This AFC East bout was not the most exciting on the Sunday slate, but it had serious implications for both teams. Ultimately, The Miami Dolphins handed the New England Patriots their eighth loss of the season and eliminated them from playoff contention.
It will be the first time since 2008 that the Patriots will not be competing for a Super Bowl. The Dolphins have now set themselves up for just their second playoff appearance since 2008, their last coming in 2016.
Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.
STORY OF THE GAME
This Week 15 game was much more of a defensive battle between the division rivals, with New England scoring nothing but field goals and Miami putting up all their points in the second half.
Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts recovered a forced fumble by Xavien Howard, marking the 20th consecutive game in which the defense has generated at least one turnover — the longest active streak in the NFL.
Tua Tagovailoa was unspectacular at the helm of the Miami offense, completing 20-of-26 passes for 145 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. He opted against pushing the ball downfield, but the first-rounder was still solid from a clean pocket, connecting on 18-of-20 passes for 129 yards, with one incompletion being a dropped pass. He did score two rushing touchdowns in the red zone; the first was a powerful scramble up the middle, and the second was a plunge over the goal line on a QB sneak.
The most impressive part of the offense was the running game. Entering the contest, Miami averaged a league-worst 3.6 yards per carry but finished this game at a stellar 6.0. Rookie running back Salvon Ahmed took his 22 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown, outrushing the entire Patriots team on his own. He also forced four missed tackles on the ground, two more than the opposition.
Matt Breida was no slouch himself, rushing for 86 yards on 12 attempts, but he could not reach the end zone.
The Dolphins' offensive line fared much better than the Patriots', allowing just four QB hurries and one hit across 30 pass-blocking reps. Tagovailoa did take two sacks, but one was on Ahmed, and the other was on Tua for holding onto the ball for too long.
New England allowed seven pressures on 31 snaps in pass protection but was beaten on another 10 occasions, though Cam Newton was able to get rid of the ball before defenders could get near him.
Speaking of the New England signal-caller, it is the eighth time this season that he has not thrown a touchdown, but he did throw for 207 yards, his fourth-best single-game total of the year. Newton did not record any turnovers, but he did have two passes that could have been intercepted. The 2015 MVP added another 38 yards rushing but could not score, and he fumbled once, though his team recovered the ball.
Jakobi Meyers and Sony Michel were the only Patriots players to do anything effective with their opportunities. Michel received only 10 carries but made the most out of them, taking four attempts for 10-plus yards. Meyers caught seven passes for 112 yards and four first downs, though he did get the ball punched out by Howard for the only Patriots turnover.
The two AFC teams are on opposite trajectories, with the Dolphins likely heading to the playoffs and the Patriots already disqualified.
Outside of Tagovailoa and Ahmed, the Dolphins still had plenty of rookies on the field. Robert Hunt, Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley all started on the offensive line. Hunt and Kindley allowed just one pressure each while Jackson allowed three and was beaten on three more occasions.
Lynn Bowden Jr. also saw plenty of playing time, hauling in six passes for 37 yards and forcing two missed tackles on his 9-yard carry.
Defensively, safety Brandon Jones and defensive lineman Raekwon Davis both saw over 30 snaps. Jones forced a fumble and allowed just one completion on two targets for 12 yards. Davis only recorded one tackle on 17 snaps against the run, but he did generate three pressures on 19 pass-rush reps, beating his man another three times, as well.
The Patriots had their own pair of rookie tackles in Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron. Onwenu did not concede a single pressure, but Herron forfeited two hurries and a sack. Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi both received playing time at tight end but combined for three targets and just one 4-yard reception (Keene).
On the other side of the ball, Anfernee Jennings and Kyle Dugger were on the field more often than not. Jennings netted one QB pressure, a tackle against the run and allowed two receptions for a measly 5 yards. Dugger was targeted five times in coverage, granting two completions for 23 yards and a first down. However, he was dominant against the run, grabbing three defensive stops on his three tackles, two of which were for a loss or no gain.
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