Patriots

This weakness was the biggest culprit for dashing Pats' playoff hopes

Patriots

The Path is officially dead.

The New England Patriots fell to the Miami Dolphins 22-12 at Hard Rock Stadium in Week 15 in a loss that officially eliminated them from playoff contention.

New England had a chance to win the low-scoring affair and led 6-0 at halftime, but the Dolphins scored 22 points in the second half to rally for the victory that improved them to 9-5 and dropped the Patriots to 6-8.

Highlights from Patriots' 22-12 loss to Dolphins

Here are three immediate overreactions from Sunday's game:

1. Blame the run defense for dashing the Patriots' slim playoff hopes.

We've discussed New England's offensive struggles ad nauseum, and the team now hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in two games.

But just as concerning is the Patriots' inability to stop the run. One week after Los Angeles Rams rookie Cam Akers torched New England for 171 rushing yards and a TD, the Patriots allowed undrafted rookie Salvon Ahmed to rumble for 122 yards and a score on 23 touches.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa also added a pair of rushing touchdowns, as New England's defense has allowed a whopping 436 yards and four TDs on the ground over the last two weeks.

The Patriots entered Sunday with a relatively healthy front seven, but it got pushed around for the second consecutive week, allowing Miami to control possession and give New England virtually no chance to win given its offensive limitations.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

2. Tua Tagovailoa isn't the Dolphins' long-term solution at quarterback.

Look, we know Bill Belichick is an absolute nightmare for rookie quarterbacks. He made Justin Herbert look like a Pop Warner QB in Week 13.

 

Still, Tagovailoa was nothing more than a game manager Sunday against the Patriots. He completed 20 of his 26 passes but threw for just 145 yards with an interception. The 22-year-old southpaw didn't complete a pass of over 15 yards, and a majority of his production came on short, low-risk throws.

Perhaps more concerning for Dolphins fans is that Tagovailoa didn't look especially mobile in the pocket. Despite the two rushing TDs, he rushed just three times for nine yards, as the hip injury the prematurely ended his college career appears to have taken away some of his explosiveness.

Tagovailoa has plenty of time to prove us wrong, and Miami still can win games with him under center. But at the moment, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft doesn't look like a transcendent talent.

Verdict: Slight overreaction.

3. Sony Michel just secured his future with the Patriots.

Outside Jakobi Meyers (seven catches for 111 yards), Michel was the lone bright spot in another woeful offensive performance for the Patriots.

Damien Harris' breakout campaign has made Michel a forgotten man, but the Patriots' 2018 first-round pick got an opportunity to prove his worth Sunday with Harris sidelined -- and he made the most of it.

Michel ran for 74 yards on 10 carries for an average of 7.4 yards per rush. He hit holes with authority, ran hard between the tackles and showcase impressive burst on a 17-yard run, his longest of the game.

Curran: Don't give up on Michel just yet

Harris still may be the No. 1 back when he's healthy, but the Patriots will need to lean on more than one running back if they continue a run-heavy approach in 2021.

If Michel can string together two more solid games down the stretch, that may be enough to prove he at least deserves a roster spot on this team.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.