With a chance to clinch the AFC East title and stay tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots came out and laid an egg on Monday night in Miami.
In their worst game in weeks, the New England Patriots (10-3) came out and looked flat against the Miami Dolphins (6-7). The eight game winning streak that the Patriots had is now over, coincidentally, their streak of holding opponents to 17 points or fewer is now over as well. In the loss, not many things went well for New England. Most importantly, they are now one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
- Tom Brady – A key number here is 13. This was the 13th game of the season for Tom Brady. It was also his worst game since the AFC Divisional round against the Houston Texans last January. That game was also his 13th game of the season. The 40 year old Brady has endured more hits this season than he did all of last season and has played almost as many games. It will be interesting to see how well his body holds up in the coming weeks. During the playoffs last season (games 13-15) for Brady, he started to show signs of his age. Could that happen down the stretch again this year?
- Brandin Cooks – With Rob Gronkowski serving a one game suspension, someone had to step up on offense. Cooks certainly didn’t take advantage of that chance. In the game, Cooks had one reception on seven targets. The two interceptions that Brady threw were on balls thrown in the direction of Cooks. On the interceptions, Cooks showed little to no fight for the ball. With Gronkowski out, someone needed to fill his void. No one stepped up in the loss and Cooks was a big part of that.
- Pass Rush – Two weeks ago against Miami, the Patriots piled up seven sacks. Apparently that was due largely to big lead New England had. With both Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy out of the game, the Patriots pass rush was non-existent. If those two continue to miss time, someone will have to step up and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
- Rush Defense – Kenyan Drake had a great game for the Dolphins offense. He had 25 carries for 114 yards and added another five catches for 79 yards. What was particularly concerning was the yardage on the ground, especially after Alan Branch left. After having a porous run defense last week against Buffalo, it continued again for the New England. If Branch has a serious injury, the run defense could get even worse going forward.
- Pass Protection – With Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle injured, the offensive line of the Patriots showed signs of leaking. Cannon was inactive and Waddle didn’t start. Pressure up the middle has consistently been a way to beat Brady and it showed on Monday night. There were times where left guard Joe Thuney was victimized. This will have to be addressed going forward to keep Brady upright.
- Defensive Fight – After being man-handled for a large portion of the game, safety and team captain Duron Harmon saw enough. After giving up Miami’s final touchdown, Harmon laid in to his teammates on the sideline. From that point forward the defense did show signs of improvement. Little things like that show that the flows shown tonight can be fixed.
After dropping the game tonight, New England is now one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) in the AFC playoff race. With a trip to Heinz Field next week, it becomes a virtual must win for the Patriots if they want to have home field advantage in the playoffs. With a game of that magnitude coming up, it might be exactly what the team needs to refocus and regroup after a disappointing loss on Monday.