Posted December 15, 2013

Dolphins keep hope alive as Patriots fall short in the final seconds

AFC East, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots
Ryan Tannehill had one of his best games when the Dolphins needed it mist.

Ryan Tannehill had one of his best games when the Dolphins needed it most. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

After the Denver Broncos’ Thursday night loss to the San Diego Chargers, the New England Patriots had the No. 1 seed in the AFC within their control. All they had to do was win out, and it would be theirs, by way of their 34-31 overtime win over the Broncos on Nov. 24. The downside to that scenario was that Tom Brady’s team would have to win Sunday without tight end Rob Gronkowski — who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury — and receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins against a Miami Dolphins team that simply won’t go away.

The Patriots actually had a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Dolphins countered Brady’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with a 14-yard Ryan Tannehill scoring throw to running back Marcus Thigpen with 1:21 left. That 24-20 final held up despite New England’s frantic last-minute drive, which ended with four incomplete Brady passes to his receivers in the end zone, and a fifth pass that wound up in the hands of Dolphins safety Michael Thomas — a player who had been signed off the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad on Dec. 10.

“We made some good plays and we made plenty of s—-y plays,” Brady said in a short and terse post-game press conference. “Thank you.”

Thomas was far more ebullient, as one would expect.

“I can’t explain how I feel right now,” he said. “I just thank my teammates and coaches for trusting me and putting me out there in that type of situation. It’s like some dream stuff … I just got out here Tuesday, and everybody was trying to catch me up to speed, and I just thank them for trusting me.”

The win put the Dolphins at 8-6, while the 10-4 Pats will have to hope for help if the AFC road to the Super Bowl is to go through Foxboro. It also ended a seven-game Miami losing streak against New England, and put the Dolphins at 5-2 since Jonathan Martin left the team in a bullying scandal on Oct. 31.

“I think they’re a disciplined, tough football team,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of the Dolphins on Wednesday. “I think the media blew a lot of that out of proportion and all the hype and everything, but that didn’t derail them in any way. They’ve been on track. I think just watching them on film, if you just watch them play on film, you wouldn’t have any sense that whatever else has been in the media and that kind of thing, that that’s affected the football team. They’ve just gone out there and played very, very competitively every week. They’ve lost several real close games and had a couple plays gone differently for them, they’d have nine or 10 wins too. That’s the team I see. I see a real good football team.”

New England fell short of its second late-game comeback in as many weeks — it beat the Browns 27-26 with two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds on Dec. 8. But this time, it was Miami’s secondary, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who turned things in the opposite direction. Brady threw for 355 yards, but it took him 55 passing attempts to do so, and he managed just two touchdowns as Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola combined for just one touchdown on 33 total targets. Tannehill did more with fewer chances, throwing for three touchdowns and 312 yards on 37 attempts. It was a banner game for the second-year quarterback, who has clearly progressed this season.

“We see him as a quarterback in this league that is getting better,” Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib said of Tannehill this week. “He’s working, man, and you can definitely see the improvements with them winning four of the last six games or something like that. You can just see it. You saw it last year, you see it this year. So that’s how we view him, man; as a quarterback on the up, [on the] rise. He improves every week.”

Receiver Mike Wallace, who has disappointed at times this season after signing a five-year, $60 million contract in March, had one of his best games in Miami, catching six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Tannehill also hit running back Daniel Thomas for a score.

The Broncos are back in the top spot in the AFC, and the Patriots are left with some questions to answer on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the Dolphins keep rolling along.

15 comments
MichaelSandmire
MichaelSandmire

I'm beginning to think that Mr. Martin lost his cool when he misinterpreted a lunch room joke and rashly exited the building.  Maybe he was too embarrased to come back and let this thing needlessly escalate into something much bigger than it had to be.  Maybe there wasn't really a serious problem in that locker room after all.

pvs
pvs

The Phins may be riding high with their win over the Pats.....but the ambush game up in Buffalo next Sunday will bring them back down to earth.

gary41
gary41

Really nice article.  The Pats are very fortunate to be 10-4, given assorted problems.  Brady's mental toughness & leadership have somehow kept the offense in a lot of games.  Looking at his stats, you'd think they'd be 7-7.  His post game quote means nothing, but the Belichick quote speaks volumes.     

pvs
pvs

The Pats ability to score TDs in the RED ZONE without Gronk will be their downfall in the playoffs.....sadly.

Voiceover310
Voiceover310

Losing to the Fins yesterday doesn't make the patriots or Tom Brady any less of a team or QB. However, it shows that the Pats aren't good enough ti win the Super Bowl this year. Yes, they will make the playoffs. Yes, the Pats will not go down without a fight. No, the Pats will not be winning the big one this season. Fact is, they just lost way to many starters to make this team a contender. There aren't a lot of mediocre teams this season, mostly really good or really bad. Been a very strange, unpredictable season in the NFL. It's been exciting to watch and I'm looking forward to the playoffs. 

Ron5
Ron5

Typical diva Brady, will stay talking and smirking for hours after a win but after a loss, can't see him for dust. No class.

Cool
Cool

Well at least Farrar didn't feel the need to mention that Miami is 5- 2 after "Martin left the team in a scandal"  as the write up in the SI recap states.  Not mentioning that Miami is also 5-2 since Incognito was benched.   Someone at SI felt the need to take a poke at Martin and ignore Incognito's bullying.

gary41
gary41

@richard.lustberg Really?  "Not going to make it this year"...If you are concerned about Psychology, study Tom Brady for mental toughness in the face of adversity.  Nobody is concerned about last year or about the playoffs, but only about the details of the NEXT game--the here and now.  I stopped second guessing Brady-Belichick a long time ago and this season is a case study for those who really care about the game.  Lots of people want to talk about Terrible Tom, but he's the kind of guy every coach wants on his team.  That's the way it is....

EricThiessen
EricThiessen

@Ron5 Hall of Fame bound quarterbacks that have been winners their entire pro careers aren't going to sound matter of fact or happy after a loss...any loss. That's what makes them great. Dan Marino's late career games were much the same-the great receivers he had had were gone and the newer ones didn't run their routes precisely enough to get to the spots on the field that he was used to throwing to. Miami also had a non existent running game then, much like New England's is now. Add a questionable defense due to injuries and both men are/were lucky to win much at all.

DavidS
DavidS

@Ron5 Really? That's your take away from this? He was expecting to have Gronkowski, Hernandez, Edellman and Welker along with the host of running backs and a healthy offensive line to go along with a stout defense. Now he has no Gronk, no Hernandez, Welker is in Denver, his most promising rookies are out for now, the defense lost 2 of the best players in the league to IR and you wonder why he is disappointed by a loss and doesn't want to talk with the press. Give me a break!

Beldar Grazinski
Beldar Grazinski

@DavidS It's not just this year.  Check his history when he looses games like this one.  Pouting spoiled brat, whether he has his criminal gang to had off/throw the ball to or not.

jopomp2
jopomp2

@Beldar Grazinski@DavidS   You don't know what you're talking about.....win or lose, Brady ALWAYS is present at the after game new conference.....you're just jealous of a QB and team that has for the past 12 years been the class of the NFL....