Dolphins 27, Patriots 24: 10 quick thoughts from stunning loss


FOXBOROUGH — In one of the biggest let-down games in the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots lost to the 4-11 Dolphins in Week 17 to lose out on a first-round bye.

James White scored a 13-yard touchdown on third-and-goal late in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 24-20 lead with 3:53 left on the clock, but Miami drove down the field with relative ease and Mike Gesicki caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left to give Miami a 27-24 win.

The Patriots will now be the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and host a game on wild card weekend.

Here are 10 quick thoughts from the game.

1. The Patriots defense was the issue, as it allowed Miami to move the ball at ease all game and could not come up with a stop at the end like it had been able to time-and-time again this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 320 yards, snapping a long streak of the unit not allowing a 300-yard passer. It was a bad day for the defense and certainly not the way it had envisioned things going.

2. Tom Brady appeared to be fighting his lingering elbow injury all game long, but led the Patriots to an 8-play, 60-yard drive at the end when it mattered most. The Patriots trailed 20-17 with 8:29 left going into the drive. The biggest play was a 22-yard completion to Mohamed Sanu on third-and-4, which was his biggest catch as a Patriot. Brady finished the day 16-for-29 with 221 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He had one of his worst throws of the year in the first half -- a pick-6 to Eric Rowe.

3. Elandon Roberts was once again involved in the running game. He led the way for Sony Michel on the touchdown that tied the game at 10. But, his biggest play was a 38-yard touchdown in the third quarter that tied the game at 17. He was left uncovered when running a route in the flat. The team ran the same play in the first half, but Brady threw to Sanu instead.

4. There was an odd sequence to close out the first half. The Patriots had three timeouts and elected not to call one after Miami was stopped on a third-down play with 1:45 left. Then, the offense got ball with 57 seconds left and called two straight runs to close out the second quarter. This was not the first time Bill Belichick hasn’t shown trust in his offense this year.

5. After not catching a single pass on seven targets in Week 2, DeVante Parker had a much better game in Week 17. Going against Stephon Gilmore on the majority of his routes, he finished with eight catches on 11 targets for 137 yards.

6. The Patriots run game was effective for the third straight week. While Miami’s run defense is one of the worst in the league, some momentum is being built for the playoffs. Both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead ran well, as Michel had 74 yards on 18 carries, while Burkhead had 48 yards on six carries.

7. Julian Edelman didn’t play much of a factor, as Miami doubled him on the majority of plays. He finished with two catches for 26 yards. It's worth wondering how much of a role the Patriots ranted him to play to begin with, but Miami did a good job of taking him out of the game. Given the rest of the Patriots receiving core, it makes sense to double-team him every play.

8. One of the more underrated plays of the game came in the fourth quarter when Duron Harmon knocked the ball out of Parker's hands in the red zone. The play would have resulted in a first down, but instead forced the field goal. Ultimately, it did not matter, but it was a big play at the time.

9. After being quiet the last several weeks, Jamie Collins had a huge sack late in the third quarter that knocked the Dolphins out of field goal range. It was his seventh of the season that set a career-high, but it was his first since Week 8.

10. Give Miami a ton of credit for fighting in a game that was meaningless to them. A lot of this should go to Brian Flores and his staff. Both units had good game plans against the Patriots and will certainly get a lot of eye balls from teams the Patriots could face in the playoffs.

The Patriots didn't score in the first quarter of a home game for the first time since the 2017 divisional Playoffs against the Titans. They had gone 17 straight home games, including the playoffs, scoring in the first quarter.