Patriots Lay an Egg in Miami
By Peter Santo
Are you worried about the New England Patriots? They were clearly the best team in the NFL through 10 games, starting 10-0. But the final six games were a completely different story for the defending champions. The Pats lost numerous key players to injury and went 2-4 in their final six games to finish the regular season at 12-4.
The Patriots clearly felt the losses of Julian Edelman, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower on Sunday, and with MVP candidate Tom Brady clearly hobbled by an ankle injury, they didn’t stand a chance against the Dolphins.
The Dolphins came out swinging early, driving down the field on their second possession of the game, and while the Pats defense held them to three, you got the sense that this was not going to be easy for the Patriots.
Miami never let up from there, using a relentless rushing attack and Ryan Tannehill did just enough to lead his team to victory. The Miami defense, led by heavy hitters Ndamukung Suh, Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake, pressured Tom Brady all day long.
The Patriots punted on their final five possessions, and never got anything going after marching straight down the field to open the second half. The defense did not play badly, the Patriots should be able to win allowing 20 points on defense, but the offense simply could not score enough points.
The loss means the Patriots, assuming the underdog Chargers fail to pull off an upset over the Broncos, will finish the season as the number two seed in the AFC. This means that if things go according to plan in the postseason, the Patriots would have to face the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game on the road at Mile High Stadium.
On the surface, this may not seem catastrophic, however the Patriots have played significantly better this season at Gillette Stadium. They were 7-1 at home this season compared to just 5-3 away from Foxborough
The Dolphins and Jets employed similar game-plans in the final two games, clearly spelling out the blueprint for beating the Patriots. The plan was simple, blitz a lot, get to Tom Brady, and score just enough points to win.
Also worth noting was the type of personnel both the Jets and Dolphins had that gave the Patriots matchup problems on defense. The Jets used wide receivers Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall to move the ball on offense, and the Dolphins also utilized receivers Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker.
Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan will certainly not get much of a break once the playoffs begin in two weeks. With potential opponents having receivers such as AJ Green, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Jeremy Maclin, just to name a few.
Patriots fans need their team to get healthy quick, because they are going to need all hands on deck in order to make a run at yet another Super Bowl title.