The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots are kicking off a Week 17 game as the 2022 NFL regular season nears its conclusion. With just one game remaining for each team after today, the AFC playoff picture is at the front of everyone’s minds, with the Dolphins entering the week as the seven seed and the Patriots one spot outside the postseason positions. Today’s game could be the catalyst to push one of the AFC East rivals into the playoffs this year.
The Dolphins are going to be looking to pull off the road win with a shorthanded roster. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, cornerback Xavien Howard, tackle Terron Armstead, and linebacker Bradley Chubb are all injured and unavailable for Sunday. Can Teddy Bridgewater step in for Tagovailoa and lead Miami to the precipice of a playoff position?
If Miami wins today’s game and then the New York Jets lose later in the afternoon to the Seattle Seahawks, the Dolphins will clinch their first trip to the playoffs since 2016. A loss today would eliminate the Patriots from playoff contention.
We will keep up with all the action, and provide our immediate reactions, to everything that happens throughout today’s game.
Dolphins 21 - 23 Patriots
First Quater Reactions
The Dolphins started the game with the ball, giving the offense a chance to try to find their rhythm and get some points on the board early. The drive started with a run from running back Raheem Mostert for two yards, then a pass from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to wide receiver Tyreek Hill for 15 yards. Mostert ran for another two yards, but fumbled the ball, only to have the referees rule that the running back’s forward progress had stopped. After a false start penalty on Bridgewater, the quarterback threw to wide receiver Trent Sherfield for seven yards. Bridgewater took a deep shot to Hill on 3rd-and-6, with the receiver catching the pass but being unable to get a second foot down inbounds, resulting in an incomplete pass. Miami was forced to punt.
It was not the start that was wanted, but there were at least some positives. Bridgewater looks comfortable and just barely missed on the big play down the left sideline. Getting Mostert involved in the game needs to be an emphasis this week. And, it would be nice to see Mike Gesicki make an impact this week.
New England’s first possession appeared to end after three plays, an incomplete pass from quarterback Mac Jones toward wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, a five-yard run from running back Rhamondre Stevenson, and an incomplete pass targeting wide receiver Nelson Agholor, but a pass interference penalty on the 3rd-and-5 pass called on cornerback Keion Crossen gave the Patriots a first down. After a pass from Jones to tight end Hunter Henry for two yards, New England picked up 24 yards on a pass to wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. Jones then hit Meyers for 17 yards over the middle before running back Damien Harris picked up eight yards on the ground. Inside the redzone, New England looked to the endzone on the next play but the pass was overthrown. On 3rd-and-2 from the Miami 16-yard line, the Patriots again looked to the endzone with an incomplete pass, but cornerback Kader Kohou was called for a hold, giving the Patriots a new set of downs. Stevenson picked up three yards to move to the Miami eight-yard line on the next play before a Patriots timeout. Stevenson ran for no gain on the second-down play, with linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and defensive lineman Zach Sieler stuffing him at the line of scrimmage. Jones found Thornton on a screen pass for the touchdown on the next play. Patriots 7-0.
The defense got abused on that drive. Not sure why the referees ruled Hill out of bounds on Miami’s first drive, then ruled Thornton in bounds on a very similar-looking play for the Patriots, but they did. The penalties hurt, especially when the Patriots seemed to be stopped twice. The cornerbacks are going to be challenged today, and they need to step up. Not a great start to the game.
4th-and-1— The Phinsider (@thephinsider) January 1, 2023
Run for no gain but false start negates it
Punt but running into kicker negates it
Wilson up the middle for two.
Miami opened their second possession with a run from running back Jeff Wilson, Jr., gaining three yards. After an incomplete pass, Bridgewater scrambled for a six-yard gain, setting up a 4th-and-1 at their own 28-yard line. After a timeout, Miami was called for a false start, backing up the Dolphins and changing the plan from attempting the conversion to a punt on a three-and-out possession. On the punt, the Patriots were called for running into the kicker, giving the Dolphins back the five yards and changing the ball back to a Miami attempt to convert. Wilson ran up the middle for two yards to keep Miami’s drive alive after all of the fourth-down fun. Wilson ran for two yards on each of the next two plays before catching a short pass over the middle and turning it into a 14-yard gain and a Dolphins first down. Wilson picked up four yards on a pitch to the right on the Dolphins’ first trip into New England territory, moving down to the 43-yard line. Bridgewater found Hill for 19 yards on the next play, hitting the receiver on an out route to the left. Wilson picked up five yards on the run, setting up 2nd-and-5 at the Patriots’ 19-yard line. Bridewater dropped a perfect pass into tight end Mike Gesicki for a 14-yard gain, giving Miami a 1st-and-Goal at the Patriots five-yard line, which was followed by a three-yard run from Mostert as the first quarter ended.
The Dolphins are finding a rhythm, and it is oddly looking like a ball-control offense. The big plays - like the 19-yard pass to Hill - are still there, but they are finally using the running game to keep moving the ball. This has been a 12-play, 73-yard, 7:15 drive so far.
Second Quarter Reactions
The Dolphins scored on the first play of the second quarter, running a bubble screen to Hill, who turned it into a two-yard rushing touchdown. Tied 7-7.
That was an impressive drive from the Dolphins. Taking their time and being deliberate is not something we have seen much from this team this year, but with Bridgewater under center, this may be the best thing Miami can do. Keep feeding Mostert and Wilson, take the shots when they are there, and get Gesicki involved. We have not seen anything from Waddle yet this week, so there is still a dynamic Miami has to add.
The Patriots began at their own 25-yard line after the touchback, starting with a pass from Jones to Harris for five yards. Jones then looked to Meyers on a bubble screen, with cornerback Kader Kohou fighting off the block to make the tackle for a loss of one yard. Jones was able to find Henry deep for 29 yards on the next play, with Miami safety Jevon Holland injured on the play. The Dolphins defense tightened up after allowing the team to reach the 42-yard line. Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins broke through the line on the first-down play, sacking Jones for a nine-yard loss. After Stevenson picked up 18 yards to set up a 3rd-and-1, linebacker Elandon Roberts sacked Jones for a 12-yard loss and forced a punt.
The defense needs to stop the big chunk plays, but they are starting to tighten up and getting after Jones. This is what they need to do. Great plays from Kohou, Wilkins, and Roberts on the possession.
Miami started the drive at their own 20 after the touchback on the punt. Mostert took charge immediately, picking up four yards on a run, then eight yards on a reception, followed by six yards and one yard on the next two runs. On 3rd-and-3 from their own 39-yard line, Mostert took the swing pass 25 yards and continued Miami’s possession. After a timeout, Wilson picked up two yards, then ran again for one yard. On 3rd-and-7 from the Patriots’ 33-yard line, Miami targeted wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for the first time, but the pass was behind him and it fell incomplete. Jason Sanders missed the 51-yard field goal attempt.
The Dolphins are clearly riding Mostert and Wilson. The missed field goal hurts.
New England began the drive with a false start penalty, then saw Stevenson pick up three yards on the ground. Two straight incomplete passes ended the drive quickly.
The Miami defense is stepping up and the Patriots are starting to look more like the offense that has struggled to find a rhythm in recent weeks. Now Miami needs to score and start pulling away.
Mostert picked up four yards after Miami was backed up to their own 14-yard line due to a holding penalty on the punt return. Bridgewater then connected with tight end Durham Smythe for nine yards, followed by a dump-off to Wilson in the flat that the running back turned into a nine-yard gain. On 2nd-and-1, Wilson picked up 11 yards on a run up the middle, but then was stopped for no gain on the next play. Bridgewater was sacked on the next play for a 12-yard loss, leading to the 2-Minute Warning. On 3rd-and-22, Bridgewater found Waddle on a mid-range crossing route, with the receiver picking up 17 yards to move the ball out near mid-field. Miami punted, with punter Thomas Morstead pacing the ball perfectly out of bounds at the two-yard line.
The sack hurt, really ending any chance Miami had at scoring on the drive. The punt was perfect.
The Patriots ran the ball with Harris on first down, picking up 11 yards. Jones threw to Harris for nine yards on first down, then looked deep toward Thornton on second down, but overthrew everyone. On third down, Harris ran for no gain and the clock wound down to halftime.
New England took a shot, but the Dolphins defense did enough to get out of the half with the tie.
The Dolphins have not played a perfect half, but they are not crushing themselves either. They are clearly trying to get the running game going to keep some of the pressure off Bridgewater, and it appears to be working. They need to see more success on the first-down runs so they are not predictable on second down, as the sack just before the 2-Minute Warning shows, but they are finding success with using both Mostert and Wilson. And they are doing it with both players on the field at the same time. Some different looks from the Miami offense so far.
Bridgewater is 10-for-13 so far this game, a far cry from the normally high passing attempts we have seen in each game for the Dolphins this year. He has 136 passing yards and a 10.8 passer rating in the first half. Wilson has run 10 times for 32 yards and Mostert has seven rushes for 22 yards, giving them a 3.2 yards and 3.1 yards per carry average. Need to see those averages pick up, but given the team has carried the ball 17 times, compared to 16 passing plays (13 attempted passes, a sack, a scramble, and the bubble screen touchdown to Hill that was ruled a backwards pass and goes down as a rush) shows Miami is prioritizing the run game this week.
The defense is trying to make up for not having Xavien Howard and Bradley Chubb. They are not shutting down the Patriots, but they are making plays when needed. Holland returned to the game, which is a huge relief for a defense that has been decimated by injury so far this year.
The Patriots start with the ball in the second half, so the defense needs to make a play and get the ball back so the offense is not playing from behind.
Third Quarter Reactions
New England began the quarter with an incomplete pass, then picked up four yards on a pass into the flat to Harris. On 3rd-and-6, the Patriots took a deep shot down the sideline toward Agholor, but Crossen was in the receiver’s hip pocket and the ball fell incomplete. New England punted on the three-and-out, with just a 34-yard punt on the kick.
That is the start the defense needed.
Miami began their drive at the 40-yard line after the short punt. Punt returner Cedrick Wilson, Jr., was injured on the return. Jeff Wilson picked up just one yard on the drive-opening run. Bridgewater threw a deep pass on the next play, but it looked like he and his receiver were not on the same page as the receiver - potentially Hill - who ran an out route while Bridgewater threw the ball like he was looking for a fly route. The only player who had a chance at the pass was Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty, but the ball bounced off his chest and fell incomplete Bridgewater then tried to find Sherfield for a first down, but that also fell incomplete and Miami punted on their own three-and-out possession.
Miami flat-out got lucky on the miscommunication play. Bridgewater’s pass should have been caught by McCourty for the interception - it will be interesting to see what Jason McCourty, Devin’s twin brother, and former Patriots and Dolphins player, will say about his brother missing the easy catch on Good Morning Football. Should be fun.
Cedrick Wilson was back in to return the punt after being injured on the last punt return. He picked up ten yards to give Miami the ball at the Patriots’ 41-yard line. Bridgewater connected with Waddle on a slant route, with the receiver turning it into a 23-yard gain for the Dolphins on the first down play. Mostert picked up three yards on the next play, with Miami then calling timeout. After a high snap and a fake to Mostert out of the pistol, Jeff Wilson came around on an end around and picked up nine yards on the play, giving Miami a 1st-and-Goal from the six-yard line. Mostert picked up three yards up the middle on the next play, then Bridgewater managed to flick the ball forward to Mostert in the endzone just as he was about to be sacked. Miami gained the lead on the play. Dolphins 14-7.
The defense is doing what needs to be done to set up the Dolphins’ offense, and the offense is finding success through the use of Mostert and Wilson. This is not the explosive offense of Tua Tagovailoa, but it is an effective one that can get the win here. They just have to keep it up and not make mistakes.
New England began their drive at their own 18-yard line, picking up one yard on a run from Harris. Jones found Henry on the right side for an 11-yard gain on the next play, with Harris picking up no yardage on the resulting first-down play. Jones then was able to find Meyers for five yards, then a breakdown in coverage allowed Thornton to find an empty spot in the defense and Jones to connect with him for 29 yards. After a deep shot down the sideline to Thornton fell incomplete, Jones threw to Stevenson for four yards. A false start penalty backed up the Patriots for a 3rd-and-11 attempt. Jones was pressured and had to throw underneath to Henry for a six-yard gain and New England settled for a field goal. Dolphins 14-10.
That was not the same defensive success we have seen over most of the game. The 29-yard gain hurt and the defense struggled to get back into rhythm. They did not allow a game-tying touchdown, so that is a positive, but they cannot allow the Patriots to get back into this game. Miami’s offense has to slow this down, get back the momentum, and take full control of this game.
Mostert returned the kick 27 yards, giving the Dolphins the ball at the 29-yard line as they looked to extend the lead. After an incomplete pass on first down and a Wilson run for no gain on second down, the Dolphins faced a 3rd-and-10. After a false start penalty turned it into a 3rd-and-15, Bridgewater looked toward Sherfield on a crossing route, but the ball was picked off and returned for a touchdown by defensive back Kyle Duggar. The extra point was missed. Patriots 16-14.
Oh no. This is ugly. Bridgewater was injured on the play as well and cannot grip a football. Skylar Thompson is going to have to come in and get this offense moving.
Miami started at their own 25-yard line, with Thompson in the game. The opening play of the drive was a screen to try to get Thompson into a rhythm, but the Patriots read it perfectly and pulled down Mostert for a four-yard loss. Thompson threw to Mostert again on second down, this time for a four-yard gain. After a neutral zone infraction by the Patriots gave Miami five more yards, Thompson was able to find Mostert, who fought forward for a 17-yard gain. The Patriots were called for roughing the passer on the play, with linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley hitting Thompson in the head, adding 15 more yards to the play. Wilson picked up a yard on the 1st-and-10 play from the Patriots’ 38-yard line, leading to the end of the quarter.
This is going to come down to the Dolphins controlling the clock and not making a mistake with Thompson now in the game. Miami’s quarterbacks cannot stay healthy this year. The playoffs are still there for the team, but they have to seize this win now.
Fourth Quarter Reactions
An incomplete pass started the final period, with Thompson then running for 11 yards on 3rd-and-9, but an illegal shift penalty on Hill negated the play and pushed Miami into a 3rd-and-14. Thompson threw to Hill on the play, but the ball popped into the air and cornerback Jonathan Jones came away with the interception.
This is on the defense now. They have to make a play and get the ball back for the offense.
New England started with a one-yard pass from Jones to Meyers, followed by a five-yard run from Harris. On 3rd-and-4, the pass rush up the middle immediately got into Jones’ face, who heaved the ball down the sideline in hopes Thornton could make a play, but the receiver did not see the ball. Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene reacted the pass, but could not pull it in as he slipped down to the turf, leading to a punt from the Patriots on the three-and-out possession.
Okay, the defense kept the Patriots from doing anything. Now the offense needs to settle in and get some points.
Miami started at their own 20, with Thompson running for three yards on a scramble to start the drive. After an incomplete pass on second down, Miami faced a 3rd-and-7. Thompson found Waddle for 12 yards and a first down. Jeff Wilson then picked up three yards on the first down snap, with Thompson potentially being able to run for the first down on the next play but choosing to try to throw to fullback Alec Ingold but putting the ball behind him. Thompson then threw to Hill, who tried to make people miss but was pulled down after four yards. Miami punted.
Thompson needs to settle down. He is trying to play too fast right now, attempting to place the perfect pass instead of either just running or throwing the ball based on instinct. The coaches need to make sure he calms down before Miami’s next drive. Time for the defense to do its thing again.
The Patriots started the drive with a 16-yard pass from Jones to Bourne. On the next play, Christian Wilkins was able to bat the ball down at the line of scrimmage, but Jones came back with a five-yard pass to Stevenson and a 26-yard pass to Meyers. Stevenson then picked up eight yards up the middle on first down, followed by a Jones run for three yards. After a Jones pass to Henry for four yards, Stevenson picked up a yard. On 3rd-and-5 from the Miami 27-yard line, Jones laid a pass up for Meyers, with Crossen leaping into the receiver for the defensive pass interference. On 1st-and-Goal from the five-yard line, Jones threw incomplete toward Thornton in the back of the endzone. Harris picked up four yards on the next play, leading to a 3rd-and-Goal from the Miami one-yard line. After a Patriots timeout, Jones threw a jump ball to Meyers for the touchdown. Patriots 23-14.
Miami has 4:37 to make up nine points now. The offense cannot find itself with Thompson right now, so this may be too big a gulf. If Miami wants to come back, they have to figure out how to get the offense moving with Thompson under center.
Thompson threw two incomplete passes to start the drive, then was sacked on third down. On 4th-and-16, Thompson threw underneath to Wilson for a nine-yard gain and the Patriots took over on downs.
At this point, there is not a lot left to say.
Harris picked up nothing on the first play, getting back to the line of scrimmage at the Miami 35-yard line. After a four-yard run from Harris, Miami called a timeout. Bourne picked up two yards on the 3rd-and-6 play, with Miami using their last timeout. On 4th-and-4, Zach Sieler sacked Jones and forced the turnover on downs.
Can Thompson do anything?
Mostert gained four yards on a reception on the first play of the drive, getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Mostert then converted the first down with another reception, this time for six yards, again getting out of bounds. Running back Salvon Ahmed picked up eight yards on another Thompson pass, getting out of bounds to keep the clock from running. After an incomplete pass and a delay of game penalty, Miami faced a 3rd-and-7, with Thompson throwing behind Gesicki who could not hold on the pass. After the 2-Minute Warning, Miami faced 4th-and-7 from the New England 48-yard line, Thompson found Hill for 17 yards. Thompson threw toward Gesicki on the next play, but the tight end never saw the ball and it fell incomplete. Thompson then found Sherfield for a 23-yard gain, with an injury to Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones stopping the clock. On 1st-and-Goal from the New England eight-yard line, the Patriots were called for holding as Thompson tried to get the ball to Gesicki in the back of the endzone. On 1st-and-Goal from the four yard-line, Thompson avoided the pressure and found Gesicki for the score. Patriots 23-21.
Thompson managed to find some rhythm and got the Dolphins the first of the two scores they needed. With 1:04 remaining in the game, Miami is trying to make a comeback.
The Patriots recovered the onside kick, then knelt to kill the clock.
Everything has fallen apart for the Dolphins since they left Miami for their California road trip. This team was 8-3 and looking like one of the elite teams in the league. They are now 8-8 and a team that is completely falling flat on their face heading into the season finale next week. It is just disappointing and only seems to be getting worse.
Miami can still make the playoffs, but they are going to need help to do it now. Dolphins fans are going to have to root for the Buffalo Bills next week, hoping they beat the Patriots and that Miami can beat the New York Jets.
Who is going to quarterback the Dolphins next week? Is Tua Tagovailoa going to be cleared and will he be able to play? Will Teddy Bridgewater’s hand injury allow him to grip a ball? Will Skylar Thompson be more in rhythm than we saw him today? Who will Miami add if one or more of the team’s quarterbacks cannot play?
The defense has periods where they look dominant, then they allow big plays. Is it getting worn down? Will Xavien Howard be able to return next week to help shore up the defense?
Everything comes down to next week - but this week hurts. This was a win for the taking and Miami could not get it done.