In the penultimate game of the season, the Miami Dolphins laid another egg, fell by a score of 23-21, and couldn’t overcome a New England Patriots team with a worse record than them.
Under the direction of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Skyler Thompson, Miami’s offense was limited and couldn’t progress down the field, and the defense let Patriots quarterback Mac Jones have one of his best games of the season.
All Business in Bean-Town
Miami, despite losing four straight games up to this point, still controlled their own destiny. It was as simple as a win-and-get-in scenario, but the Dolphins kept setting themselves back by dropping winnable games against the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day.
To add literal insult to injury, Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out of this game due to concussion protocol. At the same time, an NFL investigation concluded that Tua did not suffer a concussion in the game against Green Bay (In which he threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter), but was still unable to play.
For New England, they’ve been very mixed. After winning three straight games in late October and early November, the Patriots only managed to win a single game of their last five, beating the Arizona Cardinals but losing to the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Las Vegas Raiders, and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Mac Attack Strikes First
Miami’s offense began the game slow, with an immediate punt on their opening drive. New England, meanwhile, started off strong with a few deep passes by Jones to get the Patriots into Dolphins territory.
Inside the red zone, Jones threw a fade pass to wide receiver Tyquan Thornton for the first score of the day and an early lead to New England with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
The Dolphins got into a rhythm on their next drive, spearheaded by a successful fourth-down conversion early on. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was the workhorse, snagging a deep ball to move the chains and eventually running the ball into the end zone for an immediate answer, tying the game up.
New England looked to take back the lead, but a sack by defensive end Christian Wilkins pinned the Pats deep. Despite a 2nd and 19, Miami gave up an 18-yard run and the Patriots were back in business. However, linebacker Elandon Roberts fixed up loose ends and sacked Jones to send New England back out of field goal range.
The second quarter didn’t bring any scoring to either team, and the Dolphins missed out due to a failed 51-yard field goal attempt by kicker Jason Sanders. Two punts later and the final drive of the first half also didn’t result in anything.
Teddy Turns the Tables
On what felt like the opposite of the beginning of the game, New England started slow and had to immediately punt, pinning Miami across midfield. A midfield throw by Teddy to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle set up the Dolphins in the red zone-another chunk play by Miami’s receiver duo of Hill and Waddle.
On a busted play on 2nd and goal, Teddy had to scramble to get out of pressure and flipped a pass to running back Raheem Mostert before crossing the line of scrimmage for another Dolphins touchdown, taking a 14-7 lead six minutes into the third quarter.
New England looked to respond with another deep ball, which is what tended to set up most drives in this game, but Jones and the Patriots stalled around midfield, setting up a 49-yard attempt that kicker Nick Folk sank, dropping Miami’s lead to 14-10.
A Foxborough Disaster for Miami
Miami’s next offensive drive was nothing short of a disaster. With their backs against the wall on a 3rd and 15, Teddy proceeded to throw a ball that was picked off by safety Kyle Dugger, who proceeded to take it to the house for a pick-six. While Folk missed the extra point, New England still took a 16-14 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.
In addition to throwing the pick, Teddy also injured a finger in his throwing hand that stopped him from gripping the ball properly and sat him out for the remainder of the game, bringing in third-string quarterback Skyler Thompson to finish what he started.
Thompson tried to make the most of a bad situation, converting a couple of first downs on his first offensive drive, but an interception on third down across midfield killed off any momentum he may have had.
After two more punts by both teams which did nothing but take time off the clock, it was the Patriots who extended their lead after a pass interference penalty on Miami set up New England on the goal line. Jones lobbed a pass up for a wide-open Jakobi Meyers to seal the game with four minutes to go.
The Patriots tacked on another field goal to extend their lead to 23-14 following a failed fourth-down attempt by Thompson and the Dolphins.
After the field goal, Miami did have some luck driving down the field, and Thompson found an open Mike Gesicki in the end zone to keep the game close, but an unsuccessful onside kick closed the game out, with a 23-21 score in favor of New England.
The Statistics With a Side of Chowder
Mac Jones threw for 203 passing yards and completed over 50% of his passes, throwing two touchdowns as well as no interceptions. Very efficient play especially because none of his wide receivers or running backs earned more than 100 yards on the day.
All I'll say is that neither the Dolphins nor the Patriots deserve to be in the playoffs. This game is abysmal.#FinsUp— Jake Gibson (@JakeTheEmcee) January 1, 2023
On the flip side, Miami’s two quarterbacks combined for 247 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. Similarly, there were no players on offense who got more than 100 yards, though Raheem Mostert led all offensive players for either team with 62 yards on the day.
That’s now five straight losses for Miami. Both the Dolphins and the Patriots end the day with an 8-8 record, though New England now holds the seventh spot in the AFC playoffs, leaving Miami in the hunt.
What benefited the Dolphins was the New York Jets falling to the Seattle Seahawks later on in the day. At this point, Miami’s chances of getting into the playoffs are dependent on two things- Beating the Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, December 8th, and the Bills beating the Patriots on the same day.