The New England Patriots have a reputation of being able to avoid falling victim to something that professional sports teams dread most, the “trap game.” The term “trap game” is not so much an insult to the underdog, but rather a complement to the favorite. After all, most consider that team to easily dispatch their current “lesser” opponent and move on to the next.
Most considered Monday night’s matchup between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins to be a “trap game.” The Pats had already defeated the Dolphins just two weeks prior. In addition, this was a game in which the Division title was on the line. The Patriots hardly ever lose these games.
It looks like someone forgot to tell that to the Dolphins.
In one of their poorest performances of the 2017 season, the Patriots fell to the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on Monday Night Football, 27-20. Despite the final score, the game was definitely not that close.
The Dolphins (6-7) snapped the Patriots eight-game winning streak, despite being 11-point underdogs at home. However, credit should be given where credit is due. Miami dominated the game in every facet. They also kept the Patriots ( now 10-3) from clinching their ninth consecutive AFC East title — at least for one more week.
Quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted twice by Miami cornerback Xavien Howard. His final stat line was 24 for 43, passing for 233 yards and one touchdown. Miami sacked him twice and hit him five times. They also held the Patriots to 25 yards rushing. Perhaps most surprising was that the Patriots were held without a third-down conversion. New England was 0 for 11 on third down.
On the flip side, Miami quarterback Jay Cutler had arguably his best game as a Dolphin. He threw for 263 yards and three scores, including two to Jarvis Landry. Kenyon Drake had 114 yards rushing and 79 receiving.
The Patriots struggled throughout the first two quarters. However, they only trailed 13-10 at the half. Despite having the ball to begin the third quarter, the Patriots would turn it over on their first drive via a costly interception by Brady.
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From there, it only got worse.
The Dolphins scored two touchdowns on their two drives, while the Patriots failed to put any points on the board. The New England offense finished the quarter having generated 7 yards. They had -3 rushing yards and 10 passing yards.
The Pats did not manage to put any points back on the board until the fourth quarter. With time beginning to evaporate on the clock, Brady threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to James White to close the score to 27-17.
The New England defense was subsequently able to force a three-and-out. As a result, the Patriots would get the ball back with 11:49 left in the game and needing to close a 10-point deficit.
However, in what seemed to be the narrative of the night, the Patriots just could not get anything going. Brady found tight end Dwayne Allen for two yards, throwing an incomplete pass to Amendola, and then getting sacked on third down.
With the Patriots threatening to score (after the outstretched arm of Danny Amendola failed to cross into the end zone), penalties and missed opportunities would force the team to settle for a field goal. The Stephen Gostkowski kick cut the Miami lead to 27-20, with less than a minute to play.
Alas, it would be too little too late.
The Dolphins recovered an odd attempt by Gostkowski at an onside kick to end the game.
The Patriots head into Week 15 facing a must win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If they hope to have home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs., the Patriots must be better in every phase of the game. The Pats will battle the 11-2 Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, on Sunday, December 17 at 4:30 p.m.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Content Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC