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Patriots vs. Dolphins 2021 Week 18 final score, immediate reactions

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins hosted the New England Patriots on Sunday, the Week 18 regular-season finale for both teams. New England came into the game knowing they were in the playoffs, but still playing for a chance to be the AFC East division champion and host their Wildcard round game. Miami came into the contest without a chance at the postseason, but an ability to end the season with a winning record and play spoiler to the Patriots’ division hopes.

With the win, Miami claimed their second-straight winning season, something they have not done since 2002-2003, and they swept the Patriots for the first time since 2000.

Final Score

Patriots 24 - Dolphins 33

First Quarter

The Dolphins opened the game receiving the opening kickoff. Miami began at their own 23-yard line, but immediately began moving the ball. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looked to rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle on the first two plays, picking up nine yards, then four yards on the passes. Running back Duke Johnson picked up four yards before Tagovailoa went back to Waddle for a five-yard gain. Tagovailoa picked up two yards on a quarterback sneak to convert on 3rd-and-1, then he threw to tight end Mike Gesicki for a 13-yard gain. After an encroachment penalty on the Patriots, Miami was set up with 1st-and-5 at the Patriots’ 35-yard line. Running back Phillip Lindsay took three straight handoffs, picking up five yards, four yards, and three yards on the carries. Tagovailoa then threw to running back Myles Gaskin for seven yards, then to wide receiver DeVante Parker for nine yards. After no gain on a Duke Johnson run, Tagovailoa threw to a wide-open Waddle in the back of the endzone, who toe tapped his way to the score. Dolphins 7-0.

Waddle set the new rookie season record for receptions on the five-yard play on his third catch of the game. Tagovailoa finished the drive 7-for-7 for 54 yards with the score, another opening drive where Miami came out and executed perfectly. Will they be able to keep it up as the game progresses?

After a touchback, New England opened with a run from running back Damien Harris for three yards. Harris picked up another six yards on second down. On 3rd-and-1, Jones looked to wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, but cornerback Xaven Howard jumped the route and returned it for a 37-yard touchdown. Dolphins 14-0.

Howard baited that pick, and it worked perfectly. Outstanding job.

Starting at their own 25-yard line after another touchback, the Patriots did a little better on their second possession, but not a lot. After Miami was penalized for 12 men on the field after safety Brandon Jones could not get off the field in time, Mac Jones threw to running back Rhamondre Stevenson for a two-yard gain. Harris converted for the first down on a seve-yard run, but the drive stalled there, with Jones throwing to Harris for five yards, then Brandon Boldin lost a yard on a run up the middle. Jones tried to throw for the first down on 3rd-and-6, but defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah knocked down the pass and forced a punt.

Miami’s defense is stepping up early. The Howard interception was followed by Christian Wilkins wrecking the middle of the line of scrimmage, as well as Ogbah doing what Ogbah does. Good stand by the defense.

Miami began at their own 11-yard line after the punt, with Johnson picking up seven yards on the first down run. Tagovailoa then threw to tight end Durham Smythe for 17 yards, moving the ball out to the Dolphins’ 35-yard line. Johnson then carried the ball for five yards, then again for two yards. After an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-3, Miami faked the punt, with punter Michael Palardy sliding after only one yard; an unnecessary roughness penalty on Bolden gave Miami a new set of downs. Tagovailoa then threw to Gaskin for four yards, leading to the end of the quarter.

The Dolphins offense is moving the ball effectively, but they got lucky a couple of times. Tagovailoa overthrew Parker on the incomplete pass, with Devin McCourty dropping the gifted interception. Parker was held on the play, but no penalty was called. The unnecessary roughness penalty was a complete miss by the referees, who probably thought Palardy had been hit in the head as he was sliding, but there was barely any contact and what was made looked like it hit Palardy in the shoulder.


Second quarter

Miami continued the drive after the break, with the rain opening up over the stadium. The running game took over as the weather changed, with Johnson running for a yard, then 10 yards, followed by a six- and a five-yard run. Lindsay took over on the next two plays, adding three yards and a yard. After a New England timeout, Tagovailoa looked to Parker in the endzone but the pass was broken up. Miami settled for the 30-yard field goal. Dolphins 17-0.

Miami went conservative as the weather changed. They found some success from the running game, but they are going to have to prove Tagovailoa can throw the ball in the rain - something that did not happen well last week.

After the kickoff, the Patriots say Jones throw an incomplete pass, but come back with a 35-yard pass to tight end Hunter Henry, who was wide open after a play fake. Joes then threw to Harris for seven yards before a Kendrick Bourne run for eight yards. Harris ran for four yards on 1st-and-10 from the Miami 24, followed by a Jones pass to Meyers for five yards. On 3rd-and-1, Bolden cut back on a run and found space for the 15-yard touchdown. Dolphins 17-7.

That was a little too easy for New England. The 35-yard pass was obviously the highlight of the possession, and that was just a great play design that sucked up Jerome Baker on the play fake, leaving Henry, who stayed in at first to block before leaking out an finding a hole, wide open.

Miami’s answering drive featured a three-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Parker, then a Lindsay run for three yards. On 3rd-and-4, Tagovailoa was flushed from the pocket, with Kyle Van Noy able to track him down for the sack. Miami answered New England’s touchdown with a three-and-out.

Not exactly the drive the Dolphins needed there. The defense has to step up and force a punt here.

Jones threw to Harris for a 13-yard gain to start the drive, moving the ball to the Miami 45-yard line. After two incomplete passes targeting Meyers, including a nice pass breakup from cornerback Nik Needham, New England called timeout to avoid a delay of game. On 3rd-and-10, the Patriots seemed confused by the defensive setup from Miami and Jones threw the ball to no one in the flat, leading to a punt.

That was a good defensive stand. The amoeba defense did exactly what it is supposed to do, with the Patriots unsure of where to go with the routes.

Miami began the next drive with a false start penalty on Austin Jackson, setting them into a 1st-and-15 from their own 15. Waddle dropped a slant from Tagovailoa on the play, followed by Johnson running for three yards. On 3rd-and-12, Tagovailoa avoided a sack, but threw short toward wide receiver Mack Hollins and Miami was forced to punt on another three-and-out.

Waddle might still be running if he had caught that slant pass. He was clear, but the ball was a little low and he couldn’t bring it in. Good job by Tagovailoa to avoid the sack, but it looked like he thought Hollins would cut out while Hollins turned upfield. Cannot have three-and-outs like this.

Harris ran for a one-yard loss to open New England’s possession, with linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel making the tackle. Jones then found a wide-open wide receiver Nelson Agholor along the sideline for a 23-yard gain. Jones threw incomplete on 1st-and-10 from the Patriots’ 41 as the clock reached the two-minute warning. After a sack by Andrew Van Ginkel, Jones threw a screen pass on 3rd-and-18, with Bourne picking up 17 yards. After a replay and measurement confirmed the Patriots were short of the first down, Jones was called for a false start and the Patriots punted.

Good defensive stand for Van Ginkel. Dolphins almost allowed a screen pass on 3rd-and-18 to convert the first down. Given the Patriots get the ball to start the second half, they needed this stop to make sure New England did not double up the scoring.

Johnson ran for 11 yards on the first down play, moving out to the Miami 18. After a timeout by the Dolphins, JOhnson picked up another nine yards on the ground, then caught a swing pass for five yards and got out of bounds. Tagovailoa threw a deep pass toward Gesicki, but it was nearly picked off when the right end could not pull it in; a roughing the passer penalty was called on the play, moving Miami to their 47-yard line. After Tagovailoa threw away the pass with no one open, he found Gesicki for nine yards over the middle. Miami called their last time out after the play. Tagovailoa looked deep on the 3rd-and-1 play, but had to scramble for a one-yard gain and the end of the half.


Halftime Reactions

Some good, some bad for the Dolphins in the first half. They have a 10-point lead, so they are in a good position. Tagovailoa is 12-for-17 for 92 yards with a touchdown, but a 5.4 yards per attempt average is way too low. The rain probably has the team being a little too conservative right now, especially after last week’s rain-game debacle.

The team needs to find that early-game rhythm again on both sides of the ball.


Third quarter

New England opened the quarter at their own 25-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff. Jones threw to Bourne for six yards on first down, then ran Harris for three yards. On 3rd-and-1, an end around to tight end Jonnu Smith picked up five yards and a first down. After an incomplete pass, Bolden picked up one yard on a run. On 3rd-and-9, Jones threw incomplete, but safety Eric Rowe was called for pass interference and gave the Patriots another first down. Stevenson then picked up seven yards, followed by 12 yards and another run for nine yards. Jones then took the sneak for two yards on 2nd-and-1, adding another first down to the drive. On a shovel pass to Bolden, the Patriots picked up two yards. Bolden picked up another three yards on the next play, setting up a 3rd-and-5. Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins sacked Jones on the third-down play, leading to a Patriots field goal. Dolphins 17-10.

Bend, do not break. That is all that drive was. Now the Miami offense needs to answer and put points on the board.

Miami came out looking to run on their first possession of the half. Johnson picked up 27 yards on the first play, then Lindsay ran three straight times, adding seven, three, and five yards on the snaps. Tagovailoa took a shot deep over the middle on a free play, with the pass falling incomplete but the Patriots called for offsides. Tagovailoa picked up a first down on a one-yard sneak on 2nd-and-1, then Johnson picked up another three yards. Tagovailoa looked to Gesicki on a crossing route, but that pass was broken up at the last second. On 3rd-and-7, Tagovailoa looked toward Mack Hollins in the endzone, with the receiver able to draw a pass interference penalty. On 1st-and-Goal from the one-yard line, Tagovailoa handed the ball to Johnson, who bounced outside and scored. Dolphins 24-10.

Where was this running game all season? The offensive line is creating space and the running backs - especially Miami’s in-season additions of Lindsay and Johnson - are getting it done.

The Patriots began the drive with a six-yard run from Stevenson, with Jones throwing incomplete on a pass Howard thought he was going to be able to pick off. On 3rd-and-4, Jones dropped a pass into a diving Meyers for 28 yards. On 1st-and-10 from the Miami 41-yard line, Jones was incomplete looking for Stevenson on a designed roll out, with linebacker Jerome Baker able to break up the pass. Bolden then picked up 19 yards on a run before Jones fumbled the ball and linebacker Jalean Phillips recovered for the Dolphins.

Bend, do not break. The Dolphins defense is allowing some big plays, but they are shutting it down when the Patriots begin to threaten. Great reaction by Phillips to come up with the loose ball.

Miami opened up with a run from Johnson for four yards, then a Tagovailoa pass to Waddle for two yards. On 3rd-and-4, Miami ran Johnson for three yards, setting up a 4th-and-1, three-and-out punt. An illegal formation penalty on the Patriots gave Miami a free first down as the quarter ended.

The Dolphins got lucky with the penalty.


Fourth quarter

Miami continued the drive with and two-yard run from Lindasy followed by Tagovailoa finding Gaskin, but not picking up any yardage. Johnson then carried the ball for two yards followed by a Lindsay run for two yards. On 3rd-and-6, Tagovailoa was forced to scramble, picking up 23 yards and moving the ball to the New England 34-yard line. Lindsay then added four yards before a one-yard loss by Gaskin. After a Miami timeout, Gaskin ran for no gain and Miami settled for a 49-yard field goal from Sanders. Dolphins 27-10.

The Dolphins offense is probably being a little too conservative right now as they try to burn the clock. Yes, a 10-play, 45-yard drive ended with points and took up six minutes, but it should have been a three-and-out possession and, even with a 17-point lead, the Patriots are not out of this game yet.

Jones started New England’s drive with two passes to Henry, picking up six yards, then 32 yards. Bolden added four yards on a run from the Dolphins’ 37-yard line, then Jones went back to Henry for another five yards. Bolden then picked up four yards, followed by six from Harris. Harris picked up another five yards before losing one, with a false start from the Patriots adding another five-yard loss. Jones found Bourney for a yards on 2nd-and-16, then threw a short pass to Bolden, who turned it up field and found the endzone for an 18-yard score. Dolphins 27-17.

That took 4:23 so the clock is not the Patriots’ friend, but that seemed easy for New England. Miami has to stop them better.

Johnson picked up five yards on first down, then two on second down. Tagovailoa threw incomplete on 3rd-and-3, with the pass behind Waddle who tried to adjust but could not come up with the catch. Miami punted.

Again, being too conservative and giving the ball back to the Patriots after just 1:43 came off the clock. Miami has to do better.

Jones sat in the pocket and found a wide-open Meyers 39 yards down the field to move from the Patriots’ 24-yard line to the Miami 37 in one play. Jones then scrambled for tow yards, just avoiding a sack, followed by an 11-yard pass to Harris. After an eight-yard pass to Henry, Harris picked up four yards. Jones threw incomplete in the endzone toward Agholor, but cornerback Byron Jones was called for the pass interference, setting up 1st-and-Goal from the one-yard line. After a timeout from Miami, Harris ran up the middle for a touchdown. Dolphins 27-24.

The Dolphins are letting New England back into this game. They cannot have another three-and-out. They need to get this ball back and run out the clock.

After a touchback, Tagovailoa used the run-pass option to find Smythe in the flat, who picked up 15 yards, then slid to stay in bounds. Johnson ran for a two-yard loss as the clock rolled to the two-minute warning. After the break, Johnson ran for four yards, with the Patriots calling timeout. On 3rd-and-8, Tagovailoa was flushed from the pocket, but picked up 11 yards for the first down. Johnson picked up three yards on first down, with the clock running. Johnson picked up another two yards on the second-down play, with the Patriots using their final timeout. On 3rd-and-5, Miami saw Johnson run for no gain. The Dolphins then took a delay of game penalty, punting the ball with 14 seconds remaining in the contest. Palardy killed the ball at the two-yard line, with Ferguson downing it there with three seconds remaining in the contest.

Tagovailoa saved this game with his 11-yard run. Palardy’s punt was perfect.

From their own two-yard line, the Patriots looked to run the lateral madness play to try to pull off the win Jones threw to Meyers, who ran back across the endzone, then tried to lateral the ball back, but linebacker Sam Eguavoen caught the ball an scored for the Dolphins. Dolphins 33-24.