A very dramatic ending to the Patriots rematch in Miami left New England with their mouths hanging wide open. The score went back and forth throughout the entire game, with a total of eight different lead changes. The Dolphins had the last hurrah as they celebrated a touchdown and regular time ended, finalizing the score at 33-34. While there were some obvious malfunctions in the Patriots play, a few players truly guided the team to a near victory.
Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski
The dynamic duo of offense consisted of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. When New England’s running backs slowed to an inconsistent pace, these two receivers saved the team from many a three-and-out. Edelman finished the game with 9 receptions for 86 yards and 1 touchdown. Gronkowski caught all 8 of his targets for a total of 107 yards and 1 touchdown. They both made critical catches that kept the drive alive, and most of these passes were thrown off target, but more on that later. Gronkowski took multiple shots to the knees and gut as he caught passes over his head and in vulnerable positions. Edelman was able to snag passes in between defenders and always fought for extra yardage. These two veterans were a stunning example of how an offense is supposed to penetrate.
An unnamed presence that impacted this game profoundly goes by Albert McClellan. His name was exclaimed by announcers on two separate occasions. The linebacker had his first punt block with 1:27 left in the first quarter. His block set the New England offense up nicely on the Miami 24 yard line. The Patriots were able to convert for an easy touchdown minutes into the second quarter. McClellan’s second punt block came with 38 seconds left in the second quarter. The offense was set on the Miami 15 yard line; this should have been an easy touchdown. Unfortunately, Brady couldn’t convert. McClellan would have otherwise been responsible for two New England touchdowns, which would have won them the game. His effort in this game will not go unnoticed.
Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower
The defensive equivalent of Edelman and Gronkowski in this game was Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower. The two of them shut down Miami’s quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, and prevented multiple scoring drives. Flowers had 4 tackles, 2 sacks for a loss of 17 yards, 2 tackles for loss, 4 quarterback hits, and 1 forced fumble. Hightower had 2 tackles, 1 sack for 9 yards, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 quarterback hit. In reality, these two put an uncanny amount of pressure on Tannehill and forced Miami to punt on a handful of occasions. While the defensive unit as a whole did a lackluster job, Flowers and Hightower stand out as the leaders of this game.
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He just doesn’t have it anymore; this is more than likely going to be Tom Brady’s last season. With each game, the quarterback is progressively declining in skill and athleticism. As per usual, his passing was off target and he threw the ball away too many times to keep track of. Brady finished the game with 27 of 43 completed passes for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns. While the quarterback didn’t throw any interceptions, he is the reason the red zone offense was so inefficient. At the end of the second quarter (following McClellan’s punt block) Brady had half a minute to score a touchdown in the red zone. He panicked and threw the ball either at the ground or into the crowd, and didn’t even leave enough time for Gostkowski to hit a field goal. At the end of the day, this field goal/touchdown would have won them the game. His lack of confidence is beginning to bring the team down.
The Patriots lost by a single point. While the team shouldn’t have let the score be as close as it was, the fact of the matter is Gostkowski’s missed extra point factored into their loss. He completed 2 of 3 extra point kicks and 2 of 3 field goal attempts. Gostkowski missed the extra point kick early in the first quarter, throwing him off pace for the rest of the game. Fate chose the wrong day for Gostkowski to have an off-game. If there was any doubt that the kicker is a critical position in football, this game is proof that it is.
• Jason McCourty (30): Jason allowed the first touchdown for Miami (very easily). He gave up large chunks of yardage, including a 43 yard reception by Kenny Stills.
• Patrick Chung (23): Chung was also responsible for allowing large gains and first down conversions, but his top mistake was two holding penalties.
• Devin McCourty (32): Devin missed multiple tackles that resulted in first down runs as well as a touchdown later in the game.
• Stephon Gilmore (24): Gilmore allowed a touchdown at the end of the third quarter that gave Miami the lead going into the final quarter. He gave them momentum that ultimately carried them to victory.
• J.C. Jackson (27): Jackson was faked out badly throughout the game and contributed to more first down conversions for the Dolphins.
The entire Secondary failed at their job at the end of the game. With mere seconds left in regular time, Miami’s offense used lateral passes to dance around New England and score a game winning touchdown. They looked pathetic.
Next week, the Patriots will play the Steelers. If Brady struggled against Miami’s defense, things don’t look great for the future. The defensive unit as whole needs to stabilize and work together, and the red zone offense has to create new/efficient plays. Belichick has a lot to work on with his team if there is any hope for them to turn their game around.
-Caitlyn Allen is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media, and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @caitlyyyn_allen