By Abraham Gutierrez
Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase categorized Monday night’s 27-20 stunner over the New England Patriots as the best win thus far in his two-year tenure, and with good reason.
The win snapped New England’s eight-game winning streak and also brought to an end 14 consecutive road victories for Bill Belichick and the division-leading Pats. It took a complete team effort to hold off Tom Brady & Co., but in the end, it keeps Miami’s slim playoff hopes alive with three games to play.
“Those guys have been working hard,” Gase said. “We had a little bump in the road mid-season and we’re down to one game at a time right now. We’ve had two good weeks in a row of complementary football –all three phases have been playing together. We’ve been kind of waiting for this to happen, we’ll just keep going one at a time and see what happens.”
As a unit, Miami’s offense appeared as sharp and as in-sync as it has all year, tallying 21 first downs (13 passes for first, 6 rushes for first and 2 via penalty), 362 yards of total offense (242 passing yards and 120 rushing yards) and converted on 4-for-14 on third downs.
With a nearly flawless performance, Fins quarterback Jay Cutler certainly chose the right time to get the first win of his career against the Patriots. In his best game in a Fins uniform, the 2008 Pro Bowler completed 25-of-38 pass attempts for 263 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions to earn a 112.1 passer rating.
“I think we rotated the personnel pretty well,” Cutler said. “They’ve been a high-percentage man-team coming into it and they started the game like that, played a little bare front. The offensive line handled it well, made some plays on the outside that I thought really helped us.”
Coming off a career-best 120 rushing yards last week against Denver, running back Kenyan Drake kept the good times rolling with 114 yards on 25 carries to go along with 5 catches for 79 aerial yards to lead all receivers.
Aside from Drake’s all-around game, other top receivers included the always-reliable Jarvis Landry (8 catches, 46 yards, 2 TDs), Jakeem Grant (2 catches, 42 yards, TD) and DeVante Parker (4 catches, 40 yards).
On the opposite side of the rock, Miami’s defense made life a living hell for Brady and New England’s top-ranked offense. With constant pressure at the point of attack, the Patriots tallied just 14 first downs (9 passes for first, 2 rushes for first, 3 penalties for first downs), 248 yards of offense (25 rushing yards, 223 passing yards) and a whopping 0-for-11 on third down situations.
“I think the guys did a good job of playing team defense,” Gase added. “It starts with our front and then linebackers and secondary and the guys did a good job. They just played well together tonight.”
Unable to get into a rhythm, Brady had his worst game of the season, completing 56 percent of his passes by going 24-of-43 from the field for 233 yards, a touchdown, a pair of picks and two sacks, which equates to an uncharacteristic 59.5 QBR.
For a second consecutive week, cornerback Xavien Howard put his stamp on this contest with two interceptions to go along with three passes defended. In terms of sacks, those belonged to Ndamukong Suh (3 tackles, 1.0 sacks, PD) and Jordan Phillips (1 tackle, 1.0 sacks) with one apiece, while T.J. McDonald (8 tackles), Kiko Alonso (7 tackles) and Reshad Jones (7 tackles, PD) led the way in the tackles department.
Special Teams: A+
Much like they have all year, Miami’s special teams unit did a great job and took care of the little things. Coverage and tackling on punts and kickoffs was solid yet again, which enabled Miami’s defense to keep the Pats off the scoreboard and ruffle Brady’s feathers all game.
Kicker Cody Parkey was perfect, finishing with 9 points on 2-for-2 on field goal attempts (long of 44 yards) and 3-for-3 on point-after tries. Punter Matt Haack also took care of business with 7 punts for an average of 45.0 yards per boot, 2 that landed inside New England’s 20-yard line and a long punt of 56 yards.
One can only imagine where Miami would be in the playoff picture if Gase and his staff could find a way to get this type of effort week-in and week-out. The play calling was ingenious and the players executed the gameplan beautifully following a very productive week of preparation.
“I think this is probably one of the better games we’ve played probably in the last two years as a team, all three phases,” Gase added.
The Dolphins did, however, commit 8 penalties for 102 negative yards, which is something they need to continue to improve on in order to maximize their playoff hopes.
Up Next: Fins Travel to Frigid Orchard Park in Week 15
Looking for a third straight victory, Miami will have to deal with freezing conditions as they travel to Upstate New York to battle the Buffalo Bills in Week 15. New Era Field in Orchard Park will be the site for this AFC East showdown, scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.