Patriots vs. Dolphins: 7 Takeaways from Miami's Dramatic Victory over the Pats
This is the victory Dolphins fans have been waiting for.
December, with the playoffs on the line against a divisional opponent. For the last decade, this game usually meant the end for the Dolphins, with the refrain "Maybe Next Year" being thrown around by the fans in the parking lot as they await their journey out of Miami Gardens, back to their homes from Stuart all the way down to Homestead.
But today's game was different, as the Miami Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots 24-20 in a dramatic victory that will likely be talked about for ages as being the official statement game of Ryan Tannehill's career (unless the Dolphins lose against Buffalo or the Jets in the next two weeks, which is the fear of any Dolphins fan).
So what did we learn from this game? Let's check it out.
Run Defense Continues to Struggle
Before I get to the positive takeaways from this game, I have to talk about some of the negative.
The Dolphins run defense once again failed to show up, and the Patriots spent the first half running through the Dolphins defensive line and linebackers.
LeGarrette Blount ran for 47 yards on 11 carries, which makes me wonder why the Patriots didn't use him more throughout the game. As a team, New England ran for 96 yards on 22 carries for an average of 4.4 yards per carry.
I wasn't impressed by the Dolphins run defense, but I haven't been all season despite the expectations that it would be the best unit on the team.
Miami's Linebackers Were Once Again Horrible
I'm tired of talking about this, but I have to.
Once again, Miami's linebackers were somewhere between horrible and abominable. Tom Brady noticed and abused the linebackers on screen passes and short passes to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola all afternoon.
What's sad about this is the fact that everyone seemed to see this coming except for Kevin Coyle.
A change must be made: Dannell Ellerbe would be better off moved to strong-side linebacker with Koa Misi taking the middle. Then on the weak side, you insert Dion Jordan (or Jordan can take the strong side with Ellerbe taking the weak side; either one would be an improvement).
Dolphins Need to Pick a Running Back and Stick with Him
Lamar Miller had a fairly good afternoon for the Dolphins, running for 61 yards on 15 carries.
Daniel Thomas only had five carries and ran for 16 yards, but he was on the field quite frequently for Miami.
When the Dolphins settle on one running back due to injury or any other factor, their running game prospers. They will have to do this in the final two games of the season and beyond.
Mike Wallace Continues to Earn His Money
So there was one underthrown Tannehill pass that Mike Wallace could've held onto but didn't, but I won't dwell on that even though others will.
Wallace was amazing in this game, grabbing six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, while opening up the underneath routes for Rishard Matthews, Brian Hartline and Michael Egnew.
This is why the Dolphins paid $60 million over six years. While it took a while for the Dolphins to get him started, once he did, he's been one of their best offensive players.
Coaches Showed Guts and, At Times, Competence
We just saw a game where Joe Philbin defeated Bill Belichick.
I won't say out-coached because I don't think the Dolphins coaches did the best job in this game (outside of Mike Sherman, who I thought had a great game plan on offense), but he did defeat him.
Part of the reason for this was the moxie shown by the team throughout the game.
As Phil Simms was screaming about how Miami should punt it with less than 3:30 left in the game at 4th-and-5, it was great to see the Dolphins not punt and give the ball back to Brady.
It was gutsy to see the screen pass to Charles Clay, but Clay gets all of the credit for that play.
The Dolphins coaching staff had shown cowardice throughout the season, but when they needed to be gutsy against the Patriots, they were, and it paid off.
Ryan Tannehill Has Arrived
The Dolphins needed Ryan Tannehill to show the promise and potential that comes with being drafted eigth overall in the draft.
At times in the first half Tannehill was inconsistent, but in the second half he settled down and played like an elite quarterback.
He led the Dolphins to 17 unanswered points when down 10-0. Then with four minutes left, he drove them down the field for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
His final tally for the day: 25-of-37 for 312 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 120.6.
Elite numbers indeed—can the playoffs be next?
The Playoffs Are so Close the Dolphins Can Taste It
For the first time since 2008, the Dolphins have more than seven victories, as they stand at 8-6 with two games left.
Between them and the Baltimore Ravens, the Dolphins have the easier schedule, as they face the Bills and Jets in their final two games, while Baltimore has Detroit on Monday night, then New England and Cincinnati.
Miami's in control of its own destiny, and if the Ravens lose to Detroit and New England, then Miami can clinch a playoff berth with a win in Buffalo next week.
Can you taste the playoffs? Because the Dolphins sure can.