Curran's Hard Truths: Dolphins earn miracle victory over Patriots
The focus will be on the final play of the game, but the inner-workings of the Patriots 34-33 loss at Miami – a game that featured nine lead changes – were interesting in terms of what they told us about where the Patriots are after 13 games.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RAN
Entering the game, the Dolphins were 30th in rushing yards allowed per game (144.7). The Patriots started out hammering the ball with 11 runs in the first quarter. After that, as their passing game began clicking, they ran it just 19 times over the final three quarters. They wound up with 77 yards on 30 carries – 20 for 57 from Sony Michel – their leanest output on the ground in three games.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS RAN
In our preview, we noted Miami’s effectiveness running the ball in terms of yards per carry (4.4 and 4.6 YPC for Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake respectively). Given the Patriots permissiveness against the run against Minnesota, we figured they might have a chance to get something going. They definitely did. Gore carried 12 times for 92 yards, old friend Brandon Bolden had 60 on two carries (including a 54-yard burst and another 6-yard TD run). Drake added another 24 and Miami ran wild, tearing off chunks so often they rarely got in third-down situations.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASSED
This was the Patriots offense at its most potent in 2018. With Miami playing zone much of the game, Tom Brady had room and time to pick the Miami defense apart and he did for 358 yards with 22 for 289 yards going to Gronk, Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. Brady also threw a 37-yard rope for a touchdown to Cordarelle Patterson who has, in consecutive weeks, become a downfield option. The most lamentable throw of the day, though, was Brady overshooting an open Chris Hogan in the end zone before halftime on the drive the Patriots came away empty.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS PASSED
Kenny Stills killed the Patriots with eight catches for 135 yards. How the Patriots could bottle up and confound the Vikings with a better complement of wideouts but be come up flimsy against one of the worst passing offenses in the league is confounding. The Patriots brought good pressure and got four sacks but Ryan Tannehill threw for 265 including a 23-yard touchdown dart to Brice Butler inside Stephon Gilmore. The final play… it also counts against the Patriots.
Despite Stephen Gostkowski’s missed PAT after the first Patriots touchdown and his doinked field goal from 42, it’s hard to beat up on the special teams unit as a whole. Albert McClellan had two blocked punts, one of which set up a touchdown. The other put the Patriots in business for another score but they mismanaged the clock. The Patriots did a nice job on kick and punt coverage.
The Patriots’ head-scratching clock management at the end of the half and their decision to treat the final play of the game as a Hail Mary situation rather than a multiple-lateral scenario cost them. They also could have attempted a run from the Miami 4 with 21 seconds remaining. The Dolphins were out of timeouts and would have taken over more than 95 yards away with no more than 18 seconds left and no timeouts. A field goal would have beaten them, so I understand the logic of taking the 3, but they’d have been hard pressed to get there. Either way, not a good day for the New England sideline.
The Patriots (9-4) are at the flagging Steelers, who lost to the nearly-dead Raiders on Sunday. The Patriots remain tied with Houston at 9-4 but own the No. 2 seed thanks to their head-to-head win over the Texans. The Dolphins are now 7-6 and in a multi-team tie for the second AFC Wild Card.