Best and worst: Dolphins 20, Patriots 10
WORST pregame show look
We knew the Dolphins were a bit of a circus act heading into this game. I mean, it's mayhem down there: Inmates running the asylum, no real leadership, player wives going off on other players . . . the whole nine yards. Anyways, our guys Tom E. Curran and Mike Giardi are trying their best to preview the game, when all of a sudden they get an unexpected visitor! That's right, a woman (accidentally) just walked right in front of their shot. Classic Miami. The best part was Giardi's reaction -- just complete disgust. He reached out to try to stop her, but it was too late. Live TV, folks!
BEST news to start the game
We don't need to remind you how banged up the Patriots are heading into Week 17. They played with a skeleton crew last week, and are still without some key players this week (Julian Edelman, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower to name a few). BUT there is some good news . . . Devin McCourty and Pat Chung, both of whom were out last week, are back and starting for the Patriots in the safety spots. They were greatly missed last week as Jets wide receivers made some big catches. And Rob Ninkovich is back up front.
BEST way to establish the run
The Patriots seem to being two things here: Playing it safe and establishing the run. They obviously want to get Steven Jackson some carries, but at the same time want to keep guys like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski as safe as possible. That means less throws for Tom Brady and more carries for Jackson and Brandon Bolden. By halftime, Brady had made only five pass attempts while the team ran the ball 21 times. It's not a bad strategy . . . when you can score, anyways. In the first half, they weren’t able to do that.
WORST sight to see - seriously
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! *inhale* AHHHHHHHHH! Tom Brady is hit low by -- who else -- Ndamukong Suh and it looks like Suh rolled up on the back of Brady's legs, bending him backwards awkwardly. Brady was slow to get up and limped to the sidelines. The Pats are forced to kick a field goal, but I'm not sure one person saw it go in because all the focus is on Brady on the sidelines getting some attention from the training staff. They're looking at his leg, and he ends up getting another tape job over his right cleat. It appears that disaster was avoided, but Patriots fans still lost a few years off their lives. It should be noted that Suh was clotheslined on his way to Brady, which played a part in the way he was tackled. But you still just can't trust Suh.
The last person in the world to criticize the GOAT -- Stevie G -- is yours truly, but, dang, that was a tough field goal to miss. Gostkowski has hit some huge ones in his career, so this 46-yarder in perfectly fine weather is more like a chip shot. But it went wide right. He's now missed three field goals this year, and that one hurt because it came near the end of the second quarter and gave the Dolphins good field position for a final drive.
WORST finish to the first half
. . . and they'd make the most of that drive. Ryan Tannehill drove the Dolphins 64 yards in eight plays, where he found Davante Parker for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Dolphins a 10-3 lead with just :36 seconds to go in the half. Pats were in a zone and it looked like Parker just snuck in between Leonard Johnson and Devin McCourty. It should also be noted that Tannehill hit Greg Jennings for 31 yards earlier in that drive. Yes, Greg Jennings is still in the league.
BEST start to the second half
The first half really couldn't have gone much worse for the Patriots offense. They had just three points to show for the first 30 minutes, and to be honest it didn't look like they made scoring points much of a priority. With the Pats receiving to begin the second half, they were faced with a 3rd-and-4 from their own 26-yard line. That's when Brady hit James White on a short pass -- but White broke free for a 68-yard gain. He simply ran out of steam by the end and was tackled at the 6-yard line. Two plays later Steven Jackson ran in his first score of the season. And just like that we're all tied up at 10-10.
WORST cheap shot
So Tom Brady already was hurt once in this game, but apparently that's not enough for Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon. Vernon came in very late on Brady, and hit in in his back for no good reason at all other than to give him a cheap shot. The hit didn't go unnoticed though, and instead of the Patriots being forced to punt, Vernon was hit with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. Just a stupid play all-around for Vernon. The Dolphins have nothing but pride to play for today, but there's no pride in playing that way.
WORST turn of events for the Dolphins
So, obviously it wouldn't be an NFL game without questioning whether something was a catch or not. Tannehill completed a pass to Jennings for 12 yards. Jennings caught it, took a few steps, and then upon reaching out for the first down lost the ball due to the ground. One official ruled it a catch until he was overturned by another official on the field. The Dolphins challenged and after the Mike Carey kiss of death (former official turned TV guy, now gets paid to give the wrong opinion) the call was overturned and ruled a catch. No first down for Dolphins though, who decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 and got stuffed on the rush attempt. They should have just allowed the refs to remain incompetent. Lesson learned.
BEST rookie WR
DeVante Parker is having a game-and-a-half for the Dolphins. The rookie wide receiver has only been targeted six times as we head into the later stages of the fourth quarter, but he has 5 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. He had the big touchdown at the end of the second quarter, and then made a huge – huge! -- 46-yard catch in the fourth quarter to put the Dolphins at New England's 6-yard line. Can't fault the Pats for the coverage on that catch: Logan Ryan got his hands on it, but it still somehow ended up in Parker's hands. That put the Dolphins back up seven points, and the Patriots just didn't have enough on offense to answer.
WORST way to end the regular season
You certainly wouldn't say the Patriots are rolling into the playoffs. Maybe they're being rolled in on a stretcher? They lost four of their final six games after starting the season 10-0. Man, does that record feel like a longggg time ago. Health is the No. 1 concern, obviously. Fans have been telling themselves this for two months now. Well, now the team has two weeks to get healthy because it's obvious they won't win a playoff game with their current active healthy roster. Make no mistake about it though, they should have beaten the Dolphins today. The Dolphins stink.