This past Sunday In Miami was without a doubt the most frustrating, heartbreaking day of the season for Patriots' fans. The Pats gave away this game, in which, had they won, they not only would have clinched another AFC East title, but would have been on the brink of earning the #1 seed in the AFC over the hated Horseface, and his Denver media darlings. Tom Brady wasn't the only one swearing at the conclusion of the Pats' 24-20 defeat. Here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: Moved the ball well enough to put up far more than a measily 20 points. But, missed opportunities in the red zone did the Pats in.
1.) QB: After managing the game pretty well in the first half, Brady and the Boys fell on their face in the third quarter...as Brady completed just three (3) passes for 39 yards, and took a sack. This came about as a result of a late Miami first half TD and a rare Gostkowski missed FG from 48 yards...which gave the Dolphins the momentum in the game, and allowed the Dolphins to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 17-10 lead, going into the 4th quarter. From there, Tom flashed his usual fourth quarter heroics, completing 17 for 27 for 195 yards and a TD...before going 0-3 in the final 27 seconds from the Miami 14, and throwing a pick on a last gasp fourth down and 5 play. For the game, he completed 34 of 55 passes for 364 yards, two TDs, plus that last gasp pick. The key to this loss was the inability of Tom and his Boys to convert three (3) long drives into TDs. In the first quarter, despite a magnifient 16 play/83 yard, 7:13 drive, the Pats were stopped at the Miami four (4) yard line (FG). On their 4th quarter 15 play/67 yard drive in 7:09, the drive stalled at the Miami five (5) yard line...and the Pats had to settle for a FG. Finally, their frantic last minute six (6) play, 73 yard drive died at the Miami 14 yard line. FRUSTRATING!!!!! Many QBs do well moving the ball between the 20s. But the great ones cash in. For whatever reason, Tom failed to cash in this week: GRADE: C;
2.) RBs: Credit the Dolphins for taking Shane Vereen completely out of the game. The 'Fins limited him to just three receptions for eight (8) yards, and a meaningless 13 yards rushing on two (2) carries, in the dying moments of the first half. A solid performance from LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries, and Stevan Ridley (eight (8) carries for 34 yards). Their relatively low amount of carries came about as a result of the Dolphins playing eight (8) in the box for most of the game...as their dared Tom Brady to throw deep: GRADE: C;
3.) OL: LT Nate Solder probably shouldn't have played this week...and left the game again after halftime with yet another concussion. In any event, the Pats had all kinds of trouble with Miami DE Cameron Wake, who registered five (5) of the seven (7) Dolphin's QB hits on Tom Brady, and Miami's lone sack. The Pats' OL is beginning to have as many injury troubles as the defense...with starting OTs Vollmer and now Solder out, and top reserve Marcus Cannon trying to struggle though a leg injury. Considering the injury hits, the OL did a decent job of giving Brady and remaining skill players a chance to perform: GRADE: C+;
4.) TEs and WRs: The Hoo-man is certainly no Gronk. But, he did a good imitation of the Big Guy in making a fabulous one-handed grab of a difficult Brady thow, for a 13 yard TD play...for his lone catch of the day. As for the WRs, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola were immense, finishing with 13 catches for 139 yards and a TD, and 10 catches for 131 yards, respectively. Though Amendola failed to haul in what would have been a game winning TD pass from Brady on the Pats' final drive, it wasn't an easy chance. Still, you know that Danny would like to have that one back: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4755365/rally-falls-short-for-patriots. Josh Boyce added four catches for 43 yards, before leaving the game limping. Though the WRs can hardly be faulted for this loss, they and the Pats' offense in general must take advantage of every opportunity that falls their way. As Tom Brady said, there is little margin for error: GRADE: B+;
II. DEFENSE: Let the team down and continued to frustrate the fan base by allowing the Dolphins to score late first half and second half TDs...costing the team what would have been a huge win.
1.) DL: Though the stats look pretty good (four (4) QB sacks and five (5) hits), for most of the afternoon, Miami QB Ryan Tannehill was given all day to throw. Chandler Jones was the best of the pass rush bunch, finishing with two (2) tackles for loss, a sack, and two (2) QB hits. But, Rob Ninkovich did little, and the DTs did less in their quest to pressure Tannehill. Though the Miami running game was inconsequential, a poor pass rush once again let to a big day by an average QB against the Patriots' medocre at best secondary: GRADE: D+;
2.) LBs: Aside from the huge conversion by Miami TE Charles Clay on a 4th and 5 on what turned out to be Miami's game winning TD drive, Clay, the other 'Fins TEs, and the Miami RBs did no damage in the Miami passing attack throughout the game. What there was of a Miami running game was held in check. Dont'a Hightower led the team with nine (9) tackles, including eight (8) solos. Yet, the Patriot's LB corp continues making few big plays...as they are seemingly held hostage by the mediocre at best DL play: GRADE: C+;
3.) SECONDARY: Though starting CBs Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard played, they are clearly not 100%. Their performances on the field is reflecting this...as they were riddled by Dolphin QB Ryan Tannehill, who completed 25 of 37 passes for 312 yard, and three (3) TDs. Though Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington played fairly well, when Arrington went out with an injury, reserve DB Marquise Coles was torched by Tannehill. Here are just three of the many big plays allowed by the secondary: 1.) On Miami's initial TD drive, they faced a 3rd and 10 from their own 18 yard line: Tannehill completes a 24 yard pass for a 1st down to WR Rishard Matthews (5 receptions for 64 yards)...keeping that drive alive. 2.) Miami would score on that drive on a short pass to WR Mike Wallace (five (5) catches for 106 yards), who ran most of the way on a 39 yard TD play. 3.) On a 3rd and 16 from their own 34 yard line on their game winning drive, the secondary allowed an 11 yard completion to WR Brian Hartline (five (5) catches for 70 yards)...before playing a part in Clay's aforementioned catch of a screen for a six (6) yard gain, and a drive sustaining 1st down. Steve Gregory again was awful at SS. The Patriots have seemingly badly struggled at this spot ever since the retirement of the great Rodney Harrison. This despite using high second round picks on supposed "answers", Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson: GRADE: F;
IV. SPECIAL TEAMS: For the first time this season, this unit let the team down. Stephen Gostkowski provided a rare missed FG from 48 yards out...and made the unforgivable error of kicking the ball out of bounds on a kickoff, with the Pats nursing a 20-17 lead, with under five (5) minutes to play in the game. This gave the 'Fins starting field position at their own 40 yard line, for their game winning TD drive. Grat job again of punting by rookie Ryan Allen, as he bailed the Patriots out of bad field position on a couple of occasions. As was the case last week, the return game was of no consequence for either team: GRADE: C-;
V. COACHING: With all the injuries that BB has been forced to deal with, it's hard to be too critical of him. Though many Pats' fans on this forum have complained that the Pats didn't run enough, it's hard to run against an eight in the box allignment. Plus, on the Patriots two long scoring drives, the team ran enough to keep the Dolphins honest. Rather than blame the coaching, this was more of a case of failure to execute. Poor red zone offensive play killed the Pats...almost as badly as a weak pass rush and poor coverage in the secondary did them in. A rare Stephen Gostkowski mental error marred what, up to this time, had been a pro-bowl season for him...when he kicked the ball out of bounds subsequent to the Pats taking a 20-17 lead. BB must stress red zone offense, and must develop a method of applying pressure to the opposing QB. The tell tale sign of a DL failing to get pressure is a failure to force turnovers...and the Pats haven't forced a turnover in their last three games. This costly, disappointing loss could cost the Pats any chance they had of reaching the SB: GRADE: B-;
V. PLAY OF THE GAME: Though I'm sure many will disagree, and point to that Miami 4th and 5 conversion on their game winning TD drive...that 3rd and 10 conversion from the Miami 18 late in the first half kept, that Miami TD drive alive, was a killer. Had the Pats "D" made a stop on that play, New England would have gone off at the half with at least a 10-0 lead, and the momentum.
VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME: Miami QB Ryan Tannehill.
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=331215015
As always, your comments and opinions are welcome. Man...this loss is hard to swallow!!