AFC East

Patriots’ road woes against Dolphins continue in sloppy regular season-ending loss

The loss leaves the Patriots waiting to see if they'll play the Buffalo Bills or Cincinnati Bengals on Wildcard Weekend.

Tua Tagovailoa Dolphins Patriots
Tua Tagovailoa carries the ball away from Christian Barmore of the Patriots. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Miami road game curse bites the Patriots once again.

New England fell on the road against the Dolphins for the ninth time in their last 11 games in Miami, failing to help out their playoff seeding prospects in the meantime.

A bevy of penalties, a Mac Jones pick-six and some failures in the clutch by the defense put the Patriots in a hole they couldn’t quite crawl out of, though they made things interesting at the end.

New England now has to wait for the winner of the Chargers-Raiders game Sunday night to discover who they’ll play next weekend.

Here’s what happened.

End of game

7:29 p.m.: Because this game couldn’t end any other way, Jakobi Meyers’ backward lateral attempt is caught out of the air by John Jenkins and taken into the end zone for a touchdown. The clock hits zeroes, and the Dolphins win 33-14.

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The Patriots will be either the fifth or sixth seed depending on what happens tonight between the Chargers and Raiders. If the Chargers win, they’ll stay put at the fifth seed and travel to Cincinnati next weekend. If the Raiders win, New England drops to the sixth seed and will play the Bills in Buffalo.

7:25 p.m.: The Patriots stop the Dolphins and force fourth down, but the offense now has to run a play from their own 2-yard line with three seconds left after a great punt. Good luck with that.

7:21 p.m.: First down, Dolphins. Tagovailoa escapes a mass of bodies against a blitz on 3rd-and-8 and moves the chains with an 11-yard scramble to clinch the game. To make matters even worse, Christian Barmore is down on the field with an injury.

7:17 p.m.: Bad start for the Patriots there. Durham Smythe catches a ball in the flat and immediately picks up a crucial first down. Deatrich Wise Jr. brings down Duke Johnson for a loss on the next play, but Smythe’s first down meant the Patriots couldn’t stop the clock right away.

They elect to let the time wind down to the two-minute warning and save the other timeouts for the other side.

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7:14 p.m.: Touchdown, Damien Harris. The Patriots’ top runner, who has seen more action as the second half has progressed, bulldozes in from a yard out, and Nick Folk drills the extra point to make it 27-24.

New England looked left for dead at one point, but they have all three timeouts to work with plus the two-minute warning. It’s all about getting a stop now.

7:12 p.m.: Turnabout is fair play, it seems. The Patriots are gifted the ball at the 1-yard line after a tough pass interference call on Byron Jones and will have a chance to punch it in and cut the lead to three points.

The Dolphins’ corner was defending Nelson Agholor on an end zone jump ball and did turn to find the ball, but the two got tangled up.

7:10 p.m.: HUGE pitch-and-catch from Mac Jones to Jakobi Meyers down the left sideline for 39 yards. That was a surprise. Jones really aired the one out, and Meyers went up over a defender to haul it in.

The Patriots are in business inside the red zone as the game approaches the three-minute mark.

7:06 p.m.: Asked and answered. Tagovailoa throws behind Jaylen Waddle on third down, D’Angelo Ross makes sure Waddle can’t make the tough grab, and the Patriots get the ball back with some time to work.

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The offense will set up shop at its own 15-yard line.

7:01 p.m.: Touchdown No. 2 for Brandon Bolden! The running back catches a swing pass out of the backfield and outflanks the Dolphins for a badly needed touchdown. He has both of the Patriots’ scores this afternoon.

It looked for a moment like the touchdown would be wiped out because of an offensive pass interference penalty on Hunter Henry, but officials picked up the flag after a brief meeting of the minds.

It’s now 27-17 Miami with 6:32 left in the game. If New England wants any shot, they must stop the Dolphins in short order from here on out.

In other news, the Jets are hanging tough with the Bills, who led in Buffalo 13-10. But a New York upset won’t matter if the Patriots can’t mount a heck of a comeback in the last six minutes.

6:58 p.m.: Patriots shoot themselves in the foot one more time, false starting in the red zone to push them back to a 2nd-and-16. This will be the start of the game if they lose today.

6:55 p.m.: There’s a big play. It’s Hunter Henry with a 32-yard diving grab this time to set the Patriots up in plus territory. They’re keeping the tempo up in hopes of scoring quickly.

6:52 p.m.: The Patriots finally get off the field, but the Dolphins are able to tack on a 49-yard field goal to make the score 27-10.

It’s not over yet, but the offense hasn’t looked good enough to overcome a 17-point deficit. They need a big play.

6:47 p.m.: Tua Tagovailoa breaks the Patriots’ contain and rips off a back-breaking 23-yard run on 3rd-and-6.

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It looked like Christian Barmore got tackled on that play, but there was no flag for a hold. The Dolphins are now in field goal range and could make this a three-score game.

6:45 p.m.: The first play of the fourth quarter sees Duke Johnson on a knee afterward with an injury. He’s been excellent today with 103 rushing yards and would be a tough loss for Miami’s offense.

Third quarter

6:40 p.m.: Wow. The third quarter ends on another bad break for the Patriots as an illegal formation penalty on the punt attempt gives Miami another first down.

New England came up with a gutsy stop of Duke Johnson to force a punt on 4th-and-1, but Lawrence Guy was illegally covering the long snapper.

Poor execution by the Patriots and some unfortunate (in some cases, questionable) penalties have benefited the Dolphins a few times today.

6:36 p.m.: Disaster strikes. Mac Jones fumbles the snap from Ted Karras, who had to take over at center as injuries mount on the offensive line, and Jaelan Phillips recovers for the Dolphins. Ruins what was looking like a possible scoring drive and might essentially ice this game if Miami finds the end zone again.

It’s been raining pretty steadily out there, and it looks like it played a role in that turnover. Shaping up to be a game Jones would like to forget.

6:35 p.m.: Two straight excellent plays for the Patriots. Mac Jones drops one in the bucket to Jakobi Meyers for a big third-down conversion, then Brandon Bolden rips off a big run for a first down.

6:32 p.m.: Rhamondre Stevenson looks like he’ll be the man at running back for the rest of this game. He’s out there to start this possession with Harris nowhere to be found. Harris might still be working through those hamstring issues.

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6:28 p.m.: And there it is. The Patriots lose contain again and Johnson strolls into the end zone off the right side for a score on first-and-goal. It’s now 24-10 Miami.

The Patriots have been getting worked by Johnson, who has now gained 94 yards on 15 carries to go with that touchdown run. For the second time this season, the Dolphins have scored easily on their first drives of both halves. It was the difference in Week 1 and could be again today.

6:27 p.m.: Jalen Mills gets flagged for pass interference after getting caught up with Mack Hollins in the end zone, and Miami gets the ball at the 1-yard line. Feels like a touchdown coming.

6:26 p.m.: Matthew Judon is having a rough game. He’s now been pulled off the field twice: one after his roughing penalty on Tagovailoa and again after Johnson ran around him for a big gain on the first play of this drive.

He’s been the Patriots’ best defensive player for much of this season, but he’s not getting much done (positively) today.

6:22 p.m.: Not a good start to that drive for New England as Duke Johnson bounces a run past Matthew Judon and picks up 27 yards on Miami’s first play. The Dolphins are already in Patriots’ territory.

6:16 p.m.: Mac Jones had almost no chance on that 3rd-and-5 as multiple defenders storm in and bury the rookie for a sack. Looked like a stunt fooled the Patriots’ offensive line and let Jaelan Phillips and Christian Wilkins in untouched.

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Still, Nick Folk hits the 43-yard field goal to make the score 17-10 in favor of Miami. Missed opportunity there, but the Patriots do get points and prove they can move the ball.

Now, New England must stop Miami on the Dolphins’ opening drive.

6:15 p.m.: Patriots catch a break on a third-down incompletion as Eric Rowe is called for pass interference on Hunter Henry. Rowe made a lot of small contact throughout the route with Henry, but the referees flagged him for making too much contact as Henry tried to haul in a short throw near the sideline.

Now, Stevenson is in the game and running hard, bowling through defenders on three straight carries. He might be a big player in this half.

6:10 p.m.: Jonnu Smith gets one of his patented end-around carries for a first down. That’s his first touch of the day. It would be great if the Patriots could do something more with him this evening or in the playoffs.

6:07 p.m.: The second half is about to start with the Patriots getting the ball first. It’ll be big for them to score and keep the Dolphins off the scoreboard, which didn’t happen in Week 1.

Good news: Rhamondre Stevenson should see some action in the second half after missing some snaps with injury.

Second quarter

5:54 p.m.: New England gets lucky as Josh Uche takes down Tagovailoa for a bad sack to end the half.

Maybe the Dolphins wouldn’t have attempted the long field goal in the wet conditions from the Patriots’ 44-yard line, but the sack made the play impossible.

New England will have a chance to cut into Miami’s lead at the start of the second half, but they’ll need better play from Mac Jones (8-for-15, 107 yards, INT) to make that happen.

5:50 p.m.: The Dolphins might tack on another score before the half. Miami has now picked up three first downs, including a 15-yard penalty on a roughing-the-passer call. They just got into Patriots territory, but there are only 11 seconds left in the half. A few more yards might give them enough to kick a field goal.

5:47 p.m.: Looks like the Patriots didn’t really intend to run a play. They try to draw the Dolphins offsides, it doesn’t work and Mac Jones gets called for a false start. It doesn’t seem New England minds that much, though, as it leaves more room for a Jake Bailey punt.

The Dolphins will take over from their own 7-yard line with 1:02 left in the half. Hard to think they’ll be that aggressive here.

5:45 p.m.: The ball is going to move up a little after the last effort by Bourne got them a bit closer, but it’s still fourth down. The offense is staying on the field.

5:42 p.m.: A huge catch-and-run by Kendrick Bourne gains almost all of that yardage back and sets up 4th-and-1 from the 50-yard line. They’ll review the play, but it looks like Bourne was down short of the line. Still, what an effort from the Patriots’ receiver, who has become one of their most reliable playmakers.

5:41 p.m.: Not a great start to the two-minute drill. Mac Jones just got sacked for a big loss by Andrew Van Ginkel to set up a 3rd-and-18. Not ideal.

5:40 p.m.: We’re at the two-minute warning now with the Patriots threatening for some points before the half. They also get the ball to start the second half.

5:35 p.m.: Josh Uche sighting! We haven’t seen Uche in a while, but he bursts off the edge to pressure Tagovailoa into scrambling and turfing a throw on third down. Good bull rush there. The Dolphins punt the ball back to New England.

The Patriots have about three minutes to score with one timeout left. Mac Jones just hit Nelson Agholor, who’s back in action this week, for a 24-yard gain.

5:28 p.m.: Mac Jones’s frustration boiled over a bit as the Patriots couldn’t get a play off in time and had to burn a timeout before a third-down play with under five minutes left in the half. Then, he was visibly upset with his receivers after a mix-up led to Jones throwing to no one on 3rd-and-10, leading to a New England punt.

The rookie has been under duress on a lot of snaps today and looked like he also had trouble gripping the ball on two very interceptable throws just preceding the third-down miss.

These are not ideal conditions to play from behind in, and the Dolphins are making life even more difficult for Jones.

5:23 p.m.: Some more ex-Dolphin revenge as Kyle Van Noy takes down Tagovailoa for a clutch sack on third down to get the ball back to the offense’s hands.

Van Noy had a huge game in Week 1 against Miami, whom the veteran edge rusher played for last season, and is working on another one here. He’s quietly been one of New England’s steadiest defensive players this season.

5:17 p.m.: Brandon Bolden turns back the clock, makes a few men miss and dashes into the end zone for a desperately needed Patriots touchdown. 17-7 Miami.

Bolden, who’s in the game right now due to injuries to Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, cut the ball back nicely off a block from fullback Jakob Johnson and used some good footwork to find open space on that 15-yard scoring jaunt.

Good blocking by Jakobi Meyers down the field as well.

If you remember, the veteran running back played for the Dolphins for a season back in 2018 and had a big touchdown run against the Patriots in Miami back then. Now, he’s returning the favor for his real team.

5:14 p.m.: That’s more like it. Mac Jones extends the play to the left with his legs and then finds Hunter Henry wide open down the left sideline for a 36-yard gain. Jones has showed off enough mobility to do what he needs to do, and he made something happen there.

In less good news, Wynn is heading to the locker room with a slight limp. That’s not a positive sign for his ability to return.

5:13 p.m.: Injuries are piling up for the Patriots. Isaiah Wynn is questionable to return with an ankle injury, and Justin Herron is in at left tackle. Defensive tackle Sean Davis (shoulder) and running back Rhamondre Stevenson (head) are also being looked at on the sideline.

5:09 p.m.: J.C. Jackson wasn’t letting another touchdown go on his record. He steps up on third down to swat away an end zone fade to DeVante Parker and forces Miami to settle for a field goal to make it 17-7. The Patriots’ star let Parker know about it too after the bigger receiver tried and failed to box Jackson out.

It’s time for the Patriots’ offense to move the football finally. Right now, Mac Jones is just 2-for-4 passing for seven yards and an interception, and Damien Harris leads the rushing attack with 16 yards. That’s not going to cut it.

5:06 p.m.: Miami’s running game looks completely different with Duke Johnson as opposed to what they had early in the year with Myles Gaskin. Johnson already has 40 yards on nine carries and has powered forever for a few first downs to keep the Dolphins moving into Patriots territory. It’s now 3rd-and-6 at the Patriots’ 12-yard line.

The rain is starting to fall in Miami, too, which could make it harder for New England’s offense to come back through the air.

First quarter

4:55 p.m.: The first quarter ends just after a wild sequence takes away a Patriots stop.

First, Devin McCourty can’t haul in a third-down overthrow by Tagovailoa for an interception, which could’ve been a big takeaway and potential return. Then, the Dolphins fake the ensuing punt only for punter Matt Palardy to get stopped a few yards short of the line to gain.

But Brandon Bolden gets flagged for a personal foul because he appeared to make contact to the head or neck of Palardy, who slid to avoid the hit. It didn’t look like Bolden actually hit Palardy, but it looked questionable in real time. But it’s hard to see how Bolden could’ve stopped himself.

Now, instead of getting the ball back near midfield, the Dolphins are already set up in field goal range to possibly extend their lead on the Patriots.

4:49 p.m.: That could’ve been Pick No. 2 for Mac Jones, who has his pass batted at the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-6 by Emmanuel Ogbah. Fortunately, the ball fell to the turf, and the Patriots get to punt.

New England’s offense got very conservative on that last possession after Jones’s pick, running the ball and keeping the throws short. If the Patriots’ defense can’t stop Miami on this drive, that might start to change.

The good news: the Patriots at least won’t fall to the No. 7 seed with a loss at this point. They can only go as low as the sixth seed, which could mean a trip to either Buffalo or the Bengals at this point.

4:41 p.m.: Yikes. Mac Jones throws a really bad pick-six to Xavien Howard, and the Patriots are already down 14-0.

It looks like Jones thought Howard would either be in man coverage or stay in an outside zone on 3rd-and-2, but Howard slipped off his assignment to jump the throw to Jakobi Meyers. The rookie’s tendency to target Meyers on third downs is well-studied, apparently.

Opposing teams have gotten to Jones a bit more in recent weeks for interceptions, and this is just the latest example.

4:36 p.m.: Jaylen Waddle. Touchdown. Tua Tagovailoa fakes the sweep, rolls left and finds Waddle all alone in the left corner of the end zone. J.C. Jackson was in the area, but it looks like there was a blown coverage on the play.

Much like the first game of the season, the Dolphins did basically whatever they wanted on that opening 13-play, 77-yard drive. Tagovailoa was 7-for-7 for 54 yards and that seven-yard score to his old Alabama teammate Waddle.

Also, for those interested: the Bills already have a 7-0 lead on the Jets.

4:32 p.m.: Non-Patriots update. Chris Boswell just kicked a game-winning field goal to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Baltimore Ravens. That means the Steelers are still alive for a playoff berth at least until tonight’s Raiders-Chargers game, while the Colts are out. Whichever team wins between the Raiders and Chargers is in the postseason, while BOTH teams would be in if there was a tie tonight.

4:29 p.m.: Waddle’s third catch of the game gives him 102 on the season, breaking Anquan Boldin’s NFL rookie record of 101 catches from 2003. Sensing a theme here.

4:27 p.m.: First play of the game is an RPO screen to Jaylen Waddle for a nine-yard gain. The second: a pass in the flat to Waddle for a first down. Get used to that: Waddle leads all rookie receivers in receptions.

Pregame

4:25 p.m.: It’s almost kickoff time in Miami for the Patriots. The Dolphins will get the ball first.

4:07 p.m.: Well, it happened: the Jaguars beat the Colts 26-11. That puts Indianapolis’ playoff hopes on life support.

Meanwhile, the Steelers and Ravens are going to overtime to see if one of them can stay alive until tonight’s all-important Raiders-Chargers battle to determine the final wildcard spot. Baltimore won the coin toss and will get a chance to end the game now.

As far as other games, the Tennessee Titans just clinched the AFC’s top seed with a win over the Houston Texans. That means the Titans and Chiefs have secured the top two seeds in the AFC, meaning the Patriots can only rise as high as the third seed.

That is still in play now that the Bengals, the current No. 3 seed, lost to the Browns. A win by New England and a loss by the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets will give the Patriots at least one playoff home game.

3:33 p.m.: In a shocking development, one of the Patriots’ potential playoff opponents is playing their way out of the postseason picture.

The Indianapolis Colts, who currently own an AFC wildcard spot, are currently being dismantled 23-3 by the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, whom the Patriots just blew out last weekend.

The Colts would be into the playoffs with a win but would need the Las Vegas Raiders to beat the Los Angeles Chargers, who are just behind Indianapolis in the standings, and help from the Baltimore Ravens against the Pittsburgh Steelers and (potentially) the Miami Dolphins against the Patriots.

If the Ravens held on to beat the Steelers–Baltimore is currently winning 10-6–the Colts would stay in the playoffs if the Dolphins knock off New England.

3:04 p.m.: Despite the Patriots tweeting that Shaun Wade would be inactive for the game due to illness, the rookie cornerback was notably absent from the team’s inactive list. (That doesn’t mean he’ll play, though.)

Joining Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Dugger on the list are the usual suspects: J.J. Taylor, Devin Asiasi and Jarrett Stidham.

2:53 p.m.: The Patriots already knew they’d have two key defensive players unavailable with linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) and Kyle Dugger (hand) ruled out of Sunday’s Week 18 game against Miami.

Now, they’ll have to add cornerback Shaun Wade to that list. Wade was a late addition to the injury report before Sunday’s game with an illness and will not play against the Dolphins.

Wade’s absence opens the door for Joejuan Williams to earn more playing time in the last game of the season alongside J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills.

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