The Patriots won’t be entering the AFC playoffs on a high note after falling to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 20-10 in the regular season finale.
The setback was New England’s fourth loss in the past six weeks after starting the season on a 10-0 hot streak.
Tom Brady threw for a season-low 134 passing yards in the defeat (12-of-21) with an uninspiring performance by a shorthanded Patriots offense. No Patriots receivers had more than two receptions on the afternoon against a Dolphins (6-10) team that was playing for just pride under interim head coach Dan Campbell.
Ryan Tannehill finished with 350 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a go-ahead strike to Jordan Cameron with 6:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
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The Patriots (12-4) will have a couple weeks off to regroup before hosting a divisional round game at Gillette Stadium.
Three Things We Learned:
Patriots go conservative
Even though New England’s top healthy receiving weapons suited up on Sunday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels elected not to use them regularly in Miami. The Patriots ran the ball a whopping 21 times in the first half, in contrast to just five pass attempts. The strategy was effective in chewing up the clock for the visitors but produced just three first half points and 111 total yards for the Patriots. McDaniels did open up the playbook a bit more in the second half after Miami had taken the lead, but it’s clear that the Patriots were trying to play it safe throughout the contest, and it may have cost them the win.
Steven Jackson gets put to the test
Just two weeks after being signed by the Patriots, the 32-year-old running back had his workload ramped up considerably in preparation for the postseason. Jackson did score a touchdown on the day from two yards out, but his performance wasn’t exactly inspiring. He ran for a team-high 35 yards on 14 attempts, resulting in a subpar 2.5 yard per carry average. Jackson also added a 20-yard reception on a screen play in the first half, but he clearly isn’t in prime shape just yet. The power back now has a couple more weeks of practice to show the Patriots coaching staff he’s capable of producing with the added touches.
Tom Brady’s ankle could be an issue
While New England’s scaled back playcalling tried to keep Brady out of harm’s way as much as possible, the 6-foot-4 quarterback could not manage to escape the wrath of Ndamukong Suh. The 300-pound lineman careened into Brady’s lower body on a pass play in the second quarter, which sent the 38-year-old Patriot limping to the sidelines after a third down incompletion. The Patriots training staff re-taped Brady’s ankle and he continued to play until the final drive of the game, but Brady admitted he was a little sore following the defeat. The veteran quarterback will have a couple weeks to heal up before the divisional round, but any lingering injury to the MVP candidate could be a major concern moving forward.