The Patriots’ wild roller coaster ride of a season continued on through Miami on Sunday, and it was that latest loopty loop that had many fans barfing out the side of their carts.
In what has now been deemed the “Miracle in Miami” (*eye roll*), the Patriots quite literally stumbled to the finish line where they face-planted into one of the most stunning losses in NFL history.
It’s not often the Pats are on the wrong side of a historic loss (… we don’t talk about 18-1…), but the Dolphins’ 69-yard multilateral touchdown was the longest game-winning touchdown with no time left in regulation in the Super Bowl era, according to Elias. The Pats have now made it extremely unlikely that they’ll finish with the No. 1 seed in the AFC after Kansas City’s comeback win on Sunday.
We’re 14 weeks into the season and still learning about this team. So what are some of the good — and bad — we learned in Miami? We’re going to start with the bad because the Patriots deserve it.
It was a head-scratcher to watch Tom Brady take a third-down sack in the closing seconds of the first half with the Patriots on the Dolphins two-yard line. Had he thrown the ball away it would have in the least brought up a fourth-down field goal attempt for Stephen Gostkowski (he had his own missed opportunities). It was even more shocking to hear Brady admit after the game that he thought the team had an extra timeout then. Brady prides himself on decision-making and execution, and that missed scoring chance obviously came back to haunt them.
You’ll see the play on TV 100 more times this week, and again every time the Patriots play in Miami, so we won’t harp on it too much, but please join us in asking, “What the [bleep] was Gronk doing out there?” Had Devin McCourty been in the game, this probably ends differently. It’s not all on Gronk though. Rookie DB J.C. Jackson is not going to enjoy the film session on that one. The entire secondary looked like they were waiting for Miami to go down on their own. Awful.
No Place Like Home
The bad news is that the Patriots, stink on the road. The worse news is that they’re probably going to have to win a playoff game on the road now. The Chiefs have two games on them, and the Chargers have one game on them. The Pats will be tested on the road again next Sunday in Pittsburgh against a reeling Steelers team desperate for a win. New England is allowing 25.0 points per game on the road, 18th most in the NFL, as all four of their losses have come on the road.
True, the lasting image of this game will be Rob Gronkowski slowly stumbling and bumbling his way to the pylon without a prayer of catching Kenyon Drake. But before that? Gronk rebounded very nicely from last week’s dud. He caught all eight of his targets for 107 yards and his first red zone touchdown of the season. Who knows how many seasons – if any – he’s going to play, but those saying he’s #done are wrong. Gronk is still a huge part of the Patriots’ success this season.
… And so does the rest of the offense
Lost in the loss is the fact that the Patriots offense looked pretty darn good at times. Brady threw for a season-high 358 yards, including 96 to Josh Gordon on five receptions and 86 to Julian Edelman on nine receptions. The running game is still a mixed bag, but things may be starting to click for the Pats passing game at the perfect time. The Chiefs defense doesn’t want this smoke.
Give it up for linebacker Albert McClellan who blocked not one, but two punts for the Patriots in the first half on Sunday. Belichick has always stressed being strong in all three phases of the game, and McClellan, who the Pats signed in early June, will be looked at to continue that strong play going forward on special teams.