Sunday's loss was a game that left fans with a reminder that the Patriots can still figure out a way to move the chains between the 20's, but when it comes down to scoring points, they clearly have a rough road ahead now that Rob Gronkowski is lost for the season.
Down in Miami the Patriots received huge contributions from Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, who each had a terrific performance against a Dolphins defense that weren't able to stop either player. Edelman finished the afternoon with 13 catches for 139 yards, while Amendola finished with 10 catches for 131 yards. Comcast Sports New England pointed out after the game it was the first time in franchise history that the Patriots had a game where a duo of receivers finished with at least 10 catches and 125 yards in a single game.
Not a bad outing by a team trying to move on without one of their biggest offensive weapons, especially now that Gronkowski likely spent the day watching this one unfold on television. The only problem was, despite racking up 453 yards of offense, New England was only able to muster 20 points against a tough Dolphins defense.
The Patriots were close, with Brady putting the ball in Amendola's hands in the end zone on their final drive for what would have been the potential game-winner for New England. Amendola had it for a moment, with the ball locked in on his helmet as he fought with Miami's Michael Thomas to try and pull it down. Instead Thomas got the better of him, and knocked it out of Amendola's grasp.
"I'd like to have that one," Amendola said after the game.
Down in the red area was one of the biggest problems of weakness Sunday, with the Patriots only managing a touchdown on one of their four opportunities. To make matters worse, Tom Brady had his worst game of the season down inside the red zone Sunday, finishing just 2-of-11 passing (18%), including 0-for-6 on their final drive.
It's significant to note because earlier this season other than their last-second comeback win against the Saints and their other comeback win over Miami back in week eight, the absence of Gronkowski has obviously hurt them. Before Gronkowski's return against the Jets, Brady finished four out of those five games with completion percentages of 43% or less down in scoring territory, while with Gronkowski on the field, Brady was 16-of-25 (64%) passing with 8 touchdowns in the red zone. Without him, he's just 22-of-51 (43%) with 10 touchdowns. While the latter total has a higher scoring number, that also came over the course of eight games compared to just the five games where Gronkowski was on the field when Brady had those opportunities.
Last week after Gronkowski went down Brady mustered four completions on seven attempts (57%) including 2 touchdowns, so obviously they have enough weapons to score and get the job done. But against Miami, it just didn't quite come together.
“We came up short in every area," said Belichick on Sunday. "I mean nothing was really good enough. Yeah, there were some good things, but nothing was really good enough. We’ve just got to do a better job all the way around; offense, defense, special teams, coaching, playing, blocking, tackling, throwing, catching, everything. We’ve just got to do a better job. I don’t think any of it was bad, but it just wasn’t good enough. Or if they were a little bit better…however you want to look at it.”
Brady after the game was about as upset as fans have ever seen him, and it lasted all of two questions before he stormed out.
“Yeah, we didn’t do a good job getting in the red area," said Brady after the game. " We didn’t do a good job finishing drives. So, you know, turns out coming up on the short end of the stick. Just wasn’t a good day, just couldn’t make enough plays when we had a chance to.”
“We got plenty of chances all day," Brady said later when asked about that last drive. "We make some good plays and then make plenty of [expletive] plays.”
Now the Patriots will have to try and regroup against a tough Baltimore team that will likely present another tough challenge to this offense. After seeing Pittsburgh beat the Bengals on Sunday night, New England remains in the mix for the number two seed. However, beating Baltimore is going to be a big key to trying to at least hopefully keeping that a possibility. The Ravens will be coming off of a short week but will have the advantage of playing at home after taking on the Lions in Detroit later tonight.
Either way New England will spend this week trying to work on making sure they're better in the red area than they were on Sunday. They've already seemed to figure out how to at least sustain drives and keep the chains moving. Hopefully next week they can start getting better about putting points on the board because moving forward it's only likely going to get tougher. v LACK OF FOCUS ON VEREEN DOESN'T MAKE A LOT OF SENSE:
Looking back on this game, it's interesting to note that Shane Vereen wasn't a big part of this offense on Sunday in Miami. Last week Vereen finished with 12 receptions on 17 targets for 153 yards, while also grabbing a 50-yard reception against the Browns, which ranks as the 4th longest pass play of the season by New England's offense. On Sunday he was targeted seven times with just 3 receptions for eight yards. Without seeing the "All-22" film it's hard to wonder why he wasn't a bigger part of the offense, especially down in scoring territory. Hopefully offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the Patriots coaches are wondering the same thing as they start planning on how to put up points against a Ravens team that will likely be another tough match-up.
SOLDER SUFFERS SECOND CONCUSSION:
Lost in yesterday's loss was the fact that the Patriots suffered another injury to one of their critical players, with left tackle Nate Solder suffering his second concussion in eight days. During his absence Logan Mankins moved over and filled in, with rookie Josh Kline jumping in at left guard for Mankins.
“That’s what we needed (yesterday),” Mankins told the Boston Herald. “One of our guys went down. I’m not sure what happened yet, but that was the plan all week. If something was to happen, it was my job to go out there. I went out there, and I don’t recall screwing anything up, so that’s always good.”
Solder suffered two diagnosed concussions in 2011 and has now seemingly suffered two this season, having missed his first career practice last Wednesday. We'll have to see how that affects his availability for this week, but the fact Tom Brady's blindside protector is even in this position is definitely a concern heading into the final two games of the regular season.
NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
- Tom Brady finished with over 300 passing for the 59th time in his career on Sunday, which came after achieving the same mark last week where he moved into 5th place all time.
- As mentioned previously, Comcast Sports New England pointed out after the game that Sunday's performance by Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola marked the first time in franchise history that the Patriots had a game where a duo of receivers finished with at least 10 catches and 125 yards in a single game.
- We talked about the fact that the Patriots finished with their worst performance in the red zone this season. We'll take it a step further, the Patriots didn't finish a game in 2012 where Brady finished with a completion percentage in the red area of less than 50%. That's happened six times this season.
- The Patriots didn't have a receiver with a reception of over 30-yards on Sunday, which marked the first time that has happened this season since, you guessed it, the same thing happened in week eight against the Dolphins during the Patriots come-from-behind win over Miami back in week eight.
- To take it a step further,the Patriots didn't have a pass from beyond 30-yards in five of New England's first eight games. Obviously the absence of Gronkowksi hurts their big-play ability, especially considering the attention he demands when he's on the field.
- After having what has been considered one of the best seasons of his career, Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal from 48-yards was just his third miss of the season. He's perfect from 39-yards or less this season (19-of-19), but he's now 8-of-10 from 40-49 yards after yesterday's missed attempt. He's also 5-of-6 from 50-yards or more.
- Julian Edelman came up big on third down for New England yesterday. Tom Brady finished 8-of-13 passing on 3rd down Sunday, with Edelman accounting for half of his completions with 4 receptions on 5 targets along with three first downs.
- Sunday's loss dropped Tom Brady to 6-6 all time in Miami. So much for the former Michigan standout enjoying the limelight in Florida, as it remains a place that he's lacked success during his incredible career.
- Kyle Arrington recorded his first career sack on Sunday, which came in the second quarter on a corner blitz to take down Ryan Tannehill.
- Sunday's performance put Tom Brady over 4,000 yards, with Brady currently with 4,049 on the season. It's the sixth time in his career he's reached that mark.
- Brady also moved past John Elway into fifth place all-time on the NFL's career completion list with 4,150. The former Broncos quarterback has 4,123 career completions.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots run out of comeback magic against Dolphins - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has her game story from Sunday, and writes that with 1:15 to go the Patriots seemingly had the best possible scenario for a comeback before falling short.
Let's face it, Patriots simply are not that good - Dan Shaughnessy - Shaugnessy has his snarky column for this morning, and writes that the hats and t-shirts were ready to be placed at the locker of each player, but it didn't go their way this time around.
Patriots defense just wilted in Miami heat - Ben Volin - Volin has his "On Football" column this morning and writes the Dolphins got the better of the Patriots when it came to halftime adjustments on Sunday.
Red zone was a problem area for the Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer looks at New England's red zone woes yesterday.
Stephen Gostkowski kicking himself after loss - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook which leads off with comments from Gostkowski, who wasn't happy with his performance Sunday.
At this point, Patriots are looking defenseless - Ben Volin - Volin writes that the defense is looking like a shell of its former self.
Without Gronk, Patriots zone out where it counts - Karen Guregian - Guregian has her column this morning on New England's red zone struggles, which was obviously an issue on Sunday.
Patriots notebook: Solder hurt again as Mankins moves to LT - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with the loss of Nate Solder during Sunday's game.
Bittersweet day for Patriots' receivers - Karen Guregian - Guregian looks at the performances of New England's receivers yesterday, who despite big days from Edelman and Amendola they obviously still lost the game.
Play of the Game: Patriots allow Dolphins to go fourth - Matt Porter - Porter looks at the fourth down conversion in the final minutes New England allowed that led to the go-ahead touchdown for Miami.
Best & Worst from Patriots vs. Dolphins - Ron Borges - Borges has his best and worst from yesterday, including some bizarre categories in this entry.
Miami 'D' silences Shane Vereen - Matt Porter - Porter looks at the fact Miami took away Shane Vereen yesterday.
Borges: No defense for it - Ron Borges - Borges has his take on yesterday's game, and writes that by living on the edge, the Patriots finally fell off it Sunday in Miami.
Pats stumble as Dolphins make big plays down the stretch - Jeff Howe - Howe files his game story, and writes that for the first time in the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots lost a game when they had an AFC East championship in their grasp.
Brady on D&C: 'Frustrating all the way around' - Brady spoke to WEEI this morning and felt that Sunday's loss was frustrating, especially given the chances they had but didn't take advantage of.
Stephen Gostkowski: 'Today just wasn't my day' - Christopher Price - Price has comments from Gostkowski, who was frustrated with his performance on Sunday.
Brady: Pats not good enough to miss chances - In this report Brady talks this morning about the squandered opportunities they missed in Miami.
Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 15 - Mike Reiss - Reiss has further thoughts on week 15's results for New England.
Snaps: CB Cole was targeted quickly - Mike Reiss - Reiss has the defense's snap counts for Sunday.
Snaps: WR Josh Boyce exits with injury - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at the snaps for the offense, with Josh Boyce playing a big role before getting hurt.
Patriots frustrated by missed opportunity - Mike Reiss - Reiss has his postgame column, which saw New England let a potential victory slip away.
Tom Brady: Giving games away makes for a long week - Nick Underhill - Underhill has additional comments from Brady this morning, who felt they moved the ball pretty good all day but just couldn't get enough points on the board.
Patriots in control of AFC's No. 2 seed following loss to Miami Dolphins - Nick Underhill - Underhill writes that after Cincinnati's loss Sunday night the Patriots remain in the hunt for the AFC's No. 2 seed.
Curran: Patriots flat out got beat by Dolphins - Tom Curran - Curran has his take on Sunday's loss, which he feels came because Miami simply outplayed them.
Esiason: Gronk Would've Made The Difference In Patriots Loss To Dolphins - Boomer Esiason spike to 98.5 this morning and felt that having Gronkowski may have been the difference in Miami Sunday.