Today's game was almost expected to say the least watching the way the offensive unit has played the last couple of weeks. Before the game started and everyone heard that star rookie running back Laurence Maroney was out with injury it almost gave a little bit of a look into the glass ball in knowing what was to come; a flat and disheveled offense.
The sunny confines of Florida and beautiful weather should be a haven for crisp and clean plays for both teams. The opposite was true for the Patriots. Of course, this is too familiar every time that this team travels to Florida for a game. Patriot nation usually ends up holding their collective breath in anticipation for a loss mostly because they were 2-11 in the month of December playing in Miami in the past.
The Miami Dolphins, it is safe to say, are the thorn in the New England Patriots side no matter what the records are and how they are playing. The always bring their 'A Game' and never stop bringing the pressure and rushing the gates getting to Tom Brady.
With a defense in your face all day registering 5 sacks, no wonder Tom Brady looked flushed and out of sync. The tenacious Miami defense also stripped the ball out of the Patriots hands 4 times on the day, which has been a recurring theme for this team week in and week out. This defense held Brady to 78 total yards passing; a feat not too many teams can say have achieved.
The New England Patriots defense was holding on strong for the longest time but could only do so much after a while from exhaustion from being on the field after so many three and outs for the Patriots offensive unit.
Field position was also at a premium for the Patriots with the Dolphins starting at the 21, New England's 39, 40, even a drive beginning from the Patriots 43. This was one of the big keys to this game. With the return of Ken Walter and his booming kicks, (if you couldn't sense the sarcasm in my writing) New England has no threat of pinning the other team back. This is a shame.
I wrote in an earlier blog at the beginning of the season how the field goal and punting unit was stellar and was so much more of an important aspect of the game that people never really look at. Now we see just how important that really was. If you give any team in the NFL field position on your own 40 or 45 yard line, even the worst offenses in the NFL could make something happen.
The defense looked as good as they could while taking hits of oxygen on the sidelines from being worn out because of a very lack luster performance by the offensive line in protecting number twelve. He was on the run looking as uncomfortable as can be being pushed around and smacked in the helmet by all of the Miami players. The defense had given up less than 100 yards yet again until giving up a 44-yard scamper by Sammy Morris to put his total for the day to 123 yards.
One thing that you could definitely see is how very important Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are in the middle of that defensive line. When Wilfork went down with a lower leg injury, the Dolphins played it the right way and POUNDED the ball right to where he was and ran the ball with basically no resistance.
The Patriots have Injuries all over. With Maroney, Chad Jackson, Rodney Harrison and others out with injury, Wilfork and tight end Ben Watson both fell to injury. Again, this is going to show how much fortitude they have at the end of the season when they are going to be holding the key in their own hands. How are they going to perform from here on out? They definitely looked flat and deflated today.
Turnovers are a key to success when you are looking to make a championship run. Your takeaways need to be solid and successful. For this team right now, they are turning it over far more than they are taking it away. They are going to have to tighten the ropes up a little more if they plan on doing anything this year in the playoffs against some very good AFC teams.
I do understand that this was against a very good defense led by the much-underrated Jason Taylor, but Patriots fans have been seeing the offensive unit play flat and turnover prone the last couple of weeks. The defensive unit has shown up full tilt every game but the offense has been sporadic at best.
When watching Jason Taylor's play out there I was very impressed as most Patriots fans have been for years now. Here is Bill Belichick's comment on Taylor after the game, "I think he's the best player we've played against this year. We haven't played against everybody, so I can't speak to that. But he's a helluva player. He makes them every week. Everyone is looking for him and he still continues to make big plays and turnovers and all that. He's a tremendous player, having a great year. They do a good job with him in their scheme and make it hard to find him, and he takes advantage of his opportunities. He's an outstanding player."
Today's loss to Miami broke the Patriots' string of seven straight regular-season road victories. This run of games tied the longest road-winning streak in team history. Amazingly enough though before today, the last time the Patriots lost a road game in the regular season was on Nov. 27, 2005, when they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 26-16, at Arrowhead Stadium.
So to sum this game up, I guess I am going to quote coach Belichick one more time. I think he sums it all up pretty well in a nutshell. "Well, there is no doubt about who the better team was out there today. Give Miami a lot of credit. They did a good job in all three phases of the game. Nick [Saban] had them ready to go. They played well on offense, defense, special teams. We couldn't really get much field position throughout the whole game and they took advantage of that, like a good team will. We just weren't able to make enough plays in any three phases of the game. They made quite a few of them. They have a good team that played well. We certainly didn't have our best day today, but I think you have to give a lot of credit to the Dolphins. They beat us. They outplayed us. They were just the better team today. There's not much else to say."
So now depending on the outcome of the New York Jets/Buffalo Bills game, the New England Patriots may only find themselves being only one game up on the Jets. Man, can you remember when that lead was comfortable and easy-going? Now it is getting down to crunch time and we will see if the hometown heroes can pull another run of games off.
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.