FOXBORO, Mass. — Talk of the Miami Miracle was sparse in the New England Patriots’ locker room Monday, at least among the handful of players who addressed the media.
?We?ve processed what happened (Sunday), and we?re on to Pittsburgh,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said one day after the Dolphins stunned the Patriots with a 69-yard, last-second, multi-lateral touchdown to steal a 34-33 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. “I don?t think there?s really much else to talk about.?
The loss — New England’s fifth in Miami in the last six years — dropped the Patriots to 9-4 on the season and made it exceedingly difficult for them to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. To do so, they’d need to win their final three games and have the first-place Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime Sunday to improve to 11-2, lose at least twice.
Other Week 14 results did break in the Patriots’ favor, however. The Houston Texans (9-4) and Steelers (7-5-1) both lost, allowing the Patriots to maintain their spot as the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Still, failing to defeat the Dolphins left them little margin for error over the final three weeks of the regular season.
“It is what it is,” center David Andrews said. “We’ve got a lot we can do better. We’ve got a big challenge coming up this week, so that’s what we’re focused on. We can’t do anything to change what happened (Sunday), so we’ve got to move on.”
New England’s next opponent, the Steelers, looked like a contender for the top seed until Thanksgiving. Since then, they’ve lost three in a row and are in danger of falling behind the Ravens, who sit just a half-game back in the AFC North standings at 7-6.
The Patriots’ last meeting with the Steelers featured perhaps the most dramatic finish of the 2017 NFL season, with New England scoring the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining and then picking off Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone after a 69-yard catch-and-run by JuJu Smith-Schuster and a disallowed Jesse James touchdown catch.
Sunday’s matchup at Heinz Field is a virtual must-win for both teams.
“We have a good group of men in here — men of character,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “We work really hard. We’re disappointed with the loss, but it’s time to move on. We’re ready for the Steelers. It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere there. It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. They need a win. We need a win. So it’s going to be a highly competitive game.”