NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 18 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 33, New England Patriots 24

Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) reacts with wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) after running with the football for a first down against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins took down the New England Patriots 33-24 in Week 18 to secure their ninth win of the season and third place in the AFC East.

Despite losing seven straight games from Week 2 to Week 8, the Dolphins improved to 9-8 Sunday to secure their second straight winning season under head coach Brian Flores. New England finished 10-7 on the year and will now face either the Buffalo Bills or Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs.

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Miami Dolphins

Quarterback

Tua Tagovailoa did just enough to lead Miami to victory, completing 15 of his 22 attempts for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also added 38 yards on the ground.

Tagovailoa's 76.2% adjusted completion percentage was his highest figure in over a month, and he set new season-highs in rushing yards, missed tackles forced (1) and explosive runs of 10 or more yards (2).

Tagovailoa: Passing by depth

Target Depth Comps./Atts. Yds. Adj. Comp. % TDs
Behind L.O.S 6/6 35 100% 0
Short (1-9) 6/8 37 75% 0
Intermediate (10-19) 3/6 37 66.7% 1
Deep (20+) 0/1 0 0% 0
Running Back

Duke Johnson Jr. once again handled lead-back duties for Miami, converting his 26 touches into 122 yards and a touchdown.

Sunday represented Johnson’s second 100-plus-yard performance in his last four contests, as the seventh-year pro led all Dolphins rushers in first downs (5) and explosive runs (3).

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Jaylen Waddle reeled in five of his team-high seven targets for 27 yards and a touchdown, setting a new NFL record for receptions by a rookie with 104 on the season.

Offensive Line

Miami’s typically overmatched offensive line submitted one of their strongest performances of the season, allowing just 10 pressures and two sacks after averaging almost 15 pressures allowed per game across their previous 17 contests.

The unit was arguably equally impressive in the run game, as they facilitated a Dolphins rushing attack that averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

Defensive Line

Interior defender Zach Sieler set the tone for Miami up front, tallying a team-high three pressures in the victory. The fourth-year pro paced a defensive line that amassed eight pressures and two sacks while holding New England rushers to an average of 1.4 yards before contact per attempt.

Linebackers

The Dolphins linebackers combined for 15 tackles on Sunday. The unit was led by starter Jerome Baker, who racked up six tackles. The group was tested early and often in coverage, surrendering 124 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions.

Secondary

Miami’s secondary neutralized New England’s effectiveness through the air, conceding just 136 yards and four first downs on eight receptions.

Cornerback Xavien Howard put the finishing touches on what has been another impressive season for the sixth-year pro, as Howard drew a unit-high six targets yet allowed four receptions for 81 yards while reeling in his fifth interception of the year.

Player Coverage snaps  Receptions allowed/Targets Yards allowed Passer rating allowed
Xavien Howard 33 4/6 81 70.1
Byron Jones 32 0/0 0 0.0
Jevon Holland 31 1/2 2 56.3
Nik Needham 25 0/2 0 39.6
Brandon Jones 21 3/3 53 118.8

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New England Patriots

Quarterback

Mac Jones was fairly mediocre in his final regular-season performance of the year, going 20-of-30 for 261 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

It was a story of two halves for Jones. The Patriots rookie QB completed just eight of his 15 first-half attempts but went 12-of-15 in the second half.

Jones was especially impressive pushing the ball downfield. His four completions on passes thrown over 20 yards ties his season-high, while his 134 yards on such attempts was his second-highest figure this year.

Jones: Passing by depth

Target Depth Comps./Atts. Yds. Adj. Comp. % TDs
Behind L.O.S 8/8 50 100% 1
Short (1-9) 7/12 54 58.3% 0
Intermediate (10-19) 1/2 23 50% 0
Deep (20+) 4/6 134 66.7% 0
Running Backs

Damien Harris operated as the Patriots' lead back Sunday, turning his 15 touches into 73 total yards and a touchdown. The third-year running back was New England’s most effective chain-mover, totaling six first downs as a runner and receiver.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Hunter Henry reeled in five of his six targets for a team-high 86 yards, pacing all New England pass-catchers in receiving first downs (2) and explosive plays (2).

The fifth-year tight end found immense success in the intermediate and deeper regions of the field, as his 15-yard average depth of target was the highest among all tight ends in Week 18.

Offensive Line

Despite suffering from a litany of injuries throughout Sunday’s contest, New England’s offensive line performed competently, allowing 10 pressures and two sacks in pass protection while powering a rushing attack that averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

Starting right tackle Trent Brown was the group’s strongest performing member in pass protection, allowing zero pressures in the defeat.

Defensive Line

The Patriots' defensive line failed to make a significant impact against the pass, producing just nine pressures and zero sacks. The unit was much stouter against the run, as Dolphins rushers averaged just 1.1 yards before contact per attempt.

Linebackers

Ja’Whaun Bentley‘s 17 tackles led all defenders, and he finished with an average depth of tackle of 3.5 yards. He captained a New England linebacking corps that held up admirably in coverage, as they combined to surrender just 11 yards and one first down on three receptions.

Secondary

New England’s secondary was rarely challenged against Miami’s middling passing attack, conceding just 96 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions. Cornerback J.C. Jackson drew a unit-high four targets, allowing two receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown.

Player Coverage snaps  Receptions allowed/Targets Yards allowed Passer rating allowed
J.C. Jackson 26 2/4 24 108.3
Jalen Mills 26 2/4 20 64.6
Adrian Phillips 26 3/4 26 91.7
Devin McCourty 26 1/1 9 104.2
D’Angelo Ross 21 3/4 17 82.3
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