Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dolphins Top Somnolent Patriots, 20-10

The Patriots sleepwalked through a 20-10 loss to the Dolphins. The loss allowed Denver, who won this afternoon, to take the AFC #1 playoff seed. It also built more frustration for Tom Brady, who is now 6-8 in Miami in his career, including three straight losses. Next week is a playoff bye, and we won't know who they play the following week until the games next Sunday.

It appeared the Patriots simply didn't try to win this game. They ran the ball a lot in the first half, looking like they hoped to dominate up-front and protect Brady. The plan looked decent until kicker Stephen Gostkowski pushed a field goal attempt wide-right, keeping the game tied and giving the Dolphins great field position. Miami drove from there to score a touchdown and take a 10-3 halftime lead.

In the second half, the Pats drove right down the field and tied things at 10-all. But after that, they went: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turned over on downs.

The strange thing is that if they didn't care about winning, why play Brady or the injured players at all? Brady got beaten up pretty good, as usual against Miami. So why take the chance if you really didn't care whether you won?

As for players who did well/poorly, here are five of each.

Good Games:
  • Linebacker Jamie Collins had five tackles and two passes defended
  • Defensive end Jabaal Sheared got semi-consistent pressure on the QB
  • Running back Stephen Jackson made good yards when he could, and had two blitz pickups
  • Safety Patrick Chung had some nice run-support plays and totaled 6 tackles 
  • Running back James White was the top receiver, 2 catches for 63 yards
    • (Note: doesn't that tell you all you need to know about the game?)
Bad Games:
  • Running back Brandon Bolden's penalty on a punt return cost the team 32 yards of field position
  • The entire offensive line multiple missed assignments and had many sloppy blocks
  • Receiver Brandon LaFell couldn't get separation against one-on-one coverage all day
  • Cornerback Logan Ryan got burned more than once
  • Coaching staff, unless they really were playing to lose
So where does that leave us? Trying to get healthy, I guess. The offensive line is what it is, there are no real reinforcements coming there. So they need Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman back from injury, because with those two and Rob Gronkowski, they can get the quick throws to offset defensive pressure on Brady.

They also need Chung and safety Devin McCourty fully healthy (I don't think McCourty is quite there yet), and they need linebacker Dont'a Hightower back at full speed, too.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: Gostkowski led the NFL is scoring for the fourth consecutive year. The last player to do so, Patriots legend Gino Cappelletti from 1963 to 1966.

Non-Brady MVP of the Week: No one

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "It looked like the entire team missed the flight to Miami."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 12-4!

PPS. Note: the exact record I predicted at the beginning of the season :D

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