Earlier this week, Dolphins coach Brian Flores assessed his season-ending matchup with the Patriots and Bill Belichick this way: “He’s going to try to beat the heck out of us. And he knows this about me: We’re going to do the same…We’re going to be competing against each other and nobody’s going to care about any [relationships]…At 1 o’clock on Sunday, they’re going to be on the other side, and we’re competing, and we'll be friends after those three to four hours.”
That was actually borne out in September when the Patriots kept on punching in their 43-0 win over Miami long after the fight was decided. The Patriots scored 20 in the fourth including a 10-yard Tom Brady-to-James White touchdown pass with 2:10 left. On the final play of the game, working to preserve their shutout, the Patriots sent an all-out blitz at Josh Rosen on a snap from the Patriots 8. It was picked by Jamie Collins.
Personally, I like it when teams keep playing to the gun because I like to see the reaction of the team getting beat. Do they whine that it’s mean and not sporting? Or do they take the blame for being down by 30 in the first place? (And I’m talking within reason; double-reverse passes with 40 seconds left would be overdoing it…).
The Patriots have two things to play for on Sunday. 1) They have to protect the No. 2 seed and the bye that comes with it. 2) They need to use the final two regular-season games this year the same way they did in 2018: as playoff tuneups/momentum builders. Expect full effort. Both sides.