon Bolden carries set up a 3rd-and-5 from inside the Miami 20-yard line. New England abandoned the run from there and Christian Wilkins was able to fight through and bring down Jones for a sack. Nick Folk came on and connected from 43-yards out. [Patriots 10 : 17 Dolphins]
Another Jake Bailey touchback set the Dolphins up at their own 25-yard line but they quickly moved past midfield with a 27-yard run by Duke Johnson. They continued to run it with Phillip Lindsay picking up a first down on a pair of carries. The Dolphins picked up a third straight first down on the ground officially moving them into the extended red area. On 3rd-and-7 from the New England 25-yard line, Miami took a shot into the end zone where Jalen Mills was called for pass interference in the end zone setting them up at the one yard line. Duke Johnson punched it in on the next play to extend the Miami lead to 14. [Patriots 10 : 24 Dolphins]
Down by 14 points and running out of time, the Patriots quickly faced a third down following a dropped pass by Kendrick Bourne. On 3rd-and-4, Jones hit his favorite third down target in Jakobi Meyers. Meyers laid out to make a tremendous catch and pick up 28 yards. Two plays later, Brandon Bolden picked up 19 yards of his own to push down to the Miami 20. That is when the Patriots had their second costly turnover as Mac Jones fumbled the snap and it was recovered by Dolphins rookie Jaelan Phillips. Miami football.
The Dolphins following drive seemed to be based around killing clock. They ran the ball three straight times and came about an inch away from picking up a first down, but came up short and ultimately decided to punt. The Patriots decided they wanted to play more defense and covered up the center on the punt, gifting Miami five yards and a first down.
Miami continued to run the ball, with Tagovailoa picking up 23 yards on a 3rd-and-6 from his own side of the field. New England forced another 3rd-and-6 at their own 31-yard line where they were able to make a stand and force a field goal attempt. Sanders nailed his attempt from 49-yards out. [Patriots 10 : 27 Dolphins]
Back out came the Patriots, down three scores with less than 11:00 left. The first play from scrimmage was a pass to Hunter Henry for a gain of six, then he hit Henry again on a deep corner route for a gain of 32. They picked up a pair of first downs on runs by Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris before being faced with 3rd-and-15 where Bolden took a swing pass to the house for an 18-yard touchdown. [Patriots 17 : 27 Dolphins]
New England kicked it short to force a Miami return that was taken to the Dolphins 21-yard line. That is where Tagovailoa and the Dolphins started wiring in a potentially game sealing drive. A pair of Duke Johnson runs led to a 3rd-and-3 where Tua Tagovailoa’s pass would fall incomplete. Miami punted.
New England’s following drive started 76 yards from their end zone. They cut that number in half following a long floating pass that was ripped down by Jakobi Meyers.
A pair of first downs by Damien Harris pushed them inside the Miami 15-yard line, where they took a shot into the end zone to Nelson Agholor, who drew a pass interference penalty. Set up nicely at the one yard line, Damien Harris barreled into the end zone for a touchdown. The Patriots have life. [Patriots 24 : 27 Dolphins]
With 2:53 left in the game, Miami’s offense came back out to finally try and end the game. They started strongly with a 15 yard catch and run by Durham Smyth. A negative run by Duke Johnson brought us to the 2:00 warning. They fed Johnson again who picked up four and set up a 3rd-and-8, where Tua Tagovailoa split two pass rushers and took the ball on the ground for a first down, effectively icing the game. New England forced another third down, this time Miami ran the ball to continue to kill clock. They were short of the first down and allowed the clock to run out. With 0:14 left, Miami came on to punt and the Patriots looked to block it. They got the punt off and pinned New England at their own 2-yard line with 0:03 left.
New England looked to execute the Miracle in Miami pt. 2, but Jakobi Meyers’ pitch was intercepted in the end zone for a Miami touchdown. [FINAL - Patriots 24 : 33 Dolphins]