Nobody saw this one coming. The New England Patriots’ eight-game winning streak was snapped Monday night with a 27-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins — a team that just came out of a five-game losing streak and entered the night No. 27 in points scored and No. 27 in points allowed.
Miami looked stellar in the national spotlight, and the Patriots couldn’t do much of anything right. The Dolphins finished with 362 total yards of offense, while New England had just 248. The Patriots’ previous low in 2017 was 371 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.
The Patriots had a stunning seven drives end with a three-and-out.
So how did the Dolphins shut down the Patriots and pull off the unlikely victory? Here are five things that went right for Miami:
Tom Brady was flat-out bad in the first quarter
There’s really no sugarcoating the first quarter for the Patriots. Brady threw four passes, and none were caught by New England wide receivers. One was intercepted by Xavien Howard who really didn’t have to do much except get his head around and haul in an underthrown pass forced into coverage.
It was just the fourth time in Brady’s career that he finished a first quarterback with zero completions. The first three times worked out fine for the Patriots:
Tom Brady 0-4 passing in 1st QTR. This was the 4th time in his @patriots starting career that he had 0 completions after 1 QTR. Happened ’03 vs @giants, ’09 vs @buffalobills, ’16 vs @broncos. Won all three, of course.
— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) December 12, 2017
This time didn’t go his way. Brady’s poor start afforded the Dolphins a 6-0 lead after the first quarter.
Brady got going in spurts, but couldn’t hit the big play
The Patriots quarterback finished with 233 passing yards, just the second game of his season under 240 yards. The other time he didn’t go off like usual was two weeks ago when the Dolphins held him to 227, although he threw four touchdowns in that game.
He couldn’t get in the end zone this time until the fourth quarter and never completed a pass of more than 30 yards until less than three minutes were left in the game. He found a rhythm at times, but couldn’t hit on the game-breaking play to swing the momentum in New England’s favor.
Part of that can probably be attributed to the loss of Rob Gronkowski — who was suspended for a late hit last week and had two touchdowns in the win over Miami in Week 12 — but Brady was also just missing on his opportunities.
It was a little underthrown by Brady, but sometimes you just have to tip your hat to another player making a great play. Howard is the first player in three years to intercept Brady twice in a game.
Kenyan Drake couldn’t be stopped
With Jay Ajayi shipped to Philadelphia, the Dolphins have had to rely on Drake to step up to the plate and he’s done that in a big way in December. After rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown last week against the Broncos — the first 100-yard game of his career — Drake followed it up with 114 rushing yards and 79 receiving yards against the Patriots.
It included a 31-yard rush and a 47-yard reception that each set up the Dolphins in great field position that eventually resulted in points.
He didn’t get in the end zone, but Drake was the offensive MVP for Miami.
New England had zero running game
With Brady not playing up to his usual standard, the biggest problem for the Patriots was the complete lack of a running game.
Dion Lewis finished with just 17 rushing yards on five carries and Rex Burkhead had just 8 yards on his five carries. The Patriots running backs still contributed in the game with plenty of screen passes, but running the ball just 10 times isn’t usually the best formula and it didn’t work out well for New England on Monday
Jay Cutler made the plays that Brady didn’t
It wasn’t that Brady had zero good moments Monday night. He did feather in this beautiful lob down the sideline that got the Patriots going in the second quarter.
His game just didn’t compare to the one put together by Cutler, who finished with 247 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Jarvis Landry caught two of those touchdowns and Cutler did a good job letting the talented receiver just go up and make a play.
The Patriots have a ridiculous amount of injuries and those certainly contributed to Brady’s struggles and Cutler’s success, but it was also just a vintage performance by the Dolphins’ veteran quarterback.
With the win, the Dolphins are still in the postseason hunt at 6-7. They need a lot of help, but there’s just three 7-6 teams in front of them for the second AFC Wild Card spot and a game between the Chiefs and Chargers guarantees one will fall to 7-7, while the Dolphins can knock off Buffalo on their own.
It’s an uphill climb, but its not impossible.
For the Patriots, it drops the team to second in the AFC, but the top spot can be reclaimed in Week 15 against the Steelers. A loss would open up the door for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who would scoop the Patriots for a coveted top two spot because of a superior record in the AFC.