The Miami Dolphins (5-11) have pulled off another miracle against the New England Patriots (12-4), beating their AFC East rival in Week 17, 27-24. This loss coupled with the Chiefs beating the Chargers at Arrowhead now puts Bill Belichick's squad down to the No. 3 seed and out of contention for a first-round bye.
After Tom Brady and company were able to take the lead for the first time of the game in the fourth quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick marched the Miami Dolphins 75 yards down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown. After a few failed attempts at getting into field goal range by the New England offense, the Dolphins defense held on to beat the Pats for the first time in Foxborough since 2008.
Ryan Fitzpatrick finished with 320 yards passing, that go-ahead passing touchdown and also added 15 yards on the ground coupled with another score. As for Brady, the veteran quarterback was wildly inaccurate for most of the contest, completing just 15 of his 28 throws for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Check out our takeaways below for further detail on this stunner in Foxborough.
Why the Dolphins won
Miami played like they had nothing to lose in this one. Head coach Brian Flores, who was making his first visit to Foxborough since leaving the organization for the Miami job last offseason, was quick to to reach deep in his bag of plays, calling a number of trick plays that kept New England's defense honest. Even without those flashy plays, the Dolphins offense was able to move the ball extremely well against what was a sturdy Patriots defense heading into this contest. Fitzpatrick was able to hit Albert Wilson on a number of slant routes over the middle of the field to extend drives and DeVante Parker had his way against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Stephon Gilmore, catching eight of his 11 targets for 137 yards. Isaiah Ford also had a strong outing, catching seven passes for 54 yards. Their success in the passing game helped them to 26 first downs and a dominant 33:51 time of possession total.
Even as the Patriots were able to get their first lead of the day with just under four minutes to play in the game, the Dolphins were unfazed and Ryan Fitzpatrick marched 75 yards down the field for the game winning touchdown.
Defensively, the Dolphins were able to capitalize on New England's mistakes. Brady was inaccurate for most of the contest, and when he threw one second quarter pass in-between two Patriots pass catchers, corner Eric Rowe leaped in the middle to intercept it and take to the end zone for a touchdown.
Why the Patriots lost
New England was flat from the jump. The Patriots started the game with two straight punts and then a pick-six. Tom Brady's inaccuracy was apparent throughout the first half where he completed just five of his first 12 throws for 92 yards and that pick-six to Eric Rowe. The veteran quarterback, who has been dealing with a right elbow injury at points this season, saw a number of his passes sail over receivers' heads. He finished his day with two touchdowns, but it was hardly an outing worth remembering for TB12.
While the offense certainly had its issues, they were able to run the ball well. As a team they averaged five yards a carry, but it was curious to see Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels not double-down on that success throughout the game. There was also some questionable coaching decisions made at the end of the first half as they could have given themselves a shot at a field goal with around 90 seconds remaining. Belichick had all three timeouts in his pocket, but elected to have the clock run out and simply head into the locker room.
The biggest factor in this loss, however, falls on the defense, a unit that has been a calling card in Foxborough all season. The defense allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for over 300 yards and really have his way with them. Typically this season, this unit has been able to come up with a key stop or clutch turnover. The well apparently ran dry in Week 17.
The true turning point in the game was, of course, Mike Gesicki's game-winning touchdown catch. With just 24 seconds remaining in the game, Fitzpatrick was able to hit his young tight end over the middle of the field to give the Dolphins the three-point lead. The bearded veteran was masterful on that game-winning drive, especially after the two-minute warning. Fitz completed six of his seven throws after the break for 53 yards and that score.
While that was the true turning point in the game, Eric Rowe's pick-six from earlier in the game is worth mentioning. It was at that point when Miami went up 10-0 where an upset appeared to be a possibility.
Play of the game
It ended up being inconsequential, but Tom Brady's touchdown pass to linebacker turned fullback Elandon Roberts is worth another look. The versatile weapon for New England was wide open as he rolled out to his right and was able to haul in the pass from Brady and take it 38 yards for the score. The Patriots ran a similar play earlier in the game, but Brady elected to throw it over the middle to Mohamed Sanu. After seeing how open Roberts was on that initial look, it wasn't surprising to see them dip back into that play call.
The Patriots needed this game to secure a first-round bye and they simply couldn't get it done. As a team, New England was flat and allowed the Dolphins to not only push them around in their building, but get the upset win. If the Patriots turn in another performance like this next week on Wild Card Weekend, this playoff run could be rather short.
For Miami, they can head into the offseason on a positive note and know that they just made life much more difficult for New England. This loss along with the Chiefs victory over the Chargers now brings the Patriots all the way to the No. 3 seed, leaving them to play on Wild Card Weekend. Their opponent has yet to be determined.
To see how this game unfolded in real time, check out our live blog below.