To quote the great Pepper Brooks, I feel shocked.
Maybe we should have seen this upset coming. After all, Tom Brady sports a lousy 7-9 career record in Miami. But I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the Dolphins, losers of five of their last seven, outclassing the Patriots the way they did in Monday night’s 27-20 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. Jay Cutler, who was winless in three career starts against the Patriots heading into Monday night, stuffed the stat sheet with 263 yards and three touchdowns while abruptly ending New England’s 14-game road winning streak.
The Patriots got off to a tepid start and unlike their heroic Super Bowl win earlier this year, a comeback wasn’t in the cards this time. The usually pinpoint Brady was surprisingly haphazard in Monday’s defeat, completing just 55.8 percent of his passes while turning in his first multi-interception game of the season. This came after Brady lit up the Dolphins for four touchdowns only two weeks earlier. Brady didn’t log his first completion until the second quarter and went the whole first half without completing a pass to a wide receiver.
New England’s offense looked noticeably out of synch without Rob Gronkowski, who was serving a one-game suspension for his hit on Tre’Davious White in last week’s win at Buffalo. Brandin Cooks was taken out of the game by Xavien Howard, who was a thorn in Brady’s side all night with three passes defended and two interceptions. After going the first 17 games of his career without a pick, Howard has contributed a remarkable four interceptions over his last two outings. Cooks’ lone reception came with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Chris Hogan, who was back in action after missing the previous four games with a shoulder injury, was also ineffective, hauling in just one-of-five targets for one yard. Hogan nearly salvaged the night with a late touchdown but couldn’t keep both of his feet in bounds.
While Cooks and Hogan fell flat, New England’s backfield trio of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White combined for 131 yards from scrimmage (106 receiving, 25 rushing) and two touchdowns. Lewis played a larger role in the passing game than usual with five catches for 50 receiving yards, which were both season-highs. Meanwhile Burkhead found the end zone for the fifth time in three games by punching in a three-yard touchdown with a little over six minutes remaining in the second quarter. He’s now scored more touchdowns in his last three games than he did in four years as a Cincinnati Bengal. James White was the recipient of Brady’s lone touchdown pass, a three-yarder that cut New England’s deficit to 10 with 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. That was Brady’s first touchdown pass since Week 12 after being shut out last week in Buffalo.
Filling in for an injured Damien Williams (shoulder), Kenyan Drake was sensational for the Dolphins, gashing the Patriots for 114 yards on the ground and another 79 through the air. Scarcely used while playing behind Eddie Lacy, Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon at Alabama, Drake has come into his own with Miami, compiling 334 yards from scrimmage over his last two games. Drake will likely revert to a timeshare when Williams returns, but until that happens, consider him an every-week RB1 for fantasy purposes.
With Stephon Gilmore chasing DeVante Parker and Malcolm Butler glued to Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry roamed free in the slot, handling all eight of his targets for 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The contract-year receiver is now tied for second in the league with 88 catches and is also tied for fifth in touchdowns with eight. Prior to this year, Landry’s previous career-high in touchdowns was just five. Primarily a special teamer, pint-sized wideout Jakeem Grant set a career-high with 42 receiving yards in the victory while also contributing his first career receiving touchdown (he scored on a punt return as a rookie last year) on Miami’s opening drive of the second half.
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The Dolphins have won two straight since snapping a five-game losing skid and now sit just one game out of the final AFC Wild Card spot, a position currently occupied by the 7-6 Bills. Conveniently, the Bills host Miami in Week 15.
Monday night marked New England’s first loss since Week 4. In fact, when Cody Parkey booted a 30-yard field goal to give Miami an early 3-0 lead, it was the first time the Patriots had trailed since Week 8.
The Patriots still have a clear path to a first-round bye, but in order to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they’ll need to take care of business next week against the Steelers, who hold the AFC’s top record at 11-2. New England defeated the Steelers handily in last year’s AFC title game, but that game was played in Foxboro and Le’Veon Bell was hurt for most of it. With that said, a Bill Belichick-coached team losing two straight is almost unheard of and New England should benefit from the return of Gronkowski, who leads all tight ends with 77.2 receiving yards per game.
Quick Hits: Carson Wentz will undergo season-ending ACL surgery later this week. According to Dr. James Andrews, the surgery will sideline Wentz for 9-12 months … Aaron Rodgers underwent a CT scan on Monday and the results should determine whether he suits up Sunday against the Panthers. Rodgers, who hasn’t played since suffering a broken collarbone in Week 6, resumed practicing last week … Lions coach Jim Caldwell declined to name a starter when asked about the team’s running back depth chart. Ameer Abdullah has been the starter most of the year but was a surprise inactive Sunday against Tampa Bay … Marcus Mariota hurt his knee in Sunday’s loss to Arizona but Titans coach Mike Mularkey is confident the injury isn’t serious. Mariota’s 14 interceptions are the second-most in the NFL … Josh McCown is out for the year with a broken left hand. Bryce Petty will fill in as the Jets’ starting quarterback for the final three games of 2017 … An MRI on Elijah McGuire’s injured ankle came back negative. The rookie hopes to be ready for Sunday’s game in New Orleans … Alvin Kamara expects to play against the Jets in Week 14. Kamara suffered a concussion early in Thursday’s loss to Atlanta … Davon House has been diagnosed with a transverse process fracture in his back. That injury usually carries a 1-2-week timetable for recovery … Nathan Peterman has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol. Joe Webb filled in after Peterman went down in Sunday’s win over Indianapolis, though the Bills are hoping to have Tyrod Taylor (knee) back for Week 15 against Miami … Deonte Thompson has passed Zay Jones on the Bills’ receiving depth chart. A second-round rookie out of East Carolina, Jones has caught just 25-of-68 targets for 291 yards and two touchdowns this season … Bills coach Sean McDermott said it’s “too early to tell” if Kelvin Benjamin will be available for Week 15. Benjamin returned from a two-game absence Sunday against the Colts but wasn’t able to finish the game after aggravating his injured knee … According to Mike Jurecki of Arizona Sports 98.7, the Cardinals have “reached out” to Blaine Gabbert about a contract extension. With Carson Palmer likely to retire this offseason, the Cardinals could bring Gabbert back as the bridge to a future franchise quarterback … Texans coach Bill O’Brien expects T.J. Yates to start Week 15 against the Jaguars. He’ll be filling in for Tom Savage, who is in the league’s concussion protocol … Ronald Leary was placed on season-ending I.R. with a back injury. Connor McGovern will finish out the year at right guard for Denver … Eli Manning will remain the Giants’ starter for Week 15 against the Eagles. Manning struggled Sunday in his return from a one-game benching, throwing for 228 yards with two interceptions in a loss to Dallas … Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo expects Eli Apple to return in Week 15. He’s been out with a hip injury and was also away from the team while his mother underwent brain surgery last month … Zach Miller returned to the Bears’ facility Monday for the first time since suffering a gruesome knee injury in Week 8. Miller has undergone eight surgeries since then and said his leg almost had to be amputated.