Final, Dolphins 27-17: There will be no AFC East championship celebration Monday night in Miami.
The New England Patriots had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Dolphins, preventing them from clinching their ninth consecutive division title.
Tom Brady threw two interceptions and posted a meager 59.9 passer rating, and the Patriots went a stunning 0-for-11 on third down — the first time since 1991 that they failed to convert a single third down.
New England’s defense also struggled mightily for much of the night before stiffening up in the fourth quarter. The 27 points allowed were the Patriots’ most since Week 4.
The Patriots now will turn their focus toward their biggest game of the season: a matchup with the AFC-leading Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at Heinz Field.
Fourth quarter, 0:56, Dolphins 27-20: That was a thoroughly bizarre sequence for the Patriots’ offense.
The Pats used a 38-yard completion to Brandin Cooks, a 23-yarder to Danny Amendola and a roughing the passer penalty to advance the ball to the Dolphins’ 1-yard line, then called a series of rollout passes, none of which were successful.
Throw in two offensive penalties, and the Patriots wound up settling for a field goal from the Dolphins’ 15-yard line. They then failed to recover the ensuing onside kick.
This one is over, folks.
Fourth quarter, 2:24, Dolphins 27-17: The Patriots will have one last shot after forcing another Dolphins punt. They need to score twice over the final 2:24 to keep their eight-game winning streak alive.
Fourth quarter, 4:23, Dolphins 27-17: Another Patriots drive goes nowhere. They’re now 0-for-10 on third downs.
The last time New England went a full game without converting a single first down? Week 5 of the 1991 season against the then-Phoenix Cardinals.
Fourth quarter, 5:17, Dolphins 27-17: Neither team has been able to generate much offense in this fourth quarter. It’s now Patriots ball after a Dolphins three-and-out.
Fourth quarter, 7:05, Dolphins 27-17: Another three-and-out. The Patriots now are 0-for-9 on third down.
Fourth quarter, 7:51, Dolphins 27-17: Jakeem Grant nearly beat Malcolm Butler for his second touchdown of the night, but the Jay Cutler bomb bounced off his hands.
A score in that situation would have been a dagger for the Patriots. Instead, the Dolphins were forced to punt.
Fourth quarter, 10:26, Dolphins 27-17: It’s hard to win football games when you can’t convert third downs. The Patriots have converted exactly zero tonight.
New England’s latest drive featured a short completion to Dwayne Allen, an incompletion on which Tom Brady threw at Danny Amendola’s feet and a third-down sack.
The Patriots still can come back in this game, but they’re running out of time.
Fourth quarter, 11:49, Dolphins 27-17: Big-time stop by the Patriots’ defense, which survived a neutral zone infraction by Deatrich Wise to force a Dolphins three-and-out.
The Patriots now have a chance to make this a one-score game.
Fourth quarter, 13:05, Dolphins 27-17: The Patriots aren’t going away quietly.
Down by 17, New England mounted a six-play drive that culminated in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to James White.
Danny Amendola did most of the heavy lifting beforehand, catching three passes for 36 yards, and Dion Lewis added another catch for 13 yards.
Third quarter, 0:34, Dolphins 27-10: The Patriots only have one first down in the second half, and it came on a penalty. Tom Brady continues to sling the ball deep to Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan with little to no success.
They did succeed in finally stopping the Dolphins’ offense, however, as a third-down sack by Adam Butler forced Miami’s first punt since the second quarter.
Third quarter, 8:50, Dolphins 27-10: Things have gone from bad to worse for the Patriots’ patchwork defense.
Kenyan Drake, who now is up to 170 yards from scrimmage, evaded Patrick Chung with a ruthless spin move to pick up 31 yards, and Jay Cutler found a wide-open Jarvis Landry in the end zone two plays later for Miami’s third touchdown of the night.
The Patriots really miss Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy right now.
Third quarter, 8:50, Dolphins 20-10: Nothing doing again for the Patriots, who finally completed their first pass to a wide receiver — an 8-yarder to Danny Amendola — but failed to pick up a first down.
Making matters worse, Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch has been ruled out for the remainder of the game with a knee injury.
Third quarter, 11:03, Dolphins 20-10: It didn’t take the Dolphins long to make the Patriots pay for Tom Brady’s miscue.
On the fifth play of the ensuing drive, Jay Cutler fired a 25-yard touchdown pass to No. 4 receiver Jakeem Grant, who beat Malcolm Butler down the field and then outjumped him in the end zone.
Both of the Dolphins’ last two drives (excluding their one kneel down at the end of the first half) have resulted in touchdowns. Their latest score snapped the Patriots’ streak of allowing 17 or fewer points, which sat at eight games entering tonight.
Third quarter, 13:24, Dolphins 13-10: The Patriots’ first drive of the second half played out much like their opening possession of the game did.
New England failed to pick up a first down, and the drive ended with Xavien Howard intercepting a deep pass intended for Brandin Cooks.
Howard, whose Pro Football Focus grade ranks 110th out of 118 qualifying cornerbacks, now has four interceptions in his last two games. He also has more catches tonight than Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan, both of whom still have zero.
Halftime, Dolphins 13-10: A 23-yard screen pass to Rex Burkhead brought the Patriots into field-goal range, and Stephen Gostkowski booted one through from 46 yards out in the closing seconds of the first half.
New England will receive the second-half kickoff.
This has been a strange game so far for the Patriots, who were outgained 247 yards to 120 in the first half. Tom Brady has yet to complete a single pass to a wide receiver, with running backs combining for 10 catches and tight end Dwayne Allen snagging one.
Second quarter, 3:33, Dolphins 13-7: Bad things happen when you ask Elandon Roberts to cover 40 yards downfield.
Coverage is not the Patriots linebacker’s strong suit, and the Dolphins exploited that weakness by splitting running back Kenyan Drake out wide and having him tear down the field on a go route. He breezed past Roberts, picking up 47 yards before he was brought down.
The Patriots nearly came up with another impressive red-zone stop, but safety Jordan Richards whiffed on a would-be sack on third down, and Jay Cutler threw a touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry on the following play to put the Dolphins back in the lead.
Second quarter, 6:18, Patriots 7-6: The Patriots are on the board.
Dion Lewis set up the score with the play of the game so far for New England, using one hand to haul in a floater of a pass from Tom Brady.
Brandin Cooks drew a defensive pass interference call at the goal line on the next play, and Rex Burkhead plunged into the end zone on the play after that to put the Patriots ahead for the first time tonight.
Burkhead has been a touchdown machine of late, finding the end zone five times over the last three games.
Second quarter, 9:14, Dolphins 6-0: That easily was the Patriots’ best defensive series of the night.
New England forced a Miami three-and-out thanks in large part to a sack by Devin McCourty, who came off the edge on a safety blitz and brought down Jay Cutler.
It was the first substantial pressure the Patriots had applied on Cutler tonight. They sacked Matt Moore seven times when these teams last met two weeks ago.
On a negative note, Alan Branch headed back to the locker room, walking very slowly off the field. That’s bad news for the Patriots’ defense.
Second quarter, 11:11, Dolphins 6-0: The Patriots were able to generate a bit more momentum on their first drive of the second quarter, picking up one first down on an 11-yard Dion Lewis run and another on an 8-yard screen pass to Rex Burkhead.
A second screen to Burkhead came up just short on third-and-4, though, forcing the Patriots to punt.
Second quarter, 15:00, Dolphins 6-0: A ball-security slip-up by Julius Thomas allowed the Patriots to hold the Dolphins scoreless on their third possession.
Thomas beat Patrick Chung across the middle on third-and-12 and appeared to have a lane to the first-down marker, but the ball suddenly popped out of his hands as he raced away from the Patriots safety. Thomas recovered the fumble but was swarmed before he could gain the necessary yardage, resulting in a Miami punt.
Chung broke up a pass intended for Thomas earlier in the drive. Stephon Gilmore was called for pass interference on the following play — his sixth penalty of the season.
In other news, Alan Branch returned to the field after injuring his knee earlier. He appears to be OK.
First quarter, 2:47, Dolphins 6-0: Another brief Patriots drive went nowhere.
Tom Brady has not looked like himself so far tonight, going 0-for-4 with an interception over New England’s first two possessions. The Patriots have just 2 yards of total offense.
First quarter, 3:49, Dolphins 6-0: The Dolphins turned Howard’s interception into their second field goal of the night.
More concerning than the 6-0 deficit, though, is the status of Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch. Branch was taken to the medical tent during the Dolphins’ latest drive with what the Patriots announced was a knee injury. He then proceeded to jog off the field toward the locker room.
Branch is questionable to return. New England’s defense can’t afford to lose many more bodies.
First quarter, 8:15, Dolphins 3-0: That was not the answer the Patriots were looking for.
New England’s first offensive possession consisted of a run for no gain by Rex Burkhead, a throwaway under duress and Tom Brady’s fifth interception of the season.
Brady tried to hit Brandin Cooks deep downfield but had his pass picked off by Xavien Howard, who now has three interceptions in his last two games.
First quarter, 9:01, Dolphins 3-0: Very impressive start by the Dolphins’ offense, which tallied just a field goal but moved the ball at will against New England’s patchwork defense.
Running back Kenyan Drake gashed the Patriots for 26 yards up the middle on Miami’s second offensive play, and Jay Cutler completed passes of 12 yards to Drake, 15 yards to DeVante Parker and 10 yards to Jarvis Landry. Parker’s reception came on fourth-and-1.
New England stiffened up in the red zone, though, stopping Drake in the backfield on first down from the 11 and forcing incompletions on second and third down.
Amazingly, this is the first time the Patriots have trailed since Week 8.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Patriots won the opening coin toss and chose to defer. It’ll be Dolphins ball as we get underway at Hard Rock Stadium.
7:59 p.m.: Even though LaAdrian Waddle is active tonight, it appears he’ll begin the game on the bench.
Cameron Fleming, who played well against the Bills last week, lined up at right tackle during warmups, indicating he’s like starting over Waddle.
7:05 p.m.: Here are tonight’s Patriots inactives:
Chris Hogan, Deatrich Wise, LaAdrian Waddle and Matthew Slater all are active. David Harris appears to be a healthy scratch, though he was seen working out with team doctors before the game.
Jonathan Freeny, who re-signed with the Patriots last week, also is active.
With Harris, Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy all out, the Patriots don’t have many household names left at defensive end and linebacker.
More on tonight’s inactives here.
6:35 p.m.: Reunions galore in pregame warmups. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took a few minutes to chat with former teammates Randy Moss, Charles Woodson and Andre Carter.
Moss and Woodson are working tonight’s game for ESPN, and Carter is a Dolphins assistant coach.
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis also is in the building. Brady stopped to say hello to him, as well.
In non-reunion news, wide receiver Chris Hogan currently is going through his typical pregame routine. It looks like he’s ready to go after missing the past four games with a shoulder injury.
Defensive end Deatrich Wise and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle both worked out for team doctors and trainers — an indication that both are game-time decisions. Wise has since returned to the field for his usual warmup routine, which is a good sign.
4:30 p.m.: A few noteworthy stats as we count down the hours until kickoff:
— Though the Patriots didn’t face much resistance in their last trip to Hard Rock Stadium — a 35-14 win in the 2016 regular-season finale — they have struggled in Miami in the past, losing in each of their previous three visits.
Tom Brady has a winning percentage below .500 (7-8) in 15 career road games against the Dolphins. For comparison’s sake, he’s 14-2 on the road against the Buffalo Bills and 12-4 on the road against the New York Jets.
— The Dolphins have been dreadful in primetime games this season, going 0-3 and surrendering 40-plus points twice. One of those games was a 40-0 spanking against the Baltimore Ravens — easily Miami’s most lopsided defeat of the season — that kicked off a five-game losing streak.
The Patriots are 3-1 in night games, with their lone loss coming against the Kansas City Chiefs in the opener. The wins came over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos.
2:45 p.m. ET: Good afternoon from beautiful Miami Gardens, Fla., where the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins are preparing to square off on “Monday Night Football.”
AFC East champions hats and T-shirts are at the ready at Hard Rock Stadium, as the Patriots can clinch their ninth consecutive division title with a win or tie tonight. The Dolphins, meanwhile, sit just one game back of the final wild-card playoff spot in the AFC but likely need to win out to have any chance of reaching the postseason.
This is the second meeting of the season between the longtime division rivals, with the first coming just two weeks ago. The Patriots won that game 35-17 at Gillette Stadium, sacking Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore seven times and intercepting two of his passes.
Starter Jay Cutler will be back under center for Miami in the rematch. The veteran QB is seeking his first career win over New England, his current track record against the Patriots consisting of three blowout losses.
The Patriots are riding an eight-game winning streak but will be without several key players tonight. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is serving a one-game suspension for his cheap shot on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White last weekend, and defensive end Trey Flowers, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Mike Gillislee and special teamer Brandon King all have been ruled out with injuries.
Eight other players are listed as questionable for New England, including several key contributors. Running back Dion Lewis (illness) and wide receiver Chris Hogan (shoulder) both are expected to play, while defensive end Deatrich Wise (foot) and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) are considered game-time decisions, a source told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
Rounding out the Patriots questionables are cornerbacks Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore, linebacker Marquis Flowers and special teamer Matthew Slater. The inactive lists will be announced around 7 p.m. ET.
Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET, but be sure to check back here throughout the afternoon for full pregame coverage.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images