By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The one thing you can bank on in this wild world is that if the Patriots dare to lose a football game, Armageddon instantly hits the New England region. Simultaneously, the rest of the world rejoices in exultation.
Another near-guarantee in this crazy and mixed-up world is that if Tom Brady and the Patriots are going to head to Miami to try to play a football game, then they’re probably going to stink. That’s just the way it is.
It may defy a reasonable explanation, it may not make even the slightest bit of sense, but at a certain point you’ve just got to realize that facts are facts.
Yes, there have been exceptions, like Brady’s career-high 517 passing yards on a Monday night in Miami in 2011. But look at it in terms of wins and losses.
In Brady’s regular-season career, he owns a 193-54 record. That’s a .781 winning percentage. Broken down to a 16-game season, that’s essentially either a 12-4 or 13-3 record. That’s Brady’s overall average.
Brady has, conveniently, played 16 games in Miami, the length of exactly one NFL season. He has gone 7-9.
Take it a little further, and he’s 186-45 anywhere on the planet not named Miami, and yet he’s 7-9 in the city featured in Will Smith’s classic 1998 single from his seminal album “Big Willie Style” … which is, of course, “Miami.”
Look at his touchdowns and picks, too. In his 16 games in Miami, he’s thrown 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions — a fairly simply 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. Everywhere else in the world, he’s thrown 452 touchdowns and 141 interceptions, which comes out to a 3.2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio.
Even in the past few years, as a late-30s/early-40s Brady has undergone a transcendent career renaissance and he’s played the best football of his Hall of Fame career, he has completed just 58.8 percent of his passes for five touchdowns, two interceptions, and an average of 223 yards per game in his four games in Miami since 2014.
Not great, Tom.
So that’s just the way it is. Anyone who’s watched Brady and the Patriots play in Miami over the past 17 years know this to be true. Remember in 2004, when the Patriots were the best team in the NFL, yet Brady was throwing interceptions from his backside while blowing an 11-point fourth quarter lead on Monday Night Football? Remember in 2006, when Brady threw for just 78 yards and the Patriots were shut out for the first time in three-plus years? Remember Brady throwing interceptions to kill all hope for the Patriots in 2009 … and again in 2013?
He’s just not good there. The Patriots aren’t good there. You want an explanation? Good luck. Sometimes sports are just sports, and you have to deal with it.
Now, on to all of the Leftover Patriots Thoughts from that 27-20 Dolphins victory on Monday Night Football.
–Tom Brady was very clearly not Tom Brady, and that was evident from the very first pass of the game. I’m not going to act all haughty, all-knowing and prescient here … but I will note that I MARKED IT DOWN IN MY NOTEBOOK, Gregg Easterbrook-style, when Brady saw Lawrence Timmons enter the backfield unblocked and essentially sacked himself with a throwaway:
Considering the Dolphins battered Brady just a few weeks ago with eight hits, it appeared as though that recent history was fresh on his brain. Fresh as lettuce, even. And so, it was not a complete shock when, on the very next play, Brady didn’t step up into a perfectly clean pocket the way he normally does, and he underthrew Brandin Cooks for an interception.
You’d have a difficult time convincing me that he wasn’t mentally affected by all those hits in Week 12.
–For as bad as Brady was, Josh McDaniels should not escape scrutiny. At a certain point — maybe on the seventh pass to Brandin Cooks that doesn’t connect? — perhaps the game plan should change from “Just Chuck It To Cooks And Hope Something Good Happens.” At times it looked like there really was no game plan. Brady didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until five minutes into the third quarter. They couldn’t score from the 1-yard line. They went three-and-out midway through the fourth quarter when a comeback still seemed very possible.
Brady is the guy, so he’s in all the headlines. But as a whole, the offense was out of sorts.
–On the aforementioned three-and-out, Brady threw incomplete to a well-covered Cooks on third-and-4. In real time, it looked like a bad decision. But when you go back and look at Brady’s options, well, he didn’t have any.
Compare that to some of the concepts the Dolphins ran, which included a number of crossing patterns and misdirection to spring receivers free and make Jay Cutler look like Joe Montana for brief spurts, and there’s absolutely zero doubt which team entered Monday with the better approach.
Obviously, the absence of Rob Gronkowski is immense, but to see four capable NFL pass catchers being completely unable to gain even an inch of separation was nevertheless jarring.
–What’s up with everyone throwing around the “Patriots struggled without Gronkowski AND Julian Edelman” line? Edelman has been injured since … *checks calendar* … August. Talking about him in December is beyond irrelevant. The 2017 Patriots do not have Julian Edelman and never did have Julian Edelman. Adjustments did have to come without Gronkowski, yes. But talking about Edelman in December 2017 is akin to talking about the Patriots figuring out a way to run the ball without LeGarrette Blount in December 2017*.
*Yes, Jon Gruden did that on Monday night.
–Let’s also not excuse the defense. Though the defense successfully kept the Dolphins off the scoreboard after Duron Harmon’s emotional sideline speech … perhaps they should have brought a little bit more energy to the game to begin with, in order to avoid the 27-10 deficit.
It was evident early, too. Here’s Kenyan Drake, all bottled up, first by Elandon Roberts, then by Eric Lee and Patrick Chung:
Drake turned that into a 26-yard gain. The Dolphins turned it into a scoring drive.
Here’s Jordan Richards wrapping up Cutler for an easy third-down sack to force Miami to settle for yet another field goal:
Cutler escaped, completed a pass, converted for a first down, and then threw a touchdown on the very next play. That’s a four-point missed tackle by the third-year safety (people forget he was drafted in the SECOND ROUND).
Here’s Patrick Chung, getting circle-buttoned** to death by Drake:
Drake turned that into a 31-yard gain. The Dolphins scored a touchdown — what proved to be the game-winning points — two plays later.
**I haven’t played Madden in more than five years, so forgive me if the circle button is no longer used for ferocious spin moves.
And on that touchdown that scored the game-winning points, here’s the Patriots defense completely vacating the entire middle of the field on a second-and-goal from the 4-yard line:
That defense is so bad that it’s almost impossible to pull off. Yet, there it is.
Again, Brady, headlines, yes, that’s how it works. But so much of the defense’s work was dreadful on this night, too. Just a team-wide flop.
–If we’re going to crush the offense and defense, let’s not ignore special teams. What in the flipping heck was that onside kick attempt?
Chung also committed a holding penalty on a punt return, turning what would have been possession at the New England 48-yard line into possession at the New England 15-yard line. We don’t know if Bernard Reedy would have been able to pull off that 23-yard punt return without the hold of Chung, of course, but it was nevertheless a significant shift in field position.
–All of that being said, I still wasn’t sure-sure the Patriots were going to lose until they failed on that onside kick. We’ve seen the Patriots steal wins when they’ve stunk before. That would have been something else. Alas.
–For as bad as the loss was — and believe me, it was a doozy — this tweet nevertheless was and remains hysterical.
The Patriots just casually not trailing for even one second for a duration of about a third of the football season. No big deal.
–This is also stuuuuuuuuuuuuupid:
Make it 5-2. Still pretty good.
–Something about Malcolm Butler that I’ve never fully understood is how he’s able to just WHIP grown men to the ground. Butler’s a great tackler, and he’s no doubt strong, but there are times he just ragdolls receivers and dumps them unceremoniously to the turf, like he did to Kenny Stills in the fourth quarter. It’s this move where he wraps a guy up, drops his own hips, and in one wrestling-like motion slingshots the guy to the ground.
Stills, as you might imagine, hated it:
–Butler has had an up-and-down season, and it’s all leading up to his final exam this coming Sunday in Pittsburgh. In past matchups, the Patriots have employed Butler in man coverage on Antonio Brown. And though Brown, being arguably the best receiver in the NFL, was able to make some sterling receptions, Butler made sure that nothing came easy.
Yet with Butler giving up touchdowns to the 5-foot-6 Jakeem Grant …
… and also getting absolutely toasted by Grant on a go route, one can’t help but wonder if the Patriots might need a new plan this time around with regard to Butler and Brown. After watching Brown catch sideline fade after sideline fade and tallying 213 receiving yards this past weekend, stopping him will be no easy task for the Patriots. At this point in time, Butler does not appear to be up to the task. Then again, isn’t performing when nobody believes he can the story of Butler’s life?
–For all of the lowlights, there was but one magnificent highlight:
Great. Googily. Freaking. Moogily.
That pass had about a 0.1 percent chance of being completed until right about here:
What the HECK, you guys?
And here’s the throw:
That’s a play you might try out in a low-stakes flag football game at the local park on a Sunday morning. Good golly, Miss Molly. What a play.
–An update on Rex Burkhead. He now has six offensive touchdowns this season. In the previous four seasons for Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, he had four offensive touchdowns.
–An update on Tom Brady’s MVP candidacy. Despite the clunker, he leads the NFL in passing yards, with a 121-yard edge over Ben Roethlisberger. He’s third in touchdown passes, though his TD-to-INT ratio lost some shine and is now at 27-to-6, just a tick worse than Alex Smith’s 23-to-5. Brady still ranks first in passer rating at 105.2, but that’s a narrow edge over Alex Smith (104.4) and Drew Brees (104.2).
Much like the No. 1 seed in the AFC looked like it belonged to the Patriots without question, the NFL MVP award feels as though it is up for grabs in the final three weeks of the season.
Of course, considering an MVP quarterback hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1999, maybe Patriots fans don’t mind that. But Brady might like the trophy to adorn his fancy office, you know.
–If you want an update on that playoff picture, I’ve got you covered over here. The short version: Beat the Steelers, beat the Jets and Bills, earn the No. 1 seed. Lose to the Steelers, get ready for either a road game in the championship round or worse.
–And of course, an update on Brady vs. Brett Favre for Greatest Season By 40-Year-Old QB.
Brady, 2017, through 13 games:
324-for-481 (67.4 percent)
3,865 yards, 8.04 yards per attempt
27 TDs, 6 INTs
105.2 passer rating
Favre, 2009, through 13 games:
295-for-433 (68.1 percent)
3,341 yards, 7.72 yards per attempt
27 TDs, 6 INTs
106.0 passer rating
It’s a race!
(I recognize people don’t really care about such things after a loss. But I’m keeping track anyway. You’ll understand when you’re older.)
–On Brady’s second interception, we’re all going to critique the pass and say it was bad, because that’s what we do. That’s part of watching football. But it’s worth just noting, Brady released that ball at his own 5-yard line, and it came down at the other 38-yard line:
That’s like, Vortex-type stuff. But uhh, yeah, boo hiss! Pass better!
–Joe Thuney had a bad, baaad night. At least, that was my takeaway when I saw him whiff on Jordan Phillips, leading to a sack on the Patriots’ second play of the second half:
And also when he gave up on a play … leading to an Ndamukong Suh sack of Brady on a third down in the fourth quarter:
And also when he held Jordan Phillips, putting the Patriots in a first-and-20 at their own 12-yard line while trailing by 10 points.
Rough night against an aggressive front. We’ll see if the Steelers try to attack him on Sunday.
–Here’s a picture that sums up the night:
From a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line to a third-and-goal behind the 15-yard line. That’s gross. And, of course, that third down play went for an incompletion.
Just an ugly, no good, horrible night for the New England Patriots. They’re on to Pittsburgh, though.