ReFo: Patriots @ Dolphins, Week 15
Points were hard to come by for the first 28 minutes or so in Miami. The Patriots held a 3-0 advantage at the 2:00 warning of the first half before the flood gates started to open. Michael Hoomanawanui made a sensational one handed touchdown grab three plays later to extend the Pats lead. Miami would answer though with a 82 yard scoring drive that took less than a minute, capped off by a 39 yard catch and run by Mike Wallace.
The third quarter was again scoreless, but the Dolphins would score a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter that was answered by a field goal and a touchdown on the next two Patriots drives. With just four minutes remaining, Ryan Tannehill had the Dolphins in scoring range after completing a fourth and five from their own 45 on a wild receiver screen to Charles Clay. From the Patriots 14 yard line with just 1:21 left, Tannehill found Marcus Thigpen for the go ahead touchdown. Tom Brady would charge back though and lead New England all the way to Miami’s 14 yard line. The Patriots’ magic would run out though as Michael Thomas picked off Brady on fourth down to seal the game.
The win moves the Dolphins to 8-6 and into the last wild card spot in the AFC. Miami controls their own destiny so if they win out they’ll be in the playoffs. Miami heads to Buffalo next week and then goes back home to face the Jets in week 17, and they’ll likely be favored in both matchups.
The loss drops New England to 10-4 and the loss is a big blow to their hopes of home field advantage in the playoffs. They now have to hope that both Denver and Kansas City lose one of their next two games. This seems unlikely considering Denver’s next two opponents have six combined wins on the season. The Patriots head to Baltimore next week and finish off at home against Buffalo.
New England – Three Performances of Note
Brady Does All He Can
Tom Brady’s performance wasn’t all that different from his other fourth quarter comebacks this season. In fact, his final grade of +5.7 is almost the exact same as his grade against New Orleans. Brady’s throws were there when it mattered most, it’s just the receivers weren’t. It’s hard not to think that Kenbrell Thompkins or Aaron Dobson would have been able to come down with the balls that Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman couldn’t on their last series or that Rob Gronkowski hauls in the one off Michael Hoomanawanui’s finger tips. Those guys didn’t make the plays though and that’s why the Patriots came away with the loss, but make no mistake, Brady was on point throughout the entire game.
It was obvious from early on that the Patriots feared the Dolphins defensive line more than their corners and linebackers in coverage. Brady was hitting his drop point and letting the ball rip without hesitation. For the day he had an average time to throw of 2.15 seconds on 58 dropbacks, while his season average is 2.46 seconds. The Patriots’ quarterback attempted just one pass over 20 yards downfield and he completed it to Josh Boyce early in the third quarter. Too many drives ended up stalling when the quick game wasn’t there and pressure started to come. On 18 pressured dropbacks, Brady went 7-17 for 85 yards and a quarterback rating of 52.3.
Defensive Line Gets Stoned
The four sacks that the Patriots’ defense collected on the day give the appearance that their pass rush was dominant when in fact the pressures were lacking all day long. The defense managed just 14 total pressures on the day and managed to pressure Tannehill on just 11 of 41 dropbacks. Even then, of those 14 pressures, four came on blitzes from corners and linebackers. The defensive line was generally ineffective and had a cumulative pass rushing grade of –5.0. The main culprit for the Patriots was Rob Ninkovich (-1.8) whose only pressure came via running back Daniel Thomas. It will be interesting to see if the high snap counts for Ninkovich and Chandler Jones(-0.4) catch up with them down the stretch. Jones leads all 4-3 defensive ends in snaps with 1002 while Ninkovich is second at 971.
No Respect for Wake?
Somebody might want to tell the Patriots how good this Cameron Wake guy is. I don’t care how confident you are in the blocking ability of your backs and tight ends, leaving them singled on Wake is a bad idea and that happened all too often Sunday. Wake beat Matthew Mulligan(-o.7) twice, Michael Hoomanawanui(-0.1) once, and James Devlin(-0.1) once for a total of two pressures, a hit, and a sack. These weren’t stunts or blitzes either, Wake lined up at left end and the blocking scheme called for it. All three pressures ended in incomplete passes and the sack came on a critical third down midway through the third quarter.
Miami – Three Performances of Note
Wallace Earns his Paycheck
Mike Wallace’s struggles this season have been well documented. The jokes about Wallace’s $60 million contract have been easy considering how poorly he’s played and his horrendous drop rate of 14.67%. Against the Patriots though the much maligned receiver showed why the Dolphins took a gamble on him. The fifth year receiver caught six of nine targets for 105 yards and a touchdown en route to his highest grade of the season at +3.6. The Dolphins receiver flashed all facets of his game. On his touchdown and on his end around he showed the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. On both plays he broke a tackle to pick up big yardage. Then he showed the ability to create lots of separation deep. On a stutter-go midway through the fourth Wallace created a ton off space behind Kyle Arrington, but Tannehill got hit as he threw and his wobbly pass came up well short and Wallace couldn’t make the play. It was precisely the kind of day the Dolphins were expecting when they signed Wallace and now with three straight games without a drop, his season grade has jumped into positive numbers at +1.0.
Clabo Coming Back to From
The other underperforming free agent signing this year was every bit the player the Dolphins expected him to be Sunday. The veteran right tackle put together a clean pass blocking performance matched up with Rob Ninkovich for most of the game. It was the first time all season that Clabo didn’t allow a single pressure after having three such games last season. Not surprisingly his +3.4 grade was his highest of the season. This marks Clabo’s second superb game in three weeks and his overall grade has moved back up to a respectable -4.5 for the season.
Two New Corners
When injuries forced a cornerback with 13 career snaps and another with no career snaps into critical playing time late in the game, things looked bleak for the Dolphins secondary. One made the biggest play of the game, while the other almost gave it away. Will Davis(-2.4) was the Dolphins third round selection back in April out of Utah State and up until this point his only action was 13 snaps against the Jets in week 13. After Nolan Carroll left the game, Davis was forced into 51 snaps and just wasn’t ready for the quickness of the Patriots receivers. The rookie allowed 7-9 targets for 90 yards with six of those seven catches coming on in breaking routes that Davis was slow to react to. It wasn’t an easy matchup for a rookie, but the results were disappointing for Dolphins.
On the other side of the spectrum was second year player Michael Thomas(+1.2). Thomas was just signed this past week off the 49ers practice squad and had not played a snap in the NFL. This preseason he was used mostly as a safety with San Francisco, but on Sunday all 16 of his snaps came as a slot cornerback. The Patriots went after him often on the last drive of the game, targeting him six times. While Thomas ceded two first downs quickly to Amendola, he regrouped to make two huge plays at the end. On 1st down with 27 seconds left, Thomas jarred the ball loose from Amendola who had the ball in both hands at the goal line. Then on fourth down the second year corner out of Stanford ran with Amendola up the seam and then passed him off inside to drop perfectly into Brady’s throwing lane to Austin Collie and make a game ending interception.
– Ryan Tannehill was 15-17 for 190 yards and a touchdown on passes inside the numbers.
– The Dolphins’ linebackers combined for just one defensive stop while the Patriots’ linebackers accounted for seven.
– The Patriots dropped four balls on the day while the Dolphins didn’t drop any.
PFF Game Ball
With his best game of the year Mike Wallace deserves some recognition for his outstanding performance and takes home this game ball.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner