The Patriots end the regular season on a sour and exhausting note in their 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Clinching a playoff spot with at least 10 wins and a rookie quarterback is incredibly rare and something to be proud of. However, in their losses, the Patriots dug their own holes of defeat.
After winning seven straight games, the Patriots went 2-3 over their last five games. In all three of those losses, the Patriots trailed the entire game, going scoreless in the first quarter each time.
When the Patriots win, they take care of the football, run the ball well, and defend the pass exceptionally. When they lose on the other hand, New England can’t get out of their own way with mistakes in execution and situational football. Here’s why Miami continued to be a place of failure for the Patriots.
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What Went Wrong For New England Patriots?
A Flat Start
Like previously mentioned, the Patriots have scored zero first-quarter points in their last three losses, being outscored 35-0 in those quarters. It has become a serious cause for concern with this Patriots team.
A young team with a strong running game and stout defense is built to play with a lead, if they fall behind, the margin for error becomes razor thin. Hence, New England has come up one possession short.
The Dolphins’ quickness set the Patriots off balance, orchestrating a 13-play, touchdown drive in which the Patriots forced zero plays for a loss. The next drive, Mac Jones throws a pick-six and New England finds themselves in a 14-0 hole.
Self Inflicting Mistakes
Here are five key moments that costed the Patriots points.
- First Quarter: Pick-six on first passing play -> seven points
- First Quarter: Devin McCourty drops an interception on third down, Patriots commit a penalty on fourth-and-3 (debatable call, but a penalty nonetheless) -> three points
- Third Quarter: Pass interference on Jalen Mills on third-and-7 -> turns three points into seven
- Third Quarter: Illegal Formation on fourth-and-1 punt -> three points
- Third Quarter: Fumble in the Red-Zone -> at least three points
The Patriots’ mistakes resulted in at least 20 points on both sides of the field. In a three-point game, those plays are the football game.
195 yards rushing allowed against a team that ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing. Miami’s passing game didn’t do much to the Patriots, but their running game allowed the Dolphins to run clock and move the ball.
Isiah Wynn, Rhamondre Stevenson, Damien Harris, and Christian Barmore all left with injuries at some point in the game. Stevenson and Harris returned thankfully, but Wynn and Barmore’s injuries remain more of a concern. Barmore has been having a tremendous season for the Patriots. With Matt Judon’s production dropping off lately, the Patriots pass rush will be taking a big hit if Barmore misses time.
What Went Right?
The Patriots’ Fourth Quarter
Trailing 27-10 into the fourth the quarter, the Patriots climbed up to the final foot of the hole they dug themselves in. The Patriots scored two touchdowns, both drives lasting under five minutes. In a run heavy offense, it’s difficult to comeback in the fourth quarter. The Patriots often need long, methodical drives to get into the endzone. While it was too little too late for New England, drives like those can do a lot for Mac Jones heading into the postseason.
Overall, most would look at the Patriots 2021-2022 season as a success. The team has some critical areas to strengthen next week, regardless of their opponent. If there is anything the Patriots have proven, it is that when the team takes care of the football and limits situational mistakes (penalties/special teams) they will their best chance of success.
Onto the playoffs…