MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts from the Patriots' crushing 34-33 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday . . .
SO, ABOUT THAT FINAL PLAY . . .
On the last play of the game, the Patriots called for a package that called for Rob Gronkowski to enter the game as a "jumper" in place of the free safety, who in this instance was Devin McCourty. It was certainly a questionable decision based on the fact it was unlikely Ryan Tannehill would be able to heave one to the end zone from his own 31-yard line. McCourty would have made more sense as a run-and-chase player, given his speed and tackling ability. It was Gronkowski who was the last line of defense against Kenyan Drake's game-winning touchdown. The tight end slipped as he chased Drake to the corner, and Drake crossed the goal line untouched.
McCLELLAN A ONE-MAN WRECKING CREW
Not sure if it was indecision by Miami long-snapper John Denney on the two blocked punts by the Patriots, or if he just can't block. Nate Ebner crossed his face on both, which might've caused some indecision up front for the Dolphins. And Albert McClellan -- a mid-season acquisition by the Patriots to give their special teams a boost -- showed closing good speed and awareness to get to the punter's foot quickly and legally. The Patriots didn't show any kind of incredibly complicated rush, though, on either of their punt blocks in the first half.
BAD END TO A GOOD HALF
Tom Brady admitted afterwards he "lost track" of how many timeouts the Patriots had left -- none -- at the end of the first half, which cost the Pats at least three points . . . and, ultimately, the victory. On third-and-goal from the Miami 2 he came under pressure and, with no timeouts remaining, you'd assume he'd throw it away to stop the clock and get the field-goal unit on. He didn't. He took a sack, allowing the last few seconds to drip off the clock and wiping a gimme field goal off the board. To that point in the game, Brady had set the Dolphins secondary ablaze with three touchdown passes, but he ended it with a costly mental error. Combine that play with a missed field goal and a missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski and the Patriots left at least seven points on the board in this one. And they lost by one.
MIXED BAG UP FRONT
The Patriots were getting shoved around in the running game early. Perhaps helped by the shifts and motions that coach Adam Gase likes to employ, the Dolphins were finding holes at the line of scrimmage, hitting them hard, and running . . . and running . . . and running. Ryan Tannehill took a keeper for an easy gain of 13 yards early when Dont'a Hightower crashed down on the edge too hard. That was followed by a 36-yarder from Frank Gore that helped set up a score. In the second quarter, Brandon Bolden hit another open gap for a 54-yard touchdown and was somehow untouched. The Patriots got after the quarterback well in this one with sacks from Trey Flowers, Adam Butler, Dont'a Hightower, John Simon and a split sack from Kyle Van Noy and Jonathan Jones, but against the run the Patriots had big-time issues having all their gaps covered.
BIG-TIME BOUNCE-BACK FOR GRONKOWSKI
Just because Gronkowski had a rough game a week ago against the Vikings didn't mean that he was washed up. Last Sunday was a bad game for a player who has been banged up over the course of the season. But this Sunday -- last play notwithstanding -- he showed up in a big way. He caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, his first time surpassing 100 yards since Week 1, as the Dolphins simply could not stop one-on-one or in zone. The Dolphins tried to use linebackers on him -- perhaps taking a page out of the Minnesota playbook -- but Gronkowski beat Kiko Alonso, Jerome Backer and Raekwon McMillan for key gains. His touchdown in the second quarter came on a leaping, twisting grab that was vintage Gronkowski.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.