Starting off the New Year on the wrong note, the Miami Dolphins (8-8) extended their 5 game losing streak in a must win situation against the New England Patriots (8-8).
Prior to the matchup between the two division rivals there were many players listed as unavailable. The Dolphins were once again without their star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who entered concussion protocols for the second time this season. The other key players on the list included left tackle Terron Armstead, linebacker Bradley Chubb and cornerback Xavien Howard. As for the Patriots they were without wide receiver DeVante Parker, tight end Jonnu Smith, cornerback Marcus Jones (concussion protocol), and cornerback Jack Jones (knee).
The Patriots jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when quarterback Mac Jones connected for a 7 yard touchdown to find his receiver Tyquan Thornton. The Dolphins responded with a 75 yard drive of their own that resulted in a 3 yard rushing touchdown for Tyreek Hill to tie the game at 7. Neither team was able to score on the drives that followed to conclude the first half of play with the score still at 7 a piece.
To open up the second half, the Miami Dolphins had capitalized on a 42 yard drive in which quarterback Teddy Bridgewater found Raheem Mostert for a 3 yard touchdown. With the score in favor of the Dolphins 14-7, the Patriots came up short for a touchdown on their drive and were forced to settle for a 49 yard field goal from Nick Folk. Despite the Patriots shortcoming on their last drive they were able to make up for it with a defensive touchdown with Kyle Dugger’s interception to regain control of the game, 16-14. During that play, Bridgewater had injured himself subsequently leading to Skylar Thompson taking the field.
Thompson looked quite rusty in his first drive of the game with 33 yards and an interception to open up the final quarter of the game. During this quarter, the offense for both teams seemed to struggle up until the Patriots had scored another touchdown (23-16) on an 89 yard drive with just as little as 4 minutes left to play. The Dolphins were able to respond once again with a touchdown of their own, bringing the game within 2 points (23-21) but by then it was just all too late as the Patriots received the ball with under a minute to go. The Patriots closed out the game wasting time on the clock to seal the victory allowing them to jump into the final spot for the AFC Wildcard.
Bridgewater and Thompson led the way for the Dolphins with over 265 passing yards and 2 touchdowns accompanied with 2 interceptions. Similar to the rushing stats of the last game, the Dolphins totaled 86 yards and one touchdown with Jeffrey Wilson amounting to 45 yards in 15 carries. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the dynamic duo of Jaylen Waddle (52) and Hill (55) that finished with the most receiving yards, instead it was Mostert with 62.
As for the Patriots, Mac Jones had a relatively great game with over 203 passing yards and 2 touchdowns without any interceptions. The rushing game for the Patriots had totaled 77 yards with Rhamondre Stevenson (42) and Damien Harris (32) combining for 74 of them. The receiving core also distributed their yards evenly: Tyquan Thronton with 60 yards on 3 receptions, Hunter Henry with 52 yards, and Jakobi Meyers with 48.
On a side note, Bill Belichick has earned his 329th career win inching closer to surpassing the great Don Shula (347) as the all-time winningest NFL head coach.
To say the least, the playoff chances for Miami are as slim as ever despite their 8-3 start. The Dolphins (8-8) will not only have to win against the New York Jets (7-9) but will need a favor from the Patriots to lose to the Buffalo Bills. On the season, the Jets are averaging 326.4 yards alongside their 18.1 points per game while their defense ranks as top five across the league allowing 311.6 yards and 19.1 points per game. It remains to be seen whether Tagovailoa will be made available for the most important game of the Dolphins season.
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