It’s safe to say that Monday’s game in Miami did not go anywhere near according to plan for the New England Patriots.
And while Bill Belichick (true to form immediately after a loss) did not have much to say, there really wasn’t much he had to say.
The team’s play spoke for itself.
And that was led by Tom Brady, who could only muster up 233 passing yards, one touchdown, and a 59.5 passer rating. He threw two interceptions and the Patriots failed to convert a single third down. It didn’t help that he was under fire all night, as according to Pro Football Focus, all Patriots offensive linemen allowed at least two pressures against the Dolphins with Joe Thuney and David Andrews allowing four each.
And even though the Dolphins tried everything they could to keep the Patriots in it late in the fourth quarter, a botched 1st-and-goal from the one-inch line turned into a 3rd-and-goal from the 15 and an eventual field goal, bringing the Patriots within seven.
They never got the ball back, and instead snapped a 14-game winning streak on the road, perhaps not coincidentally in the same city as their last road loss.
Brady, who leads the NFL with 3,865 passing yards, set the record for most single season passing yards for a 40-year-old, past Warren Moon, but unfortunately looked more like a 40-year-old than the NFL passing leader while doing so.
It’s true that Brady has shown up on the injury report lately with an Achilles injury. It’s also true that he was without his best receiving option this year in Rob Gronkowski, who also plays a key role in the blocking game.
The hope for Patriots fans is that the absence of Gronkowski is the reason for Brady’s (and the entire offense’s) off game – and not any nagging injuries that can add up as the season progresses.
If that is the case, then Gronk’s return from his one-game suspension should put the Patriots offense back on track just in time for the game that has been circled on everybody’s calendar: Patriots at Steelers.
But when you think about the Steelers of today, it’s not the “Steel Curtain” defense of old you think about; it’s the offense.
Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell make up one of the most dangerous offensive trios in the NFL – and it’s been on display all season.
Just behind Brady in passing yards is Roethlisberger (3,744) after his 506-yard performance last Sunday night against the Ravens. And both Brown (1,509 receiving yards) and Bell (1,105 rushing yards) lead their respective positions this season.
After watching what the likes of Jay Cutler and Kenyan Drake were able to the Patriots, there’s reason to have doubt that the Patriots defense will be able to contain them, despite their prior success this season in limiting opponent points.
The Steelers go into this game first in the AFC, one game ahead of the Patriots. A Patriots win, however, will leapfrog them into first place and put them in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But here’s an interesting wrinkle: If the Patriots lose to the Steelers and the Jaguars win out (Texans, 49ers, Titans), it would be the Jaguars over the Patriots in a tiebreaker for the No. 2 seed and first-round bye.
Just like the loss in Miami, that’s something not many people saw coming.