By Abraham Gutierrez
Another week, another lackluster effort for an error-prone Miami Dolphins team that extended its losing skid to nine games in Foxborough and a season-high fifth (overall) straight loss.
Penalties, turnovers and unforced errors were once again the cause for Miami’s fall, finishing on the losing end of a 35-17 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots.
Thus, the Dolphins find themselves in the cellar of the AFC East division at 4-7, while the Pats improved to 9-2 on the year and extend their winning streak to seven games.
Offensively, the Fins struggled once again to find their rhythm, particularly on third down. As a unit, they tallied 15 first downs, a dismal 225 yards of total offense and went just 2-for-11 on third down (2-for-3 on fourth down).
Miami moved the sticks nine times through the air and five times on the ground and were granted a single first down thanks to a New England penalty. They finished with 71 rushing yards on 19 carries (3.7 average), 154 passing yards and lost the time-of-possession battle to the tune of 27 minutes and 19 seconds to the Pats’ 32:41.
Forced to start in place of an inured Jay Cutler, quarterback Matt Moore completed 23-of-34 pass attempts (68 percent) for 215 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 70.1.
To Moore’s defense, Miami’s offense chose an awful time to have its worst game of the season, allowing a season-high seven sacks for (negative) 61 yards. Miami’s leading rushers consisted of Damien Williams (8 carries for 38 yards), who was carted off the field with an injury, and Kenyan Drake (9 carries for 20 yards), who was charged with a lost fumble.
Through the air, wide receiver Jarvis Landry (8 catches for 70 yards) led the way with another solid performance, followed by tight end Julius Thomas (5 catches for 52 yards) and wideout Kenny Stills (3 catches for 47 yards).
The Miami defense faced the tall task of tying to contain quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and the Pats’ high-flying attack. They started things off by allowing the Pats to put up a 14-spot in the opening stanza and were never really able to stop the bleeding.
New England would go on to score a touchdown (minimum) in every single quarter, as Miami’s “D” allowed 23 first downs (11 passes, 7 rushes, 5 penalties) and 417 yards of total offense (196 rushing yards, 221 passing yards).
Aside from one mistake, Brady was surgical once again, completing 18-of-28 passes (64 percent) 227 yards, 4 touchdowns and a pick for a quarterback-rating of 114.1. The Patriots rushing attack was also unstoppable, anchored by Dion Lewis (15 carries for 112 yards) and Rex Burkhead (13 carries for 50 yards, TD).
Defensive standouts include Reshad Jones, who was “Johnny on the spot” when he picked up a Patriots fumble and took it to the house to get Miami on the board for the first time in the game.
In addition, cornerback Bobby McCain was responsible for Brady’s only mistake, as he picked off the G.O.A.T. prior to the end of the first half. However, McCain’s contributions would fall to the wayside as he would be tossed from the contest after punching a Patriots player.
As far as tackles go, the aforementioned Reshad Jones led Miami with 12 tackles, Kiko Alonso with 9 tackles, Michael Thomas and Lawrence Timmons with six apiece, and Cameron Wake got on the board with three tackles of his own and the only Miami sack of the game.
Special Teams: B-
In a game where everything had to be flawless, Miami’s special teams unit allowed the Patriots to convert on fourth-and-nine with a fake punt that would eventually lead to a score on their opening drive of the game.
“It was one of the areas we really trying to emphasize –we had to win the special teams battle,” Gase said referring to special teams. “Losing that one on the first one of the game is a little disappointing, but, you know, it’s a 60 minute game and we have to figure out a way to get a stop and make them punt again.”
Kicker Cody Parkey was perfect on the afternoon (1-for-1 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra-points) while punter Matt Haack (5 punts, 41.6 average, 2 inside the Pats’ 20-yard line and a long boot of 56 yards) continued his stellar play.
As far as returns go, Jakeem Grant led the way with 4 kick returns for 97 yards, highlighted by his best effort, which consisted of 28 yards.
Penalties were once again an issue for the Dolphins, as they’re currently second in the league in that undesirable department. Miami was flagged six times for (negative) 52 yards, with most of them coming at the expense of momentum-building plays.
“We had less pre-snap penalties, so that was a positive,” Gase noted after the game. “We just seem to be having the wrong things happening to us at the wrong time. We’ve just got to go back to work and clean a lot of those things up. I see a lot of those things as fixable.”
Up Next: Dolphins Return Home to Host Denver
Up next for the Miami Dolphins is an intraconference clash with the Denver Broncos (3-8), who just suffered their seventh straight loss at the hands of the Oakland Raiders. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, will be the site and opening kickoff is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.