Dolphins vs. Patriots score: Miami spoils New England's division title hopes with win in Week 18 finale

The Miami Dolphins have ended their 2021 season on a high note, moving above .500 to 9-8 after taking down the New England Patriots on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, 33-24. 

Miami began the day jumping out to a 17-0 lead -- which included a pick-six by cornerback Xavien Howard -- and were able to stay in front of New England for the entire game. That initial scoring run proved to be enough of a cushion for the Dolphins even as the Patriots began to claw back into the game. In the second half, New England did cut the lead to a field goal, but Miami was able to run down enough clock in the fourth quarter to make a comeback unattainable. 

Tagovailoa finished his day completing 15 of his 22 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Dolphins ground game led by Duke Johnson was what truly moved the offense throughout the day. They totaled 195 yards as a team with Johnson accounting for 117 of those yards on a 4.7 yards per carry clip. On the Patriots side, Jones completed 20 of 30 passes for 261 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Brandon Bolden led the team in rushing and had two total touchdown on the day. 

This loss did prove to be moot point in the Patriots, who had already clinched a playoff spot entering Week 18, hopes of winning the AFC East as the Buffalo Bills were able to beat the New York Jets at home. To see a more in-depth breakdown of how this game unfolded, check out our takeaways below. 

Why the Dolphins won

The Dolphins had an impressive opening drive where Tua Tagovailoa and the offense marched 77 yards down the field to quickly take the lead. The quarterback completed all seven of his passes on the drive for 54 yards, which included a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle in the left corner of the end zone where the rookie receiver was able to sneak behind the New England secondary. That opening touchdown drive and the pick-six by Xavien Howard allowed Miami to play with a lead throughout the day and their success running the football kept the ball out of the Patriots hands to further prevent a possible comeback. While that final fumble recovery as time expired was inconsequential to the outcome, the Dolphins did score 16 points off turnovers (10 points during competitive action). That's enough to put you in the driver's seat in any game. 

Why the Patriots lost

Bill Belichick highlighted this week that the Patriots have come into games flat this season and this game was no exception. They were shutout in the first quarter and allowed the Dolphins to jump out to a 17-0 leading before they were able to get on the board. At one point, the Dolphins had 10 first downs already under their belt with the Patriots only registering eight plays on offense. Even as the defense started to force a pair of three and outs in the first half following that initial scoring blitz, complimentary football was nonexistent as the offense also punted the ball away following those stops. 

Defensively, the Patriots had no answer for the Dolphins rushing attack as they put up 195 yards on 4.5 yards per carry as a team. 12 of Miami's 23 first downs came via the ground game. 

There was also uncharacteristic play by New England terms of penalties. On the day, they were flagged eight times for 78 yards. While some of those calls were questionable, an illegal formation penalty called on Lawrence Guy on a fourth-and-1 punt attempt by the Dolphins extended the Miami drive and ultimately led to the team adding a field goal to its lead. 

Turning point

The botched snap that resulted in a fumble recovery for Miami made New England's second-half comeback hopes that much more unlikely. The offense was able to move 51 yards down the field on their second possession of the third quarter and had the ball just outside the red zone at the Miami 22 yard line. That's when the botched snap came into play with Jones losing grasp of the football and Miami's Jaelan Phillips recovering. Not only did that eliminate a scoring opportunity for the Patriots, but the Dolphins turned around and added a field goal to its lead on the ensuing drive to extend their lead to 14 points. 

According to the CBS Sports broadcast, backup center Ted Karras was in on that play because there was an equipment issues unfolding with starter David Andrews. Whatever that issue was proved costly.  

Play of the game

Xavien Howard's pick-six set to the tone of the rest of the game and created a two-score cushion for the Dolphins to play with six minutes still remaining in the opening quarter. Mac Jones seemed think that Howard was going to follow Nelson Agholor up the right sideline. However, the veteran corner stat about five yards off the line of scrimmage, saw that Jones was zeroing in on Jakobi Meyers and was able to to jump the route to make the pick. 

While the Patriots were able to cut this lead to just a field goal later on in this game, those back-to-back touchdowns by the offense and then by the defense had New England paying catch-up throughout the afternoon. 

What's next

From here, the Dolphins will enter the offseason, while the Patriots will begin for their preparations for a postseason run as a wild card entry. If the Raiders beat the Chargers, they will travel to Buffalo to face the Bills. If the Chargers win or their matchup with Las Vegas ends in a tie, they will face the Bengals in Cincinnati. 

0
0
SUN 4:25 P
MIA +6, o41
MIA 6, O/U 41

Season Leaders

passing
headshot-image
B. Zappe205 YD, 1 TD, 1 INT
headshot-image
B. Zappe205 YD, 1 TD, 1 INT
headshot-image
S. Thompson218 YD, 1 TD
headshot-image
S. Thompson218 YD, 1 TD
rushing
headshot-image
P. Strong Jr.6 ATT, 25 YD
headshot-image
P. Strong Jr.6 ATT, 25 YD
headshot-image
M. Gaskin4 ATT, 27 YD
headshot-image
M. Gaskin4 ATT, 27 YD
receiving
headshot-image
K. Wilkerson8 REC, 99 YD
headshot-image
K. Wilkerson8 REC, 99 YD
headshot-image
L. Bowden3 REC, 55 YD, 1 TD
headshot-image
L. Bowden3 REC, 55 YD, 1 TD
Live updates
(133)
See New Posts
Pinned
@Patriots via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 12:41 AM
Pinned
@Patriots via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 12:40 AM
Pinned
@Patriots via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 12:31 AM
Pinned
@MiamiDolphins via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 12:30 AM
Pinned

This is very similar to New England's loss to the Colts a few weeks ago. They came out flat but were able to claw their way back into the game. Let's see if this time around they are able to fully mount the comeback. 

Pinned

Now things are interesting. Damien Harris rushes for a 1-yard touchdown and the Patriots trail by just three points. 

Pinned

Brandon Bolden is having himself a day as he has his second touchdown. Patriots have cut the lead to 10, but they'll have to work quickly if they want to mount this comeback. 

Pinned
@MiamiDolphins via Twitter
January 9, 2022, 11:56 PM
Pinned

The CBS broadcast is reporting that an equipment issue is what held starting center David Andrews on the sideline during that fumbled snap with Ted Karras. 

Pinned

Pretty much a no-show by the Patriots in this Week 18 game. Will add insult to injury if the Jets are able to upset the Bills on the road. 

Pinned
@MiamiDolphins via Twitter
January 9, 2022, 11:53 PM
See More