The Miami Dolphins hosted the New England Patriots on Sunday in the final game at Hard Rock Stadium this year. Miami came into the game at 8-5, looking to remain in position to make the playoffs. The Patriots entered the day 6-7 and looking to avoid being eliminated from the postseason picture.
The Dolphins left the game with the win, still in position to claim a playoff berth, and the knowledge that they eliminated the Patriots.
Patriots 12 - Dolphins 22
First half recap
The Patriots received the opening kick, starting on offense at their own 25-yard line after the touchback. On first down, quarterback Cam Newton threw incomplete before running back Sony Michel was stuffed by defensive end Christian Wilkins and linebacker Elandon Roberts, losing a yard. On third down, Newton threw to Damiere Byrd on a screen pass, only to have linebacker Kyle Van Noy shut it down for a two-yard loss. New England punted after a three-and-out drive, losing three yards.
Starting on their own 22-yard line after the punt, Miami began with two runs from running back Salvon Ahmed, picking up a combined six yards. On 3rd-and-4, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw to running back Patrick Laird, who appeared to have enough yardage for the first down, only to have the ball spotted a half-yard short, leading to a Miami three-and-out after a coach’s challenge failed.
Newton looked to Jakobi Meyers on first down, picking up 11 yards. Michel then added six yards, followed by 16 yards, on the next two snaps. After an incomplete pass, Newton tried a run up the middle, but Miami shut it down after one yard. After another incomplete pass, the Patriots were forced to punt, with the ball downed at the Miami two-yard line thanks to a perfectly placed kick and great coverage.
Starting deep in their own territory, Miami began the drive with Ahmed picking up six yards. Tagovailoa threw to Lynn Bowden, Jr., for a seven-yard gain and a first down on the next snap, which was followed by a Ahmed run for five yards. Tagovailoa then threw four straight passes, finding receiver Mack Hollins for eight yards, tight end Adam Shaheen for 15 yards, Bowden for three yards, and tight end Durham Smythe for 15 yards. Running back Matt Breida, returning from a stint on the COVID-19/reserve list picked up 17 yards on three carries before Ahmed came back in and added 12 yards on two attempts, setting up 1st-and-Goal from the Patriots’ 10-yard line. Tagovailoa connected with Isaiah Ford for three yards. Ford returns to the Dolphins after being traded earlier this year to the Patriots for a sixth-round pick, only to be waived with a plan to add him to their practice squad. The receiver chose to return to Miami’s practice squad instead, then was elevated for the game. Ahmed took the next snap for four yards, setting up a 3rd-and-Goal from the New England three. Tagovailoa looked toward Bowden in the front corner of the endzone, but was hit as he threw the pass, leading to an interception from J.C. Jackson. The pick brings Jackson to eight on the year, one behind Miami’s Xavien Howard for the league lead.
Starting at their own four-yard line after Miami’s 15-play, 95-yard possession led to no points but ended the first quarter, New England began with a Michel run for four yards. Michel then added another 17 yards, with Miami then called for a neutral zone infraction, giving the Patriots a free five yards. Newton threw to Byrd for three yards on the next snap, then Newton picked up four yards on the ground. Newton threw passes to Meyers for five yards and eight yards on the next two snaps, then to Michel for eight yards. Newton ran for three yards before throwing an incomplete pass. After a defensive holding penalty on Howard, Newton ran for eight yards, moving down to the Miami 26-yard line. Running back James White then lost a yard before a Newton incomplete pass led to a field goal for New England. Patriots 3-0.
Miami never found a rhythm on the next drive, starting with a nine-yard sack of Tagovailoa. After a false start penalty on Robert Hunt, the Dolphins were backed up to a 2nd-and-24, with Tagovailoa throwing incomplete toward Shaheen. On 3rd-and-24, Laird picked up eight yards on the draw, leading to a Miami punt.
The Patriots started with an incomplete pass from Newton, before White picked up four yards. Newton then threw to White for 21 yards, followed by a throw to N’Keal Harry for 12 yards. Newton picked up two yards before throwing an incomplete pass. On 3rd-and-8, Newton scrambled for a three-yard gain before fumbling, with Howard picking up the loose ball and running for the 86-yard touchdown return. Replay overturned the recovery, however, as the ball bounced off the hip of Wilkins while the defensive end had a foot out of bounds before Howard could control it, leading to the ball being returned to the Patriots. New England kicked a field goal. Patriots 6-0.
The Dolphins continued to look for an offensive rhythm as they came out for their second possession since the interception, starting with a four-yard run from Ahmed. Tagovailoa then threw an incomplete pass before finding Bowden for a 14-yard gain. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, sustained a non-contact right knee injury on the play, laying on the field away from the action after trying to make a cut. Ahmed picked up nine yards on the next two snaps, leading to the 2-minute warning. On 3rd-and-1, Tagovailoa lined up in the shotgun, with receiver Malcolm Perry going in motion, then lining up under center and taking the snap for a sneak up the middle and the first down on a four-yard gain. After an incomplete pass, Tagovailoa found Ahmed for five yards, but was sacked for a three-yard loss on the next snap. On 4th-and-8, Tagovailoa connected with Laird, who turned upfield and managed to convert for the fist down with a nine-yard gain. After a timeout, Jason Sanders attempted a 52-yard field goal, only to have it curl away just before reaching the uprights and the kicker’s streak of ten-straight 50+ yard field goals. The first half ended on the kick.
First half reactions
That spot from the refs on the Laird pass for Miami’s first possession was questionable at best. That looked like an easy conversion, and they brought the ball back. Then the replay just did nothing to correct it. Should have been a first down.
The Dolphins look like, at least early, they are not going to let Newton beat them with his legs. They are sealing the holes quickly when Newton tries to keep the ball and run. They have to keep it up for the entire game.
Wow that fumble would have been amazing. Instead, it is a ten-point swing as Miami loses the seven points they would have had and the Patriots added a field goal instead.
The offense needs to shake off the interception. They do not seem to be comfortable and they are playing tight because of it. They have to reset at halftime.
Second half recap
Miami received the opening kick, with New England kicking short and Roberts returning it to the 28-yard line. Ahmed picked up four yards on first down, with a facemask penalty tacking on 15 more yards. Tagovailoa then threw for 10 yards to Hollins before Miami broke out a gadget play. Tagovailoa took the snap and rolled to his right, flipping the ball to Perry on the reverse, then Perry flipped to Bowden, who looked to throw; with everyone covered, he rolled all the way right, then cut back left, and somehow gained nine yards. Breida then took three straight handoffs, gaining 14 yards, two yards, and seven yards on the snaps Tagovailoa then took a designed run for five yards, setting up 1st-and-Goal from the Patriots’ one-yard line. Ahmed then took the handoff up the middle, bounced off an initial penetration of the line from the Patriots, and followed Wilkins, in the game as a fullback, into the endzone. Dolphins 7-6.
Michel picked up four yards to start the drive for the Patriots, looking to respond to Miami’s score. Newton then looked deep to Meyers for a 20-yard gain, but Howard forced a fumble and Roberts recovered it, setting up Miami with the ball at the Patriots’ 47-yard line.
The Dolphins would not be able to do much with the drive, however, as Tagovailoa connected short to Bowden for five yards, but a holding penalty on Isaiah Ford on the next play backed up Miami. After an incomplete pass, Tagovailoa found Ford for eight yards, setting up 4th-and-7. The Dolphins ran a fake, with punter Matt Haack rolling to his left, then throwing back across the field to linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill for the apparent first down, but the referees flagged the play for Grugier-Hill not reporting as an eligible receiver. The Dolphins punted after the penalty.
The Patriots started with a run from Taylor, picking up two yards. Newton threw deep, with the ball falling incomplete on second down, but Jerome Baker was called for illegal contact, giving the Patriots a free first down. Newton then ran for four yards before throwing to Meyers, who was wide open on a crossing route, picking up 35 yards. Newton scrambled for 11 yards before two incomplete passes set up a 3rd-and-10. Newton found Meyers for an eight-yard gain, with the Patriots then kicking a 45-yard field goal. Patriots 9-7.
After cornerback Noah Igbinoghene returned the kickoff to just the Miami 10-yard line, the Dolphins started with Tagovailoa throwing short to Bowden for four yards, then throwing to Durham Smythe for eight yards, before an incomplete pass. The ground attack came back strong after that, with Ahmed picking up 31 yards on the longest run of the year for the Dolphins, followed by Breida for eight yards, then three yards, then two yards, and no gain. Laird took the next carry, picking up 12 yards, before Ahmed came back for three yards to finish the third quarter. After the Patriots got caught for 12 men in formation coming out of the break between quarters, Tagovailoa threw to Smythe for six yards. Ahmed then picked up four yards, followed by a pass to Smythe for one yard. On 3rd-and-Goal from the three-yard line, Tagovailoa dropped back to pass, then scrambled up the middle for the score. Miami converted to 2-point conversion on a pass from Tagovailoa to Ford, who pitched the ball to Ahmed for the score. Dolphins 15-9.
New England started where they seem to start every possession, with Michel running up the middle, this time picking up 10 yards. Newton then ran for two yards before defensive end Zach Sieler pulled Newton down for a seven-yard sack. Newton found Byrd over the middle for 23 yards to convert on the 3rd-and-15 play. Newton threw incomplete on the next snap but Nik Needham was called for the illegal contact penalty, negating the play. Michel picked up 13 yards on the first-down carry, followed by carries for two- and three-yards. Newton threw incomplete on the 3rd-and-5 play, leading to a field goal. Dolphins 15-12.
The Dolphins continued the ground assault on the Patriots on the next drive, starting with Ahmed for 13 yards, pushing him over the 100-yard mark for the day. After two Tagovailoa passes, one for 10 yards to Smythe and one to Bowden for four yards, Breida and Ahmed took over, starting with a 24-yard run from Breida. Breida took the ball another nine yards, closing in on a 100-yard day for him as well. Ahmed then carried for four yards, then two yards. Tagovailoa picked up seven yards on a pass to Ford before Ahmed picked up a yard and set up Miami with 1st-and-Goal from the New England one. After Ahmed was stopped just shy of the endzone, Tagovailoa recorded his second rushing touchdown on the day to extend Miami’s lead to ten. Dolphins 22-12.
Newton looked deep to Meyers on first down, picking up 26 yards as the play was upheld after Miami challenged the complete pass. Newton then looked for White for an eight yard gain, then again for 11 yards. Newton was then sacked by Baker for a seven-yard loss. Newton threw to Keene, with Baker making the stop and forcing a fumble, but White recovered for the Patriots. Newton then threw to White, with Baker making the tackle there as well. Newton was then sacked by Emmanuel Ogbah for a nine-yard loss on fourth down, giving the Dolphins back the ball.
Miami handed the ball off twice to Ahmed, who picked up two yards and six yards to end the game.
Second half reactions
The Dolphins found a rhythm on that opening drive with the running game. Keep attacking the Patriots on the ground and see if they can adjust. Ahmed and Breida are getting it done right now, so keep feeding them the ball.
Can we just declare Howard the Defensive Player of the Year?
Grugier-Hill seems to believe he reported on the fake punt. He does not seem to agree with the referees penalizing him for that play. This is the second time Miami has been flagged for failing to report eligible receivers on a special teams play. Something clearly needs to be corrected.
The ground game came to play today. Ahmed and Breida have both been impressive. Can the Dolphins get Breida to 100 yards? He needs 14 yards with about 4 minutes remaining.
Breida did not get the 100 yards.
What a weird weekend for the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East on Saturday, then the Dolphins eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs on Sunday. Strange times in the division.