Ryan L. Fox
For all the talk and accolades of the New England Patriots over the past 19 years, it is a rare occasion to see them struggle against one certain opponent in a specific place. Though they have dominated the AFC East in every aspect, the script gets flipped when they have to travel down to Miami to play the Miami Dolphins. For some odd reason, the Patriots always seem to find a way to get bamboozled or choke when playing in the Magic City.
Such was evident in their game this past Sunday against the Dolphins. The Patriots needed a victory over the Dolphins to not only clinch the AFC East Divisional crown for the 10th year in a row but guarantee a playoff spot for them. But an early game blunder combined with perhaps the play of the 2018 NFL season forced the Patriots to wait another week to achieve their goals.
The Patriots got the ball to begin game, starting on their own 25 after the opening kickoff went out of the end zone for a touchback. Patriots QB Tom Brady drove the offense down the field, converting 2 3rd down plays along the way to keep the drive alive. The Patriots drove all the way down to the Miami 2 where on 3rd and goal, FB James Develin bowled his way over into the end zone for the first points of the game. Unfortunately K Stephen Gostkowski botched the PAT, kicking it wide right as the Patriots only lead 6-0.
It didn’t take long for the Dolphins to answer back however. QB Ryan Tannehill began to carve up the Patriots defense with his arm and legs while RB Frank Gore gashed his way through, including breaking off a 36 yard run on 1st and 10 at the New England 43 down to the New England 7. From there, Tannehill found WR Kenny Stills on the right side as Stills bowled his way over to the pylon for the score. Dolphins K Jason Sanders booted the PAT through as the Dolphins took an early 7-6 lead.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Dolphins got the ball back at their own 28. They could only advance the ball up to their own 42 before getting driven back on 3rd down as Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower sacked Tannehill at the Miami 33. There, Dolphins P Mike Haack awaited the snap for the punt. However Patriots LB Albert McClellan got into the backfield cleanly and blocked the punt as teammate LB Ramon Humber recovered the ball at the Miami 24 before bringing it back to the Miami 18.
The Patriots drove all the way down to the Miami 3 as then the 1st quarter came to an end.
When the 2nd quarter began, Brady threw 2 consecutive passes to WR Julian Edelman, the second of the passes being a 2 yard touchdown. This time Gostkowski made the PAT as the Patriots took a 13-7 lead in the early goings of the 2nd quarter.
Like their first possession of the game, it didn’t take long for the Dolphins to answer back.
A 21 yard catch and run from Tannehill to Stills gave the Dolphins 1st and 10 from their own 46. From there, former Patriots RB/ST Brandon Bolden took a hand off off right tackle and just outran the Patriots defense for a 54 yard touchdown run. Sanders booted the PAT as the Dolphins regained the lead 14-13.
But the Dolphins lead didn’t last that long. Once getting the ball back into his hands, Brady began to carve up the Dolphins secondary with, including 2 passes of 15+ yards as they Patriots got to the Miami 37. From there, Brady was able to hit WR Cordarrelle Patterson for a 37 yard touchdown bomb right on the money. Gostkowski’s PAT afterwards then made it 20-14.
But that did not deter Tannehill and the Dolphins.
On their first play after the kickoff on his own 25, Tannehill connected deep with Stills for a 43 yard bomb down to the New England 32. The Dolphins then whittled their way all the way down to the New England 6. Then on 1st and goal from that spot, Bolden bowled his way up the middle for his 2nd rushing touchdown against his former team. Sanders booted the PAT through the uprights as the Dolphins regain the lead 21-20 with a little over 7 and a half minutes left in the half.
The Patriots got the ball back on their own 25 as like the previous drive, Brady bombarded the Dolphins secondary with more passing attacks. This also included finding Edelman for a 20 yard pass to the Miami 34 on 3rd and 7 and then 15 yard pass to TE Rob Gronkowski to the Miami 16 on 3rd and 7. After converting that 3rd down, Brady found Gronkowski on the very next play for a 16 yard touchdown pass to help the Patriots retake the lead. Gostkowski’s PAT then made it 27-21 with a little under 4 minutes left to play in the half.
After the teams exchanged punts, the Dolphins got the ball back on their own 32 with under a minute left in the half. On their first play of the drive, Tannehill was sacked for an 11 yard loss to the Miami 21 by De Trey Flowers. Tannehill ended up getting injured on the play, forcing the Dolphins to turn to backup QB Brock Osweiler for the next couple of plays. However the Dolphins netted a total of -8 yards on those plays and were forced to punt from their own 13. Again McClellan got into the backfield, nearly blocking another punt but instead deflected it. The ball went straight up before coming back down, bouncing at the Miami 20 before going backwards and getting downed at the Miami 15.
With 27 seconds left in the half and one timeout, the Patriots got all the way down to the Miami 2. But once there, Brady threw 2 straight incomplete passes as they were faced with 3rd and goal from the 2. Brady ended up taking a sack back at the Miami 9 by Dolphins DE Robert Quinn as that ended up being the final play of the 1st half.
After forcing the Dolphins to punt on their first possession of the 2nd half, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 22. This time, the running game helped contribute to the cause as RB Sony Michel rushed for 20 yards (on 5 carries) on that drive. The Patriots got as far as the Miami 24 but the Dolphins defense held their ground. Gostkowski came on to attempt a 42 yard field goal try. However that ended up going wide right as it gave the Dolphins possession at their own 32 with under 6 and a half minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
From there, the Dolphins turned to Gore to lead the way. He gashed the Patriots defense on 1st and 10 on the Miami 37 with a 16 yard run to the New England 47 and followed that up by taking a Tannehill pass 24 yards to the New England 23. From there, Tannehill found WR Brice Butler for a 23 yard touchdown pass, beating out Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore. Sanders PAT afterwards then made it 28-27 with a little under 4 minutes left in the quarter.
The Patriots had the ball for the remainder of the 3rd quarter before opening the 4th quarter with a punt to the Miami 8.
After forcing the Dolphins to punt the ball, the Patriots got the ball on their own 31. Brady opened the drive up with 2 back-to-back passes to WR Josh Gordon followed by a 9 yard pass to RB James White, his own 3 yard scamper, and topped it off with a 16 yard pass to Gronkowski down to the Miami 15. But then the Patriots offense could only muster 1 yard on the next 3 plays and had to settle for a 32 yard field goal by Gostkowski to retake the lead 30-28 with under 7 minutes left in the game.
After forcing another Dolphins punt, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 27 with under 4 and a half minutes left to play. The Patriots offense then proceeded to grind out the clock, getting all the way down to the Miami 4. Facing 4th and goal at the Miami 4, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick elected to go for the field goal instead of just rushing the ball to grind the clock and force the Dolphins to go the length of the field with under 15 second left on the clock. Gostkowski booted a 22 yard field goal through the uprights as the Patriots lead 33-28 with around 15 seconds left in the game.
The Dolphins took the ensuing kickoff back to their own 31 as they had 7 seconds left to work with. Tannehill found Stills at the Miami 45 for a 14 yard pass. Stills then lateralled the ball to teammate WR Devante Parker, who took the ball 3 yards up to the Miami 48. He then lateralled it to teammate RB Kenyan Drake, who found some daylight after eluding what would have been the game-ending tackle by Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy. Drake then got the blocks he needed as he sprung free down the field. Only Gronkowski, who was on the field as a means to deflect any Hail Mary attempt, was left as the final Patriots defender as Drake blew past him and into the end zone for the game winning touchdown.
Both Patriots players and coaches just watched on in disbelief as the Dolphins got the game winning touchdown, winning by the final score of 34-33 with what many are now dubbing as ‘The Miami Miracle’.
Notable Patriot Statistical Standouts
QB Tom Brady: 27-for-43 for 358 yards and 3 TDs for a QB Rating of 112.4, 1 carries for 3 yards
RB Sony Michel: 20 carries for 57 yards
FB James Develin: 1 carries for 2 yards and 1 TD
TE Rob Gronkowski: 8 catches (on 8 targets) for 107 yards and 1 TD
WR Cordarrelle Patterson: 2 catches (on 3 targets) for 51 yards and 1 TD, 1 kickoff return for 30 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 9 catches (on 12 targets) for 86 yards and 1 TD, 2 punt returns for 7 yards
WR Josh Gordon: 5 catches (on 8 targets) for 96 yards
DE Trey Flowers: 4 tackles (4 solo, 0 assist), 2.0 sacks
LB Kyle Van Noy: 7 tackles (4 solo, 3 assist), 0.5 sacks
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
69 – The number of total yards on the ‘Miami Miracle’
60 – The number yards former Patriots RB/ST Brandon Bolden ran for against his former team on 2 carries (both carries were for touchdowns)
511 – The number of career touchdown passes QB Tom Brady has in regular season, vaulting him past former NFL QB Brett Farve for 3rd most all-time behind Peyton Manning (539) and Drew Brees (518)
582 – The number of career touchdown passes QB Tom Brady, regular and postseason combined, giving him the most all-time
.412 – Brady’s career winning percentage playing the Miami Dolphins in Miami (7-10)
6 – The total number of points the Patriots scored the entire 2nd half (compared 27 points scored in the first half)
4 – The number of touchdowns scored by FB James Develin in past 4 games, including the game against Miami, after scoring just 1 touchdown in 74 games prior
No More Excuses
Well here we are again. Another Patriots loss on the road against a subpar team.
Everybody will make the excuse that ‘Oh the Patriots have struggled against the Dolphins in Miami’ but only losers make excuses.
When you go back and watch this game, the Patriots should have won this game flat out. Gostkowski should have made the extra point on the Patriots first touchdown. He should have also made that field goal earlier in the 4th quarter. That’s 4 points right there!
Or how about Tom Brady on that 3rd down play right before the end of the 1st half. If he just rolled out and threw the ball away, the Patriots would still have time on the clock to boot a 20-something yard field goal to go into halftime up 30-21 instead of 27-21. But instead, he took a costly sack and allowed the clock to run out before the field goal unit could attempt a field goal.
Then on the Patriots’ final drive of the game, should have just ran the ball on that 4th and goal on the Miami 2 instead of kicking the field goal to run the clock out some more. By doing that, they would have forced the Dolphins to try to drive almost the entire length of the field with less than 20 seconds left. Not even Dan Marino could pull that kind of miracle out of his butt let alone Ryan Tannehill.
Then on the ‘Miami Miracle’, Kyle Van Noy had Kenyan Drake dead to rights if he just wrapped him up with a better tackle instead of falling flat on his face. And Gronkowski took a really bad angle on that play. It was so bad, he looked like a bumbling oaf with lead feet.
It’s late in the NFL season and this is the point where you separate the contenders from the pretenders. The only saving grace for the Patriots is that the Steelers and Texans lost their games, thus keeping the Patriots in that #2 seed in the AFC.
Fox Fist Bump
This week’s Fox Fist Bump goes to out to LB Albert McClellan on special teams. First he blocks a punt deep in Miami territory that led to a Patriots touchdown in the first quarter. Then late in the second quarter before half time, he nearly blocks another punt deep in Miami territory. However he ends up deflecting the ball to go almost straight upwards as it then gets downed after traveling a mere 2 yards. That almost led to another Patriots score if Brady just threw the ball away instead of taking a sack.
I also give an honorary ‘Good Jorb’ pat on the back to TE Rob Gronkowski. He caught everything that was thrown his way (8 catches on 8 targets), broke 100 yards receiving (107 to be exact) and got an acrobatic touchdown. Unfortunately he’s going to get hammered for being ‘that guy’ that slipped up and allowed Kenyan Drake to score on the final play of the game. I don’t put that on him, I put that on Darth Hoodie.
The Meatball of the Week
Oh where do I begin? Let’s see here.
First you have K Stephen Gostkowski miss PAT on the Patriots’ opening touchdown of the game and then a missed field goal. That’s 4 points he cost them in a game where they lost by 1.
Next you have the Patriots run defense that allowed the Dolphins to rush for 189 yards, including 92 yards on 12 carries to an aging Frank Gore (7.7 yards per carry) and 60 yards and 2 TDs to Brandon Freakin’ Bolden, your former special teams player.
Don’t forget about Tom Brady for taking that costly sack at the end of the first half or Bill Belichick for putting Gronkowski out on the final play of the game instead of another defensive back or a smaller, faster receiver like a Hogan or Dorsett (is Dorsett even still on the team?).
With so many meatballs to give out this week, I might need to ask Mark Gemili to hook me up with some more before I run out before the season’s end.
Play of the Game
What They Are Calling The ‘Miami Miracle’
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