Miami Yikes: Those AFC East champs T-shirts and hats will have to wait. It was ugly, all the way around. Just when it seemed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was primed to even his career record in Miami, New England delivered its weakest performance of the season in an embarrassing, 27-20 loss to the Dolphins Monday night. It wasn’t as nearly as close as the score might indicate. Brady is now 7-9 over his career in South Beach, but more importantly, his Patriots fell to 10-3 on the season, which puts them one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers for home-field with next weekend’s showdown at Heinz Field looming larger than ever. Without the aid of tight end Rob Gronkowski, serving his one-game suspension for his late hit in Buffalo last week, Brady had a difficult time against the Miami defense all night, hitting 24 of 43 throws for completions, 163 yards and zero touchdown passes. It was Brady’s first game with two interceptions since the Dec. 6, 2015 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He didn’t hit a wide receiver until finding Dany Amendola with 10:11 remaining in the third quarter. His quarterback rating was a mere 59.5, a number more fitting of whatever guy the Cleveland Browns throw out there, not the five-time Super Bowl winner. New England’s road-winning streak was snapped at 14 games and, perhaps most remarkably, it was the first time since 1991 that the Patriots failed to convert a single third-down play. Nineteen-ninety-one. Analysis: Yuck.
Game MVP goes to…Jay Cutler? Yup, it ended up being one of those games during which Miami quarterback Jay Cutler turned into the guy who teased on-and-off for so many years with the Chicago Bears. Cutler, who missed the meeting two weeks ago against the Patriots, was nails Monday night, throwing for 263 yards and three touchdowns in the win. But running back Kenyan Drake played star 1A to Cutler on the night, rushing for 114 yards, and caching five passes for 79 more. Cutler spread the ball out to seven other receivers besides Drake, including a nifty touchdown toss to Jakeem Grant and a pair to Jarvis Landry. But Cutler’s most elusive play came in the second quarter with New England leading, 10-6. Cutler niftily spun out of the way of what appeared to be a sure sack by Patriots safety Jonathan Richards in order to extend a drive that led to a touchdown that put the Dolphins ahead for good on the night. It was a must-win for the Dolphins to keep their playoff hopes alive. Thanks to Jay Cutler. Of course, right?
X marked the spot: If Cutler and Drake were the difference-makers on the offensive side of the ball for Miami, then the defensive star goes to Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, who picked Brady off twice in the game, something very few defensive players in the NFL can boast to have done. It was on the third play of the game when Howard got his first interception on a ball that Brady under threw to wide receiver Brandin Cooks. It was on the third play of the second half when Howard made a somewhat-spectacular play on a deep ball to Cooks. Cooks probably should have put up a better fight for the ball, but regardless, Howard’s ability to catch and keep pace with the speedy Cooks was an impressive feat that prevented the Patriots, who kicked a field goal at the end of the first half, from scoring to open the second half. Thus, their somewhat-patented back-to-back scoring drives to end and open the halves going unfulfilled.