The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots met for the second time this year on a Monday Night Football contest to close out Week 14 of the 2017 season. The Patriots came into the game needing a win to clinch the AFC East for the ninth straight year, while the Dolphins came in hoping to keep their minuscule playoff chances alive.
The game finished with Miami topping the Patriots 27-20, in a game that never felt that close.
First Half Recap
The Dolphins received the opening kickoff. On first down, quarterback Jay Cutler found a wide open DeVante Parker cutting across the middle of the field, but the receiver let the ball fly right through his hands. The offense found its rhythm after that, however, as Kenyan Drake picked up 26 yards on the next play, then Cutler found Jarvis Landry, who picked up nine yards. Drake then converted the 2nd-and-1 play for a first down, picking up one yard. Drake lost three yards on his next carry, but then picked up 12 yards on a pass from Cutler. After not converting on 3rd-and-1, the Dolphins went for it on fourth down, and Cutler connected with Parker on a nicely designed run-fake, picking up 15 yards. Landry added another ten yards on the next play, having lined up in the backfield and catching the ball in the flat. After Drake lost a yard, then two incomplete passes, the Dolphins were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Cody Parkey.
Dolphins field goal. MIA 3-0.
The Patriots did not come out nearly as sharply as Miami. After no gain up the middle from Rex Burkhead, Tom Brady threw an incomplete pass. On 3rd-and-10, Brady looked deep for Brandon Cooks, but Xavien Howard undercut the pass and intercepted it.
Miami started with the ball at their own 40-yard line. Drake carried the ball on first down for four yards, then Cutler found tight end Julius Thomas for five yards. Tight end MarQueis Gray, lined up at fullback, then converted on 3rd-and-1, picking up two yards. Cutler connected with Jakeem Grant on a short pass on first down, with the speedster turning up field for 17 yards. Drake then picked up another six yards, before losing four yards. Cutler then connected with Parker for four yards on 3rd-and-8, leading to a 44-yard field goal from Parkey.
Dolphins field goal. MIA 6-0.
After the kickoff, Brady threw incomplete on first down, followed by a Burkhead two-yard run on second down. On 3rd-and-8, Brady again threw an incomplete pass, leading to a three-and-out punt.
The Dolphins started with 1st-and-5 after a neutral zone infraction from the Patriots, with Cutler scrambling for six yards. A deep pass from Cutler to Thomas on the next play nearly worked after a formation with four wide receivers in a bunch on the left side of the offense and Thomas alone on the right, but Patrick Chung got his hand on the ball at the last second, breaking it up. On 2nd-and-10, Miami almost broke a long gain as the ball got to Parker on a slant, which Stephon Gilmore broke up at the last second, but then was called for pass interference. On the subsequent first down, Miami ran for five yards, but center Mike Pouncey was called for holding and backed the team up to 1st-and-20. Cutler found Kenny Stills for seven yards on the next play, then Drake picked up one yard. On 3rd-and-12, it appeared the Dolphins would convert as Thomas caught a slant and appeared to have open space to the sticks, but he fumbled the ball and had to pick it up, being tackles six yards short of the line of gain. Miami would punt, pinning the Patriots at their own nine-yard line.
New England appeared to find a little rhythm on the possession, starting with a Dion Lewis 11-yard gain. Brady then found Lewis for seven yards, followed by an eight-yard pass to Burkhead. Lewis picked up two yards on first down, followed by a pass to Lewis for four yards. Brady then found Burkhead for three yards on 3rd-and-4, with the team stalling and having to punt again.
Miami would, however, go three-and-out on their next possession, starting at their own 14 -yard line. The drive stalled after an 11-yard loss on a sack, though Drake picked up 13 of the 18 yards needed on third down after catching a screen pass.
The Patriots returned the punt almost to midfield, starting at their own 49-yard line. Brady threw an eight-yard pass to tight end Dwayne Allen to start the drive, then the team was backed up five yards on a false start penalty. Brady then connected with Lewis on a 20-yard catch-and-run, with Burkhead then gaining two yards on a run up the middle. After a pass for three yards to Burkhead, Brady looked deep to Cooks, with Howard in coverage. The cornerback made a play for the ball, but jumped early and fell into Cooks, with a defensive pass interference call giving the Patriots the ball at the Miami three-yard line. One play later, Burkhead scored, giving New England the lead.
Patriots touchdown. NE 7-6.
Miami opened the next possession looking to respond to the New England score. Cutler found tight end Anthony Fasano for a 17-yard gain, then connected with Drake for a 47-yard gain. Cutler found Landry on the next play for a 16-yard touchdown, but it was called back for a holding penalty on Laremy Tunsil as he cleared the way down the field for Landry. Drake picked up seven yards on the next play, with Cutler avoiding a sack and somehow getting the ball out of his hand, before an incomplete pass from Cutler. He then found Drake for eight before giving Landry back his touchdown, this time on a five-yard pass.
Dolphins touchdown. MIA 13-7.
The Patriots started the drive at their own 25-yard line with 3:33 in the half. They immediately went into their typical end-of-half, start-of second-half scores plan, with Lewis picking up five yards, then Brady connecting with Burkhead for 23 yards. After a Lewis three-yard gain, the clock hit the two-minute warning. Brady then threw an eight-yard pass to Burkhead, before an incomplete pass. Brady found James White for seven yards on 2nd-and-10, and again for one yard on 3rd-and-3. After attempting to draw Miami offsides, New England called a time out before kicking a field goal with two seconds remaining.
Patriots field goal. MIA 13-10.
The Dolphins killed the clock after the kickoff and headed into the locker room with a three point lead.
First Half Reactions
What a fun first half. The Dolphins came out looking to get off to a fast start, and they did just that. They could not finish the first two drives, having to settle for field goals, but the offense was able to move the ball, both through the air (181 yards in the half for Cutler) and on the ground (40 yards on 11 carries for Drake).
The defense showed up as well. Howard’s interception gave him his third on the season, tying him for 12th in the league at this point. The pass rush was pressuring Brady, even if they were not sacking him, and the coverage was good. Brady had 92 passing yards, with a 57.3 passer rating (compared to Cutler’s 119.0). They only allowed 28 rushing yards in the half as well. New England had two yards of offense in the first quarter, their lowest ever in the opening period.
All-in-all, it was a really good first half. The team just needed to keep it up coming out into the third quarter.
Second Half Recap
The “fast starting Patriots” as Jon Gruden called them coming out of the half, were anything but that after receiving the kick off. After a two-yard gain on first down, Brady was sacked for an eight yard loss by Jordan Phillips. Setting up 3rd-and-14, Brady looked deep for Cooks, only to have Howard pick off the pass, his second of the game and fourth of the season (and last two weeks).
Cutler found Landry for six yards after the pick, then had a nice pass to Thomas, but the tight end could not find the ball and it landed incomplete. Cutler went right back to it, finding Stills for 11 yards, then Drake picked up four yards. After that, Cutler looked deep for Jakeem Grant in the endzone, with the little wide receiver going up and over Malcolm Butler for the score.
Dolphins Touchdown. MIA 20-10.
The Patriots would go three-and-out on their next possession, despite a gifted five yards for a neutral zone infraction from Cameron Wake.
Miami continued to put the pressure on the Patriots, coming back out and looking to score again. Drake picked up one yard on the opening play of the drive, then eight on the next play, though he had to leave the game with what appeared to be the wind being knocked out of him. Cutler looked for Landry on the next play, drawing a pass interference penalty for a 21-yard gain. Drake then picked up two three-yard gains with Cutler then finding Parker for 11 yards. Drake then spun his way into a 31-yard gain, with Cutler finding Landry for a four-yard touchdown two plays later.
Dolphins touchdown. MIA 27-10.
The Patriots would pick up 18 yards on five plays on their next drive, with 17 of them coming on a pass interference penalty on Alterraun Verner, before punting.
Miami would give the ball right back on a three-and-out, which included a ten-yard loss on a sack.
New England, after a random 15 yards were given to the Patriots on the punt return likely for Jordan Lucas running out of bounds but without a penalty flag or an explanation from the refs, picked up six yards on a pass from Brady to Danny Amendola, then 26 yards looking for Amendola again. After a one-yard pass from Brady to Chris Hogan, Brady found Lewis for 13 yards, then Amendola for four yards. On 2nd-and-Goal from the Miami three-yard line, Brady found White for the touchdown.
Patriots touchdown. MIA 27-10.
Miami would again go three-and-out on the next drive. They nearly converted on 3rd-and-6, with Cutler scrambling, then throwing a pass toward Grant that bounced short. It appeared Cutler could have run for the first down, and he reacted on the sideline like he realized he could have made it.
The Patriots were called for holding on the punt, backing them up from starting at their own 48-yard line to starting at their own 15. On first down, Brady connected to Allen, who was immediately tackled by Lawrence Timmons for a one-yard gain. Brady threw incomplete toward Ammendola on second down. Ndamukong Suh then sacked Brady on third down, cleaning up after Charles Harris nearly got the sack but let Brady step up away from the initial pressure.
After the punt, the Dolphins looked like they were going to milk the clock, with Drake running the ball on the first three plays, starting with nine yards, then four yards, then another four yards. Cutler then threw a beautiful deep ball, assisted with a great blitz pickup from Drake, that would have been a touchdown if Grant had been able to pull it in. After the incomplete pass, the pressure forced Cutler to scramble, then throw the ball away on 3rd-and-6, leading to another Miami punt.
The Patriots went three-and-out on the next possession, their sixth time in eleven possessions. On first down, Phillips was injured when he was cut block on a screen pass, with Phillips looking like he grabbed at his ankle as he went to the ground.
Miami would go three-and-out, picking up three yards from Drake, then losing one on a pass to Landry, before a pass bounced off Parker, then off Stills beyond the first-down marker, and nearly could have been caught by Cutler back behind the line of scrimmage.
New England would go three-and-out on their next possession as well, making it seven three-and-outs in 12 possessions. It also made them 0-for-10 on third down on the night.
The Dolphins would be forced to punt after picking up one first down on a 10-yard Parker reception.
New England started their next possession with a 38-yard gain on a pass from Brady to Cooks. After a roughing the passer penalty moved the Patriots up to the Miami one-yard line, Brady threw incomplete, then New England starting moving backwards. A holding penalty and an illegal motion penalty moved them back to a 2nd-and-Goal from the 15-yard line. After two more incomplete passes, the Patriots connected on a field goal.
Patriots field goal. MIA 27-20.
The Dolphins then recovered the onside kick and killed the clock for the win.
This was an incredibly fun game, with the Dolphins keeping up the pressure throughout the entire first half and into the second half. They ended up with some three-and-outs later in the game, and they missed a clear kill shot with Grant dropping a deep pass from Cutler, but overall, this is the Dolphins team we were supposed to see all season long.
The Dolphins just took it to the Patriots and smacked them every time they tried to do anything. New England finished the game 0-for-10 on third down, the first time they did not convert a third down since 1991. The Dolphins simply outplayed the Patriots in every aspect of the game, and the score matched it.