Patriots officially eliminated from playoff contention with loss to Dolphins

Cam Newton and the Patriots fell to Miami, 22-12.

Cam Newton during the 2nd half. AP

The Patriots are out of the playoffs.

Sunday’s 22-12 loss to the Dolphins in Miami means New England has officially been eliminated from the AFC postseason picture. It’ll mark the first time since 2008 where the Patriots won’t be a part of the playoffs.

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New England held a lead as late as the third quarter, but multiple second-half scoring drives from rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa proved tp be the difference in the game.

Cam Newton was 17-for-27 for 209 yards, while Sony Michel (10 carries, 74 yards) and Jakobi Meyers (seven catches, 111 yards) led the Patriots.

Nick Folk was responsible for all of the New England scoring — he was 4-for-4 on his field-goal attempts, connecting from distances of 45, 36, 45, and 42 yards.

Tagovailoa — who became the first rookie quarterback since 2013 to beat the Patriots in his first year in the league — ended 20-for-26 for 145 yards and an interception. Salvon Ahmed had 23 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Overall, the Patriots (6-8) lost for the third time in the last five games, while the Dolphins (9-5) won for the third time in the last four.

New England took a 6-0 lead after two quarters, thanks to some stout defense that included an interception from J.C. Jackson and a pair of field goals from Folk.

But  the Dolphins utilized a series of long drives in the second half to take command. Tagovailoa engineered scoring drives of nine, 11, and 14 drives, the last of which gave Miami a 10-point lead with 3:40 to go in regulation and wrap up the scoring.

Here’s how it happened:

Miami wins – 4:00 p.m.

That’ll do it. Dolphins beat the Patriots, 22-12.

Dolphins respond with a TD – 3:47 p.m.

Not saying that’s it, but that’s going to be awfully tough to overcome. Again, as well as the Patriots’ defense did when it came to containing Tua in the first half, the group came up lacking in the second half. The young quarterback was able to consistently make plays on that series, including the 1-yard plunge for the touchdown to cap off the drive. It’s 22-12 with 3:17 to go in the game.

Folk connects again – 3:34 p.m.

When in doubt, turn to Nick Folk. The veteran connected on a 42-yarder with 9:03 to go in regulation to make it 15-12, Miami. Lots of chunk yardage on that drive for the Patriots. Following a 10-yard gain from Michel and a sack, Newton and Meyers hooked up on a smooth 24-yard pass play. Michel later added a 13-yard gain before the field goal. Michel has 10 carries for 74 yards, Newton is 12-for-22 for 150 yards, and Meyers has 6 catches for 85 yards. Now, it’s time for the New England defense to step up and slow down Tua.

Tua leads go-ahead drive – 3:25 p.m.

Miami went back up with a 3-yard plunge from Tua with 12:55 to go in the game. The last two drives, the Patriots have been unable to get any big stops when they’ve needed them, as the young quarterback has looked more and more comfortable under center. That included the successful two-pointer to make it 15-9. Tagovailoa is now 17-for-23 for 124 yards. After his early pick, he’s settled in well, and has keep the errors to a minimum.

End of the third – 3:15 p.m.

Third quarter is done. Patriots are up 9-7, by Miami is driving.

Folk makes it 3-for-3 – 3:04 p.m.

Good answer by the Patriots on that drive, who used some tempo and a nice run-pass mix to put three more points on the board. An impressive 35-yard pass play from Newton to Meyers got the drive cranked up nicely, and that was followed by an 11-yard gain by Newton. Folk made it 3-for-3 on the day, connecting on the 45-yarder with 4:20 to go in the third to make it 9-7 New England. I know the numbers might not necessarily reflect it, but it feels like this has been one of the more efficient and controlled passing performances of the season for Newton and New England — Newton is 11-for-20 for 127 yards, Michel has 6 carries for 46 yards, and Meyers has 6 catches on 9 targets for 85 yards.

Pats get the ball back – 2:55 p.m.

There’s the difference between the Patriots’ and Dolphins’ special teamers. I find it hard to believe New England would run trick play like that and get flagged for a penalty. A well-executed sequence, but it turned out there was a reason why it was so well executed. The Patriots get the ball on their own 8-yard line with 7:36 to go in the third quarter. Time for a statement drive here for New England. Michel has 6 carries for 46 yards, Meyers has 4 catches for 42 yards, and Newton is 9-16 for 84 yards.

Meyers drops ball – 2:44 p.m.

A nice start to the drive fizzles, as Meyers made a nice catch but just lost possession. Miami has the ball with 9:46 to go in the third quarter.

Miami takes 7-6 lead – 2:40 p.m.

Impressive drive from Tua and the Dolphins to start the second half, the sort of sequence the young quarterback really needed. Miami put together a really nice series, one that was powered (mostly) by its ground attack, with Breida getting some quality yardage. (Tua threw just one pass on the drive.) It was capped by a 1-yard plunge from Ahmed that made it 7-6 with 10:35 to go in the third quarter. Let’s see how the Patriots respond — they’ll need to answer. Tagovailoa is 11-for-15 for 92 yards and an interception.

Halftime takeaways – 2:20 p.m.

Two quarters are in the books in South Florida and the Patriots hold a 6-0 lead.

Newton: 8-15, 66 yards; 6 carries, 21 yards

Michel: 5 carries, 42 yards

Meyers: 3 catches, 24 yards

Tagovailoa: 10-14, 82 yards, 1 INT

Ahmed: 10 carries, 46 yards

Bowden: 3 catches, 24 yards

Here are a few quick takeaways:

•Stephon Gilmore went down with a non-contact injury late in the first half, and had to be helped off the field — he went directly to the injury tent. The nature of how it all went down and the fact that we left the field immediately (with assistance, obviously) certainly makes it look like it has the potential to be a serious injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Jonathan Jones — definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward.

•New England dodged a bullet with a non-fumble call midway through the second, the one that called back that Xavien Howard scoop-and-score touchdown. It turned into a 10-point swing, and the Patriots maintained the lead for the duration of the half. From this standpoint, it looked like the right call.

•Newton and Michel have done the best job on the ground for the Patriots. That certainly makes sense when it comes to Newton — his best yards per carry average over the course of his career is against Miami — but it’s nice to see something (anything) out of Michel, who had a 17-yarder in the early going. From an offensive perspective, things got better and better as the first half went on for New England.

•The passing game wasn’t overwhelming, but the Patriots did well to get good, steady yardage underneath — when they got good production on first down, they took their chances underneath with five to seven yards gains in the passing game to guys like Byrd and Harry. (Newton has connections with five different receivers in the first half.) Could stand to be more consistent, but still, it’s something we haven’t seen from them as of late.

•Best play of the first half for the Patriots came at the end of the first quarter. Miami went 15 plays and drove 95 yards, and was looking to go up 7-0 before a big takeaway by Jackson. Chase Winovich did well to get pressure on Tua to (perhaps) force the bad pass. Just a well-executed sequence from the New England defense that forced the pendulum to swing back in the Patriots’ direction.

•Special teams has been great. Bailey’s punts have forced Miami to start their drives on its own 2-yard line and its’ own 22. Meanwhile, Folk hit his 22nd and 23rd straight field-goal attempts, and the returns have been solid. We told you before the game that the New England special teams could very well be the difference today. So far, so good.

•Miami will get the ball to start the second half.

Gilmore down – 2:10 p.m.

Pats make it 6-0 – 2:02 p.m.

The Patriots dodge a bullet with that fumble ruling. No turnover, no touchdown for Miami. Huge call, but it looks like the referees got that one right. Nick Folk hits a 36-yarder, and it’s 6-0 with 4:15 to go in the first half. In that circumstance, settling for three feels like a big win for New England.

Good defensive stand – 1:51 p.m.

Despite the fact that they settled for three on that last drive, starting to feel a momentum swing here for the Patriots. Good defensive stand there, one that started with the Phillips’ sack and included the Miami penalty. Let’s see if the Patriots can continue to build on this recent run of success — they’ll start on their own 40-yard line with 6:51 to go in the first half.

Pats take 3-0 lead – 1:46 p.m.

Good but not great response there for the Patriots, who got on the board with the 13-play drive that ended with a 45-yard field goal from Nick Folk. Nice steady work there by the offense, which has found some soft spots in the Miami pass defense over the middle and gotten some good production from Sony Michel and Cam Newton on the ground. It’s 3-0 Patriots with 8:50 to go in the first half — Michel has 5 carries for 42 yards, Newton has 4 carries for 16 yards, and is 6-for-11 for 33 yards in the passing game.

J.C. Jackson with a big play – 1:29 p.m.

HUGE play to end the first quarter for the New England defense, as J.C. Jackson delivered a lightning-bolt of a takeaway — his eighth pick of the season. Miami was knocking on the door there after a dominant drive, but Jackson made the big play to turn them away and get the ball back to the Patriots.

Pats show signs of life – 1:17 p.m.

A good sequence there for the Patriots: There was a great stop on third down on Miami’s opening drive by Shilique Calhoun, who is back today after an extended time on the shelf. That nice defensive play provided a spark for the offense, as the Patriots started their next series quickly — Jakobi Meyers hauled in an 11-yard pickup, and that was followed by a six-yard and a 16-yard gain from Sony Michel. But New England couldn’t get any closer, and Jake Bailey boomed one down to the Miami 2.

New England goes 3-and-out – 1:05 p.m.

Miserable start on offense for New England, which goes 3-and-out. Great punt from Bailey. Miami will take over on its own 22-yard line.

Pats on offense – 1:02 p.m.

Miami wins the toss and defers. Time for football!

Official Price Prediction – 12:56 p.m.

Patriots 17, Dolphins 14. New England stays alive in a battle of special teams.

Belichick looming – 12:45 p.m.

Including postseason, Don Shula is the all-time leader in coaching wins with 347. If New England wins today, Bill Belichick will be at 311.

Sunny day in Miami – 12:35 p.m.

Betting news – 12:29 p.m.

The line has been a little jumpy all week, with Miami hovering between being a 1-point to a 2.5-point favorite. Tough to call this one, but I’d still be inclined to lean toward New England for a few reasons, including the fact that the Patriots haven’t lost to a rookie quarterback or a lefty quarterback in forever. Plus, if the game is that close, my inclination is to lean toward the more desperate team — in this case, that’s New England. (Remember, if the Patriots lose, they’re officially eliminated.) With both offenses sputtering, I’d also be inclined to take the under (43). One other note, from our pals at Odds Shark: When playing with at least eight days’ rest, the Patriots are 21-4 straight up and 18-7 against the spread in its last 25 games.

It’ll be a hot one – 12:15 p.m.

Going to be a bit of a challenge this week for the Patriots, weather-wise. The forecast for Miami Gardens this afternoon calls for temps in the upper 70s, with a chance of clouds. Precipitation is anywhere between 5 and 15 percent this afternoon, but it looks like it’s going to hold off. This will mark the first game for the Patriots with temps in the 70s since their September victory over the Raiders in Foxborough — that one was 73 degrees at kickoff.

Big day for special teams? – 12 p.m.

Rooting for a miracle? – 11:55 a.m.

Biggest game for Patriots’ fans to focus on this afternoon? The Jaguars (1-12) at Ravens (8-5). You gotta believe! As unlikely as it might seem, New England fans are rooting for Jacksonville to upset Baltimore this afternoon. That would draw the Patriots a little closer in the wild-card race.

Here are a few others…

Texans (4-9) at Colts (9-4): Houston can also bring Indy back to the pack a bit with an upset win.

Lions (5-8) at Titans (9-4): Same story. In both cases, the Patriots have to win out and hope for some help, but it is what it is.

Browns (9-4) at Giants (5-8): Joe Judge can help his old boss with an upset of Cleveland.

Newton-to-Harry – 11:47 a.m.

A few notes to keep in mind – 11:45 a.m.

•New England has lost seven of its last nine December/January games in South Florida.

•The sample size is relatively small, but under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have never lost to a lefty quarterback.

•In three career starts against Miami, Cam Newton has never lost, and has just one career interception. In addition, his career yards per carry average against the Dolphins is 8.19, the highest of any opponent he’s faced.

•The Patriots’ franchise record for most rushing yards by a quarterback is 539 from Steve Grogan in 1978. Cam Newton is currently at 451 rushing yards. Grogan also set the franchise mark for rushing touchdowns from a quarterback with 12 in 1976—Newton currently has 11.

•After missing his first two field-goal attempts of the season, Nick Folk has made 21 straight, the second-longest streak of his career. At 21-for-23, Folk currently has a 91.3 percent conversion rate. Stephen Gostkowski holds the single season club record when he converted 35-of-37 field goals in 2014, good for a 94.6 conversion rate.

•It’s fair to compare the 2020 team to the 2008 edition for a few reasons other than the fact that there’s no Tom Brady under center. The construction of both running games is similar. The 2008 team had five guys — Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, LaMont Jordan, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Matt Cassel — rush for 250 yards or more. If Sony Michel can hit 250 (he’s at 230 right now), the 2020 Patriots would have four, with Michel, Damien Harris, Cam Newton and Rex Burkhead. (The 2008 team is the last New England roster to have five different players rush for 250 yards or more in one season.)

•At 6-7, the margin for error here is getting slimmer, but it’s still worth noting that the Patriots have been .500 or better 19 consecutive seasons. That’s second-best in the history of the NFL, trailing only Dallas’ run of 21 straight years (1965-85). In addition, they have won 10 or more games of 17 straight seasons (2003-2019), the best mark in league history.

Miami missing a lot – 11:40 a.m.

The Dolphins will be without a lot of offensive firepower this week. Their leading rusher and most of their top pass catchers.

Inactive analysis – 11:36 a.m.

The Patriots have just released their inactives for the afternoon: here’s who they are and what it all means:

Damien Harris: The second-year back appeared to have an ankle issue late in last week’s loss to the Rams, and was limited over the course of the week in practice. The running back room as a whole is a little banged up, with Rex Burkhead done for the year, and James White (foot) and J.J. Taylor (quad) also limited this week. We’ll see how it all shakes out today. My guess? Sony Michel and J.J. Taylor will get more reps that usual.

Brian Hoyer: The least surprising name in the bunch, the veteran quarterback has been No. 3 on the depth chart the last several weeks behind Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham. At this point in the season, it’s fair to speculate if the 35-year-old has played his last game in a New England uniform.

Donte Moncrief: The receiver was on the injury report this week with a thigh issue. Moncrief was also spending time as a kick returner. While it’s debatable who might get the reps at wide receiver, the guess here is that Gunner Olszewski will see his special teams role continue to expand as needed.

Joejuan Williams: The cornerback is a healthy scratch, which certainly raises some eyebrows. New England remains deep at corner, so from a personnel perspective, it’s not a big deal.

Jordan Thomas: A healthy scratch. Could this be a week where Devin Asiasi makes an imprint in the passing game?

Notable for his return? Shilique Calhoun, who was activated after a knee ailment forced a stint on injured reserve that cost him five games. He should bring a nice boost to the New England defense.

Pregame fashion – 11:25 a.m.

Our man @TheSportsHernia gives us his take on Cam’s pregame wardrobe:

Back to football – 11 a.m.

Welcome back to football! This afternoon, the Patriots (6-7) travel to Miami for a date with the Dolphins (8-5). New England needs to win its last three games and get some help if it wants to reach the playoffs, while Miami is looking to become truly ensconced as the seventh seed in the AFC playoff picture. We’ll have a full slate of action for you this afternoon, so keep it here for all the updates. When it comes to the pregame, we’ll have the news from South Florida, as well as the latest on weather, as well as betting updates, a look around the league, inactive analysis, and an official prediction. But per usual, we’ll start it all off with our pregame reading list.


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