The New England Patriots gave away the second seed in the AFC by losing to the Miami Dolphins in dramatic fashion to close out the regular season. New England came out flat and let Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick do whatever he wanted. It cost them a top seed and they will now face the red-hot Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Let’s break down the keys for Week 17 and see what the Patriots did wrong that cost them a first-round bye in the playoffs.
1) The letdown factor
Despite Bill Belichick declaring Week 17 essentially a playoff game, the Patriots did not play like it. After their biggest win of the season the week before vs. Buffalo, New England played their worst game of the season.
It was shocking to see the Patriots, and especially the vaunted defense, come out so flat. Fitzpatrick looked comfortable in the pocket all day. The wide receivers, especially DeVante Parker, were running free in the secondary. Parker finished with eight catches for 137. Most of his catches came with Defensive Player of the Year favorite Stephon Gilmore covering him.
The defense had a chance to finish the game after Tom Brady drove down the field to give New England a 24-20 lead late in the game, but they let Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins go down the field with almost no resistance and score.
2) Tom Brady and the offense
It wasn’t the Patriots' best game offensively, but they certainly put the team in position to win. Brady finished 16-for-29 with 221 yards and two touchdowns. Brady did throw a bad interception which led to a pick-six by former Patriot Eric Rowe. But when he needed to, the 42 year old brought New England right down the field for what should have been the game winning score.
The Patriots rushing attack continued its great play as Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead had 122 yards on 24 carries. Slowly but surely, New England’s running attack is starting to play like it did last postseason and that is what they need going forward.
3) Getting Healthy
New England did not suffer any major injuries vs. Miami, but the players that were beat up and battling injuries do not get a week to recover following the regular season finale loss. The Patriots were lucky that no key players were hurt, and they will enter Wild Card weekend relatively healthy.