The Miami Dolphins (6-7) defeated the New England Patriots (10-3) at home on the Week 14 edition of Monday Night Football by a score of 27-20. While the score only shows a difference of seven points, the game was nowhere near that close.
Miami was able to get off to a fast start in front of their fans, as they went up 6-0 after two early field goals. New England’s defensive coordinator Matt Patricia employed his “bend-but-don’t-break” defense, as the Patriots surrendered yards in the middle of the field but did not yield once the Dolphins were knocking on the door.
This led to Miami’s fans being disappointed and full of nervous energy. The Dolphins had driven down the field twice only to be halted right when things were looking good not once, but twice. A 6-0 lead did not feel very commanding over New England, as they know how to get going on offense when they need to.
However, the Patriots never did get it going. Quarterback Tom Brady was harassed, hit, hurried and sacked all night long. Miami’s defense was able to bring the pressure and Brady was never comfortable in the pocket. Miami clearly won the battle in the trenches last night both on offense and defense, but more on the offense later.
Due to the insane amount of pressure from the Dolphins, Brady was forced to get rid of the ball in a hurry. This led to errant and rushed throws. Brady was picked off by second-year corner Xavien Howard not once, but twice on the night.
Howard now has four interceptions in the last two games with one of them being returned for a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Howard was the highest graded corner in Week 14 with a grade of 92.1.
He was targeted six times, allowed zero receptions, and had two interceptions. That’s about as shutdown corner as it gets. Howard did an excellent job of blanketing New England wide receiver Brandin Cooks all night.
He absolutely rose to the occasion in front of the lights on Monday Night Football. He found his confidence against Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian and never let it go over the past week headed into this matchup. This can be evidenced by his effort on this insane interception.
Theme of the night
The Miami Dolphins rolled out their gorgeous retro uniforms for the AFC East showdown. The Miami Dolphins are now 3-0 in games where they wear the retro uniforms. The recurring theme in each of those games has been physicality and attitude.
In the past two matchups with the retro uniforms, the Dolphins ran the ball effectively and had a ball-control offense. They played smashmouth football just like the Dolphins of the seventies led by Larry Csonka and Larry Little.
In this matchup, the Dolphins brought smashmouth football on both sides of the ball. Defenders were making sure tackles that prevented New England first downs on multiple occasions. The defense tossed Brady around all night and abused New England’s offensive line from the opening whistle.
As predicted, the Dolphins needed to play fast and loose without losing focus on playing smart and they did just that. Just like in Week 13 against the Broncos, nearly everyone contributed and played loose. It was a total team effort and Miami’s confidence and swagger have increased dramatically over the past two weeks.
Offense down the stretch
Miami played well offensively for most of the game. There were only a few instances where they stalled. These seemed to occur right around each momentum swing in favor of New England. This made Miami’s fans nervous, as the Dolphins were starting to look shaky right when the Patriots seemed to be mounting a comeback.
The big key to Miami’s offense this past Monday night was emerging star running back Kenyan Drake. Head coach Adam Gase was able to employ a variety of exotic formations and playcalls in order to get the most out of Drake and other players. Drake ended up having a career day (it sure sounds as though we say this often, as he keeps on out-doing himself). Once it was all said and done Drake had amassed 114 yards on the ground on 25 carries (4.56 avg). He also caught five out of the six passes that were tossed his way for 79 yards through the air.
This goes to show the versatility that Drake possesses. It also suggests that perhaps there is some truth in the narrative as to why the playcalling by Gase was so poor early on in the season. It was rumored that it was due to the fact that Ajayi was limited as a pass-catcher and blocker. With that said, Drake has excelled at each and every facet of being a running back in Gase’s offense ever since taking over as the lead back. The Ajayi trade does not look so bad after all.
Speaking of not looking bad, quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Jakeem Grant also had themselves a fine night. This was all thanks to not only the playcalling by Gase, but the execution by the players themselves. Miami’s offensive line absolutely dominated New England. They were able to give Cutler all the time in the world to make his reads. Due to this, Cutler went 25 of 38 for 263 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He will be remembered fondly for this performance.
Landry caught all eight of his receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns. His play inspired others, as he brings an extra “umph” when playing against New England. That is saying something considering the amount of passion that Landry plays the game with on any given Sunday. Check out his “Deflate-Gate” inspired touchdown celebration here.
Lastly, Grant was able to have a huge moment (nearly two) during the game. The 5’6” receiver climbed up a ladder to score a touchdown over New England’s cornerback Malcom Butler. This play was out of this world and really helped to inspire the rest of Grant’s teammates to keep playing hard. Grant had a chance to catch a second touchdown that would have been the dagger late in the game but he just let it slip out of his hands.
Defense down the stretch
Give rookie defensive coordinator Matt Burke credit where credit is due. This man deserves a standing ovation for how well he coached his unit on Monday night. Miami’s defenders were only caught out of position once or twice on the night. Other than that, they dominated the best offense in the National Football League.
Defenders were in the right positions and made solid tackles all night. They flew around and laid the wood on multiple occasions. They made sure to celebrate together whenever one of them made a play and that says a lot about this team. Especially considering how poor their body language was just a few weeks ago while on a losing streak. The defense came to play and made Brady and Co.’s life a living hell this past Monday night.
The most impressive statistic of the night has to be the fact that the Dolphins held New England to zero conversions on eleven third-down tries. That is astounding and damn near unheard of. The Dolphins have shown serious potential on both sides of the ball, and the defense is young and hungry. Miami is just one more solid draft away from having something special going on down in South Beach.
Look for the Dolphins to ride this wave of momentum all the way up to Buffalo for a Week 15 matchup that could potentially be another blizzard bowl like the one seen between Buffalo and Indianapolis in Week 14.
Although Miami’s playoff chances are slim, they aren’t out of it just yet. It will be hard to picture them slowing down after two dominating victories in a row, but you never know when it comes to divisional matchups.