Snap Judgments: Patriots’ last-minute comeback falls short as Dolphins upset New England
|12.15.13 at 4:00 pm ET|
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It wouldn’t be a 2013 Patriots game without a crazy finish.
Miami’s Ryan Tannehill engineered a nine-play, 60-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, while a Tom Brady drive in the final minute-plus fell just short as the Dolphins came away with the 24-20 win Sunday afternoon at SunLife Stadium — the 11th time in 14 games this year a Patriots game has been decided by seven points or less.
New England burst to a 10-0 lead late in the second, but Miami answered with 17 straight points between the end of the second and start of the fourth quarter to push out to a 17-10 lead. That’s when the late fireworks started: New England got a fourth-quarter field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to cut the lead to 17-13, and took the lead when Brady hit Julian Edelman with a 24-yarder over the middle with 4:14 left to make it 20-17.
However, Miami retook the lead with 1:15 left when Tannehill hit Marcus Thigpen on a 14-yard pass play to make it 24-20. That set the stage for a final frantic drive from Brady and the Patriots, which saw them make it all the way down to the Dolphins’ red zone, only to stall out when Brady was picked off in the end zone by Miami linebacker Michael Thomas.
Brady ended up going 34-for-55 for 364 yards with two touchdowns and one pick, while Edelman ended up with 13 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown and Danny Amendola finished with 10 catches for 131 yards.
Meanwhile, Tannehill ended up 25-for-37 for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
The Patriots dropped to 10-4 on the year, while the Dolphins moved to 8-6. The loss denied New England a chance to clinch the AFC East title.
Here are a few quick notes on the game:
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS
‘¢ The Patriots struggled at the end of the first half, and some of the depth — or lack of it — in the secondary was exposed when Kyle Arrington had to go to the sidelines after getting banged up. The Dolphins recognized that, and after Marquice Cole came into the game to replace Arrington and went head-to-head with Mike Wallace. Tannehill hit Wallace on a well-executed crossing route and the receiver flew into the end zone for the first touchdown of the day for Miami. But that was just one element in a series of defensive breakdowns on the series that allowed the Dolphins to put together their first scoring drive of the afternoon.
‘¢ In that same vein, the Patriots defensive backs struggled with tackling throughout much of the afternoon. It’s debatable how healthy the group is as a whole, but there were several instances of missed tackles from Alfonzo Dennard and Arrington.
‘¢ There was plenty to like about the performance of rookie receiver Josh Boyce, but at the same time, the TCU product had some bad drops. He had two that ultimately derailed second-half drives, and one of them ended up costing the Patriots a first-down conversion.
‘¢ Left tackle Nate Solder suffered a head injury in the second half, and did not return. The Patriots went with Logan Mankins in relief, with Mankins moving over from his left guard spot and Steve Kline taking over at left guard. Considering the lack of depth along New England’s offensive line, it’s a bad sign.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS
‘¢ The Patriots weren’t overwhelming early on, but they were able to put together a very impressive start, jumping to a 10-0 lead in the first half after being outscored in the first half, 67-34, in the previous five games. For the first 27 minutes — prior to the defensive breakdowns on Miami’s last drive — it was a really impressive display of complementary football for the Patriots, with the offense going 4-for-7 through the first two quarters, the defense playing well (again, until the late breakdowns) and the special teams doing its part to tilt the field. Considering the circumstances and who the team was missing, it was one of the better, more efficient first halves New England has played this year.
‘¢ Edelman was tremendous again, coming through with several catches that helped move the chains throughout the second half. “Minitron” was colossal down the stretch — on the drive that gave the Patriots the lead for good, he had a pair of big receptions for 47 yards to help New England reach the end zone.
‘¢ The Patriots special teamers had a great start and a pretty good afternoon as a whole. Gostkowski had a 22-yard field goal (he missed a 48-yarder in the third quarter that was wide left — it ended a streak of 21 straight makes from inside 50 yards), while Ryan Allen had a sweet punt that pinned the Dolphins at their own 6-yard line. Nate Ebner recovered the botched snap on a field goal attempt in the first half. Gostkowski added a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter.
However, the unit’s strong day did take a considerable knock late when Gostkowski’s fourth-quarter kickoff went out of bounds to give Miami the ball with strong field position for what proved the game-winning drive.