April 4, 2020

Patriots fall to No. 3 seed in AFC playoffs after last-minute loss to Dolphins

Mark Daniels 

 The Providence JournalPublished 7:30 PM EST Dec 29, 2019

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The only thing that stood between the Patriots and the No. 2 seed was the defense holding pat against journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the 4-11 Dolphins.

The clock read 3:53. It should’ve been easy. On this day, however, nothing was in a matchup that should’ve been lopsided. Instead, it ended in disaster.

As it was seen all game long, it wasn’t going to be easy for the Patriots. This final Dolphins drive reinforced that notion. Fitzpatrick got the Dolphins downfield by hitting DeVante Parker for a 24-yard gain to get near the red zone. With 1:10 remaining, the quarterback, on third-and-5, hit Albert Wilson for a 7-yard gain. Two plays later, with 35 seconds left, Fitzpatrick hit Isaiah Ford for a gain of four to set up a first-and-goal from the 5.

With 24 seconds remaining, Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki beat Patrick Chung for a 5-yard touchdown to give Miami a 27-24 win. The Patriots’ final offensive possession ended with Tom Brady’s unit gaining one first down. His final pass, with two seconds left, resulted in a failed hook-and-lateral play.

The Patriots fall to 12-4 in one of the most shocking upset losses at home in recent memory. The result could be catastrophic. The Patriots lost the No. 2 seed to the Kansas City Chiefs and will play in the wild-card round for the first time since the 2009 season. They will host the Tennessee Titans, who secured the final AFC playoff spot with a win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Ryan Fitzpatrick started this game going 7-of-7 for 91 yards. In the second Miami drive, the veteran quarterback took the Dolphins all the way to the 9-yard line in a 12-play 80-yard drive. The first incomplete pass of the day for Fitzpatrick happened on a third-and-8 play, which led to Miami kicker Jason Sanders hitting a 27-yard field goal at 1:38 of the first quarter.

Offensively, the Patriots looked dreadful to start. Their first drive started around midfield due to a failed fake punt by the Dolphins. The solid field position was wasted with a three-and-out. The Pats got close to midfield on their next drive, but saw a third-down conversion negated due to an offensive pass interference penalty. The Pats had one first down and 39 total yards after their first two series.

NFL playoff picture: Patriots fumble first-round bye to Chiefs

Through the Dolphins first three drives, they had as many first downs (eight) as the Patriots had offensive plays. Somehow, it got worse.

At 10:31 of the second quarter, Brady threw an easy interception to Dolphins safety Eric Rowe, who ran 35 yards untouched for the touchdown. The pick-6 saw the Patriots down, 10-0, to the last place Dolphins.

The offense found some life on the next series. The team gained steam behind backs Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead. N’Keal Harry then hauled in a pass for 18 yards to set up a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line. The Pats didn’t move an inch after that and settled for a 25-yard field goal from Nick Folk at 5:51 of the second quarter.

The Patriots, however, gained momentum. The next tie they touchdown the ball, they tied the game, 10-10. Brady got his team moving with a 50-yard pass play to Phillip Dorsett. That set up a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Michel ran in for a 4-yard touchdown at 2:05 of the second quarter. The score marked Michel’s seventh of the season, which is a new career high.

The momentum didn’t carry over to the third quarter. After the Patriots offense went three-and-out, the Dolphins took a 17-10 lead.

Miami gained the bulk of their yardage with a 24-yard Albert Wilson reception followed by a trick play where Wilson threw a 20-yard pass to running back Patrick Laird. Fitzpatrick then hit tight end Mike Gesicki for a 14-yard gain on third-and-5 to set up a first-and-goal. On the next play, Fitzpatrick ran in for a 2-yard touchdown at 7:42 of the third quarter.

In order for this offense to get going, Tom Brady turned to the most unlikeliest of players – linebacker turned fullback Elandon Roberts. At 4:26 of the third quarter, Brady did the unthinkable – he threw to Roberts, who was wide open, broke a tackle and traveled 38 yards downfield for the touchdown to tie the game, 17-17.

That marked Robert’s first NFL reception and Brady’s 540th career touchdown pass to move past Peyton Manning for second place on the NFL’s all-time list.

The Dolphins wouldn’t go away. With 8:29 remaining, Miami took a 20-17 lead following a 32-yard field goal by Sanders. Patriots safety Duron Harmon came up big on that drive, deflecting a pass in the end zone on third down to force the field goal attempt.

It took the Patriots most of Sunday’s game, but with 3:53 remaining, they finally took a lead. Mohamed Sanu made a nice 22-yard grab, on third-and-4, to bring the Patriots to the 10-yard line. The Pats moved backwards due to a false start, but on third-and-13, Brady hit James White for a 13-yard touchdown reception. Right guard delivered a fantastic block to spring White loose for the score.

Fitzpatrick stepped back on the field with 3:53 remaining. It resulted with the Gillette Stadium falling dead silent and this 2019 season ending on a sour note for the Patriots.

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Published 7:30 PM EST Dec 29, 2019

from: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/patriots/2019/12/29/new-england-patriots-miami-dolphins-score-seed-playoffs-afc/2770244001/

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