By Abe Gutierrez
With hopes of capturing the fifth seed in the upcoming 2016 NFL playoffs, the Miami Dolphins got a bit of a rude awakening by the New England Patriots in the final game of the regular season. With a 35-14 win over the Fins, Bill Belichick’s Pats secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC postseason in a historic afternoon for the organization and franchise quarterback Tom Brady.
The loss snaps Miami’s three-game win streak and drops Adam Gase’s record to 10-6 on the year. New England’s victory also means the Fins will remain in the sixth seed in the AFC standings and, thus, will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round of the 2016 NFL playoffs.
As a unit, Miami’s offense finished with 16 first downs (16 on passing plays and three on running plays), 286 yards of offense (205 passing yards and 75 rushing yards), and converted on 7-of-12 opportunities on third downs.
One of the big stories of this game was turnovers, with Miami losing that battle 0-2 to New England. Quarterback Matt Moore (24-34, 205 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 93.4 QBR) was responsible for a pick, while Miami had a pair of costly fumbles that put an end to scoring opportunities when the game was still within reach.
Nursing a shoulder injury, running back Jay Ajayi was limited to 59 yards on 16 rushes and back-up Kenyan Drake pitched in with 10 yards on 4 carries. Meanwhile, wide receivers Jarvis Landry (9 receptions, 76 yards, 1 TD), DeVante Parker (5 receptions, 45 yards) and Kenny Stills (4 receptions, 41 yards 1 TD), led the way for Miami in their aerial attack.
Defensively, it was a forgettable afternoon for Miami’s resistance, yielding 20 first downs (12 on passes, 6 on rushes and 2 on penalties) and 396 yards of total offense (276 passing yards and 120 passing yards). They allowed the Pats to go 7-of-13 on third downs. Not only was Brady unstoppable, but the defense also did itself no favors with missed tackles and lack of pressure on the New England’s signal-caller.
As a result, Brady (25-33, 276 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 130.4 QBR) put the cap on a historic season, finishing with the best touchdown-interception ratio in league history with 28 scores and only two picks.
“He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback, it happens a lot,” Gase said regarding Brady’s performance. “We have to try and figure out a way to get a negative play, or get our hands on the ball and possibly get a turnover or create some kind of fumble. You’re looking for that one play. He’s a tough guy to defend and this is a touch offense to defend, they have a lot of answers.”
Special Teams: A
Miami punted the ball five teams this afternoon, and much like he’s done all year, Matt Darr was solid, averaging 41.2 yards, including three boots that were carefully placed inside the Patriots’ 20-yard line. Kicker Andrew Franks failed to attempt a field goal, but was perfect on the afternoon by going 2-for-2 on extra points.
Everyone knows that the Patriots have some of the best coaches in the NFL on their payroll. With so much riding on the line, Belichick, Matt Patricia & Co. put together the perfect game plan to make sure there were no letdowns in South Florida. For Gase and his staff, this was a great learning experience, but a failing passing grade nonetheless.
“We had some opportunities, we just didn’t quite execute a couple of things right,” Gase said after the game. “There’s probably a couple of calls I’d take back. We just didn’t stay ahead of the sticks, which you can’t do against these guys.”
Next up: Fins travel to Heinz Field in the first round of 2016 NFL playoffs
As expected, the Miami Dolphins will travel to the Steel City in the first round of the playoffs to take on Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers. This contest is expected to take place on the weekend of January 7.