BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots never looked right on Monday night in Miami, as the offense did something they’d never done with Tom Brady at quarterback.
Without Rob Gronkowski (serving his one-game suspension), the New England offense never got into a rhythm and the Dolphins were able to take advantage en route to a 27-20 win. Their eight-game win streak is over, their 14-game road win streak is over, and the Patriots have to wait another week to try and claim another AFC East title. They also have a lot of work to do if they want the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Asked after the loss if maybe his players were prematurely looking ahead to Sunday’s game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Bill Belichick shot that down pretty quickly.
“Any questions about the game?” he replied gruffly after four or five shakes of his head.
At least Bill will have plenty to show his team this week leading up to that big game.
It was certainly a chore trying to find any “Ups” from the loss, so you’ll notice we went a little heavy on the “Downs” section. That doesn’t happen all too often, but if any game calls for it, it’s Monday night.
Tom Brady Wasn’t Himself
Miami is not a kind place to Brady, as he’s now 7-9 in the Sunshine State over his career.
He was 0-for-4 in the first quarter (just the fourth time in his career that Brady didn’t complete a pass in the opening frame) and finished the night 24-for-43 for 233 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Xavien Howard came down with both interceptions, which were not good throws by Brady.
Brady said the biggest difference between Monday night and their win over the Dolphins two weeks ago was the Patriots couldn’t “play on their terms” in Miami.
“We got behind, turned it over, and had to play on their terms all night,” he said.
Brady finished with more interceptions than touchdowns for the second straight week, the first time he’s done that since the 2006 season.
When Brady struggles, chances are the New England offense isn’t going to get rolling. They went three-and-out on seven different occasions on Monday night, and lost the time of possession battle 36:09 to 23:51.
The Patriots went 0-for-11 on third down, something they’d never done with Brady at quarterback.
It’s the first time the Patriots have gone 0-for-third down since September 1991, when they went 0-for-6 against the then Phoenix Cardinals. Tom Tupa was Phoenix’s quarterback that game, and Scott Zolak was on the New England roster.
Cooks Gets Shut Down
Howard was on Cooks all night and didn’t allow the receiver to get anything going, holding him to just one catch on seven targets.
Miami corners did a great job on New England receivers, who didn’t log their first catch of the game until the second half.
Bad Night For Secondary
The secondary was playing some great football in recent weeks, but they were a mess on Monday night. It looked like the poor communication that plagued them in the first month of the season was back, as Patriots defensive backs had issues on several crossing routes.
Jay Cutler threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns. That’s really all you need to know.
Defense Gets Run Over
Without Kyle Van Noy, Patriots linebackers got run over by Kenyan Drake. The Miami running back ran wild for 114 yards on 25 carries, adding 79 yards on five receptions. The Patriots defense had no answer for Drake.
His most impressive play on the night was a 47-yard catch-and-run where he flew by Elandon Roberts with ease. It came just two plays after the Patriots scored their first touchdown to take a 7-6 lead and helped set up Cutler’s first touchdown pass of the night.
Losing Alan Branch certainly didn’t help the Patriots in their quest to contain Drake. Branch left early with a knee injury, returned shortly after, but then had to leave for good in the second quarter. The Pats cannot afford to lose Branch, a key cog along that defensive front.
Dion Lewis’ Highlight Catch
Dion Lewis didn’t run very well, picking up just 17 yards on five carries, but one of his five catches on the evening was a dandy:
That one-handed snag went for 20 yards, and gave the offense some much-needed momentum. The drive ended with a Rex Burkhead rushing touchdown to give the Pats a 7-6 lead.
Chris Hogan returned from a shoulder injury he suffered back on October 29. He didn’t do much, catching just one of the five passes that went his way, but he was back on the field. On a night like Monday, that’s enough to make our “Ups.”
No. 1 Still Up For Grabs
As bad as Monday night was, the No. 1 seed in the AFC is still up for grabs when the Patriots and Steelers square off on Sunday.
A Patriots win in Pittsburgh pulls the two even in the standings, with New England holding the tiebreaker. The Pats basically have to win out in order to finish as the No. 1 seed. If the Steelers win on Sunday, the Pats would be two games behind them and they’d no longer have a shot at the No. 1 seed.