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Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots

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Patriots vs. Dolphins: New England prevails over Miami 23-21 to keep playoff hopes alive

New England improves to 8-8 on the year.

Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

In what was another slow start form the Patriots offense, it was again New England’s defense that stole the show on Sunday. Trailing 14-10 in the third quarter, Kyle Dugger stepped in front of a Teddy Bridgewater pass and returned it for a score.

With a two-point lead, New England’s offense then put together the one drive they needed. Mac Jones connected with Jakobi Meyers out of the backfield for a 25-yard third-down conversion. Several plays later, Jones lofted the receiver a touchdown on third-down to give New England a 23-14 lead.

The Miami Dolphins added a late score, but it was not enough as New England prevailed 23-21. Here’s everything else that went down Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Final Score: (8-8) Patriots 23 : 21 Dolphins (8-8)

Sunday, January 1, 1 p.m. ET | Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA | Broadcast Information | Inactives

First quarter

The Patriots won the toss and deferred, putting Teddy Bridgewater and the Dolphins offense on the field to start Sunday’s game. After a two-yard gain by Raheem Mostert, Bridgewater found Tyreek Hill across the middle of the field for a 15-yard gain. On the next play, Mostert appeared to fumble - which was recovered by New England - but a questionable forward progress call ruled him down. After a false start backed Miami up, a third-down pass downfield to Tyreek Hill was just incomplete as he failed to get both feet down inbounds.

New England took over at their own 19-yard line on their first offensive possession of the day. After a tipped ball fell incomplete to Jakobi Meyers and a five-yard run by Rhamondre Stevenson on second-down, Nelson Agholor drew a pass interference penalty on third-down to move the sticks. Two plays later, Jones lobbed a play-action pass downfield to Tyquan Thornton who hauled it in along the sideline for 24 yards. Jones stayed aggressive the very next play firing a strike over the middle of the field to Meyers for 17 yards, before Damien Harris made his return felt with an eight-yard scamper. On third-down, Jones’ pass to the end zone fell incomplete, but a defensive holding gave New England a fresh set of downs. After a pair of Stevenson runs picked up four yards, Jones dropped back and found Thornton in the end zone for a touchdown. [Patriots 7 : 0 Dolphins]

After a rare touchback from the Patriots - just their second since placing Jake Bailey on IR - the Dolphins started their drive with a three-yard run by Jeff Wilson Jr. Bridgewater’s pass to Wilson then fell incomplete, before the QB scrambled on third-down for six yards. Lining up to go for it on fourth-and-one from their own 34-yard line, a false start penalty pushed them back and led to a punt. However, a running into the kicker penalty on the punt set the Dolphins offense back up on fourth-and-one. With the offense back on the field, a handoff up the middle to Wilson was just enough to convert. Following back-to-back runs by Wilson that totaled four yards, Bridgewater checked down to the back for a third-down conversion. Two plays later, Bridgewater aired one out downfield to Hill for a 19-yard gain before Wilson carried one into the New England red area. A 14-yard completion to Mike Gesicki then set Miami up with a goal-to-go, where a backwards pass to Tyreek Hill resulted in a score. [Patriots 7 : 7 Dolphins]

Second quarter

New England’s next offensive drive got off to a strong start as Jones threw a perfect third-down pass to Hunter Henry on a post corner for a 29-yard gain. A sack on the next play backed New England into a second-and-19, where Stevenson eluded several defenders for an 18-yard gain. On third-and-one, New England dialed up a play-action pass but were unable to get it blocked. Old friend Elandon Roberts broke through the line and took down Jones for a sack, forcing a punt.

A carry and a catch on Miami’s first two plays from Raheem Mostert picked up a quick first-down for the Dolphins. After the back logged two more straight carries, Bridgewater checked down to him on third-and-three where he broke several tackles en route to a 25-yard gain. Jeff Wilson Jr. then recorded two straight carries to set up a third-and-seven, where Bridgewater’s pass to Jaylen Waddle was behind him and incomplete. Jason Sanders’ 51-yard field goal was pushed wide right.

After the miss, New England took over their own 33-yard line but immediately went backward due to a Trent Brown false start. A run by Stevenson for four yards was followed by two straight incompletions from Jones, leading to a punt.

Miami kept the ball on the ground as Mostert picked up four yards on first-down before a pair of check downs from Bridgewater went for nine yards each. Wilson then found some breathing room on the ground for an 11-yard run on second-and-one but was stuffed for no gain on the following carry. New England’s pass rush then finally got home, as Carl Davis and Deatrich Wise split a sack on Bridgewater. On third-and-22 following the two-minute warning, Bridgewater found Waddle underneath for 17 yards which forced a punt.

A beautiful punt by Thomas Morstead started New England’s drive at the two-yard line. Damien Harris picked up 11 yards on first-down to give New England some breathing room, before Jones checked down to his back for nine more yards. On second-and-one, Jones’ deep ball fell incomplete to Thornton. With just 40 seconds remaining a handoff to Harris was stuffed and ended the first half.

Third quarter

The Patriots began the second half with the ball but found no success. An incompletion to Meyers on first-down was followed with a screen to Harris. Facing a third-and-six, Jones uncorked a deep ball down the right sideline to Nelson Agholor which fell incomplete.

Miami started their first possession of the second half on the ground, as Wilson was stuffed for a one-yard gain. A miscommunication on the next play resulted in Bridgewater floating one deep downfield to an area that was occupied by just Devin McCourty, but the ball bounced off the safeties chest and fell incomplete. On third-down, a pass to Cedrick Wilson Jr. was caught, but Myles Bryant forced an incompletion by pushing him out of bounds while in the air. Miami punted back to New England.

New England’s offensive struggles continued on their next drive. Jones’ first-down pass to Hunter Henry fell incomplete, then a three-yard Stevenson run set up third-and-seven. Jones stepped up and looked for Stevenson across the middle, but the back dropped it forcing another punt.

Following a 38-yard punt by Michael Palardy, Miami took over at the New England 41-yard line. Bridgewater wasted little time attacking, either, hitting Jaylen Waddle over the middle for a 23-yard gain. The Fins then dialed up some trickery two plays later, as Jeff Wilson Jr. took a reverse for nine yards and another first down. Inside New England’s five-yard line, Bridgewater avoided pressure and flipped a touchdown pass to Mostert. [Patriots 7 : 14 Dolphins]

Facing their first deficit of the afternoon, New England finally picked up a first-down as Jones hit Hunter Henry for an 11-yard gain on second-down. Facing a then third-down, Jones came off his first read to find Thornton down field for a 29-yard gain. Jones went right back too the rookie downfield - passing up what appeared to be an open Jakobi Meyers - but the pass fell incomplete. On the next third-down, a pass to Henry was short of the sticks. Nick Folk connected a 49-yard field goal. [Patriots 10 : 14 Dolphins]

Teddy Bridgewater’s first-down pass fell incomplete, then Christian Barmore blew up a Miami run for no gain. A false start penalty moved Miami into a third-and-15, where his pass was intercepted by Kyle Dugger and returned 39 yards for a pick-six - a franchise record Nick Folk’s extra point was no good as it clanked off the upright. [Patriots 16 : 14 Dolphins]

Following the pick-six, Skylar Thompson took over at quarterback for an injured Teddy Bridgewater. The Patriots defense stayed red-hot as Ja’Whaun Bentley blew up a screen pass for a four-yard loss. After a four-yard rush and neutral zone infraction penalty on Josh Uche, Thompson found Mostert for 17 yards. A roughing the passer penalty by Bentley tacked on an additional 15 yards to move Miami into New England territory. Following a one-yard rush and incompletion, Thompson scrambled for a first-down. However, an illegal shift negated the conversion and set up a third-and-14. A pass hit off Tyreek Hill’s arms and into the hands on Jonathan Jones, who tapped his feet along the sideline for an interception.

Fourth quarter

Taking over at their own 37-yard line following the interception, Jones’ screen pass to Meyers went for just one-yard before Harris totaled a four-yard carry. On third-and-four, Miami brought heavy pressure and Jones’ pass downfield to Thornton fell short and incomplete. New England punted back to Miami.

Thompson scrambled on Miami’s first play for three yards and then fired an incompletion in the flat to Wilson on second-down. Facing a third-and-seven, Thompson found Waddle for 12 yards and a conversion. Miami then quickly faced another third-and-seven, where a pass to Hill was completed but the speedster was dragged down before the sticks. Miami punted back to New England.

The Patriots finally got Kendrick Bourne involved on their next possession, as Jones threw a screen to the receiver who ran for 16 yards. On third-and-five, New England dialed up a wheel route for Meyers out of the backfield, and Jones hit him in stride on a perfect pass for 25 yards. Several plays later, a pass interference penalty - drawn by Meyers - set New England up at Miami’s five-yard line. After an incompletion, Harris picked up four yards to set-up third-and-goal at the one. Jones then lofted one to Meyers who hauled it in for a score. [Patriots 23 : 14 Dolphins]

Under pressure on the first two plays from scrimmage, Thompson fired two incompletions. On third-and-10, the pressure continued as Thompson was sacked by Christian Barmore. Miami kept their offense on the field with just over three minutes remaining and a check down to Wilson was short of the sticks.

After the turnover on downs, New England kept the ball on the ground three straight times as Harris recorded two carries and Bourne handled a reverse. On fourth-and-six, New England kept the offense on the field but got nothing going as Jones was sacked for a 10-yard loss.

Taking over at their own 39-yard line, three straight check downs picked up 18 yards for the Fins. An incompletion and delay of game penalty set up a third-and-seven, where Thompson’s pass was dropped by Gesicki. On fourth-down following the two-minute warning, Thompson completed a pass to Tyreek Hill for a 17-yard conversion. Two plays after, Thompson connected with Trent Sherfield for 23 yards. Down inside the 10, Thompson scrambled and found Gesicki for a four-yard touchdown. [Patriots 23 : 21 Dolphins]

An onside kick attempt was recovered by Hunter Henry. Mac Jones then took two kneels to conclude the game. [Patriots 23 : 21 Dolphins]

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