MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers had one of the most disruptive games of his four-year career Sunday. He registered two sacks, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hits, one of which forced an incompletion against the Miami Dolphins. Yet he sat at his locker with his head in his hands and a towel slumped over his shoulders, shutting himself out from the outside world after the game.
“It was tough,” Flowers repeated when asked for his reaction to the Patriots’ 34-33 last-second shocking loss to the Dolphins. The Patriots were seven seconds away from beating the Dolphins in Miami for only the second time in six years. Then they let up a 69-yard multi-lateral play that saw Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake scamper into the end zone to give Miami a walk-off win.
“We had one more play left, and they scored,” Flowers said. “It’s going to be tough, but we still got a lot of games left, so gotta just bounce back.”
The Patriots’ locker room was catatonic. The only real noise, over the sound of reporters asking players questions followed by short, quiet, dejected answers, was the sound of a player’s children peppering questions to two patient offensive linemen.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, like Flowers, had a strong showing Sunday. He caught eight passes on eight targets for 107 yards with a touchdown in what has been a trying season for him. He also failed to tackle Drake on the final play of the game.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s good enough, but it just shows what happens when you lose,” Gronkowski said. “You can have a great game, whatever, but if you don’t get the W, it really doesn’t matter. We’ve just got to always find ways to do more and just be ready to play 60 minutes of football every single time you step on the field.”
Wide receiver Josh Gordon is a little more used to losing than Flowers and Gronkowski. The Cleveland Browns were 20-76-1 in his six-plus seasons in the organization. So, does he handle losses a little tougher now?
“I think when things are going your way for a period of time, the season ebbs and flows,” Gordon said. “When things are going great, you’re feeling good. When they’re not, it just depends on how you’re going to bounce back. Being here, I think we’re a tough group of guys. We can handle it. We can bounce back, going to Pittsburgh after this one. It’s a tough way to leave Miami, but we’re here now.”
The Patriots still hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but it’s now highly unlikely they could clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs over the Kansas City Chiefs, who currently sit at 11-2 and hold the top seed. The Patriots would have to win out and hope the Chiefs lose two of three games against the Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders to close out their season.
The Patriots have the Steelers, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills left on the docket. A win over Miami would have helped. And now they must bounce back.