By Traci McCartney //@traciamc
Patriots 20 – Dolphins 27
Once again, the Patriots walked into Miami the odds-on favorite and came out losers. Although the score doesn’t adequately reflect it, it was an ugly Monday Night Football game. One the Patriots lost to the division rival Miami Dolphins 20-27.
It was a game where quarterback Tom Brady didn’t look like Tom Brady. It took 2 1/2 quarters of football before a Patriots wide receiver (Danny Amendola) caught a pass. And New England went 0 for 11 on 3rd down conversions.
Let that sink in, folks…the Patriots could not convert a single third down. The last time the Patriots were that inept at converting on third downs was in 1991. I remember those days – back when the Patriots were really bad – they hadn’t won more than 10 games since 1986 and this particular season, they went 6-10. Does anyone remember head coach Dick MacPherson? Nah…me either.
Brady came into the game with the highest passer rating in the league, then left with his worst passer rating since Week 7 of the 2013 season in a loss to the New York Jets. Brady was hurried, hit and sacked, completing only 24 of 43 passing attempts – 55% of his passes, for 233 yds and one TD pass to running back James White.
Brady just wasn’t on point in the game, over and under-throwing receivers. He threw 2 interceptions, one in the first quarter and one in the 3rd. After pressure from Miami linebacker Lawrence Timmons forced him to throw the ball away, his pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks fell short and was intercepted by Miami Cornerback Xavien Howard. That led to a field goal producing drive that put the Dolphins up 6-0. Howard intercepted Brady again in the 3rd quarter on another pass to Cooks, right after Brady was sacked for the first of 2 sacks on the night.
But the wide receiver passing game wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t working. Not only did the running game not get off the ground, it barely reached the runway. The Patriots’ running backs combined for only 25 yds on 10 carries between Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis. Russ Burkhead did have one rushing touchdown (thanks to a great block by fullback James Develin and amazing cut by Burkhead) in the first quarter that put the Patriots up 7-6, the only time the Patriots would lead during the game.
The only other touchdown by the Patriots came on a pass to White in the 4th quarter to cut the Dolphins’ lead to 10. The Patriots were able to get a field goal after the two-minute warning to get within a touchdown, but possibly the lamest onside kick I’ve ever seen resulted in a Dolphins’ recovery and the end of the game, snapping the Patriots’ eight-game winning streak.
In a game where the Patriots really could have used tight end Rob Gronkowski, both as a target for Brady and as a blocker. Gronk was watching from his couch thanks to a suspension awarded after his WWE move on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White in the game against Buffalo last week.
Luckily, the Patriots will have him back next week for their next game on the road against the team with the best record in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gronk and the rest of the team will need to be ready mentally and physically to secure a win at Heinz Field, a very difficult place to play for any visiting team.
After the game, when asked about the loss to the Dolphins, Brady said this, “It’s just a bad night. We’ve had a lot of good nights this year and this was a bad night.” Let’s hope this was the last bad night of the year because they’re going to need better play in all three phases of the game if they expect to win. #OnToPittsburgh
Talk Patriots with Traci on Twitter // @traciamc