The Patriots will have to pick up the pieces after their second divisional loss of the season against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The Patriot’s hadn’t lost two regualar season games against the AFC East since 2009.
In the closing minute of Sunday’s 24-20 loss to Miami, it looked like just another day at the office this season for Tom Brady and the battered Patriots offense, as they were driving to score the go ahead touchdown for the fourth consecutive game. Instead of a touchdown however came an interception that sealed the game for the Dolphins and putting up just 20 points has New England fans worrying.
I wrote previously on how small the margin of error is for this team and it showed itself to be true as a missed 48-yard field goal earlier in the game and a tough non-catch by Amendola in the end zone on the last drive led to a Patriots defeat. We are talking two plays in the course of 60 minutes. They only committed one penalty and basically didn’t turn the ball over (only on the very last play).
Brady knows how small the margin of error is as he explained: “Like I said, we do things well enough at times to move the ball down the field, get ourselves in good position. But then we don’t do enough to make plays when we really need to make them.”
The defense was scary, allowing four scores on the Dolphins last five drives (not including a garbage time drive at the end of the second quarter to go into halftime). Ryan Tannehill threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns on 25-37 and posted his best passer rating on the season at 120.6. meanwhile it sits ranked 31st in the league in rushing yards and dropped to 18th against the pass.
The defense and offense has suffered its fair share of injuries, but Patriots fans weren’t used to seeing a great defense anyways, so perhaps the more troubling of the two sides is the offense and their lack of production without Gronkowski in the red zone.
In yesterday’s loss, they lost Nate Solder to his second concussion in two weeks and the time-table for his return is not certain. Without Solder, the Patriots moved Mankins to his spot and shuffled the offensive line. Josh Kline, an undrafted free agent at the beginning of the season, slid into the guard spot with Svitek and Cannon splitting time at right tackle.
They have lost key personnel, but when you only target Shane Vereen seven times, you’re going to go stagnant. Perhaps they were trying to establish Amendola for the first time since week one, but still Vereen needs more touches. Offensively, they should be able to figure out a formula to win with a hall of fame quarterback, even without Gronkowski.
With how poorly they played in the red zone, I put that squarely on coaching. You have a mismatch somewhere, find it. If you don’t see one, create one. These coaches make big money to draw up plays that create mismatches and Sunday’s game was a poor showing for Josh McDaniels and Belichick in that way.
You can’t win every game on the last possession and now the Patriots head out on the road against a tough Ravens team that are fighting to get into the playoffs. If Baltimore wins out, they will likely win the division so there will be a lot of motivation to beat New England.