FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots were content to go into halftime tied with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in their 27-24 Week 17 loss. That decision to play conservatively might have cost them the game and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Here’s how the series of events transpired:
The Dolphins ran the ball for no gain on third-and-10 with 1:51 left in the first half with the score knotted at 10-10. The Patriots had three time outs but elected not to stop the clock and let it run down to 1:05 before the Dolphins punted.
That gave the Patriots the ball at their own 25-yard line with 57 seconds left in the second quarter. Sony Michel ran for a 2-yard loss, the Patriots still didn’t take a time out, and then James White ran for a 7-yard gain before New England departed for their locker room tied at the half.
“Yeah, we would have (called a time out) if we got a first down,” Bill Belichick said after the game.
He seemingly meant on the first play of the drive, Michel’s 2-yard loss.
“We weren’t executing great, so I can understand the decision,” quarterback Tom Brady said.
The Patriots had 169 yards on offense in the first half. Brady went 5-of-12 for 92 yards with a pick-six. The Patriots ran the ball 16 times for 77 yards with a touchdown through the first two quarters.
The Patriots played better offensively in the second half. Brady went 11-of-17 for 129 yards with two touchdowns. The Patriots carried the ball 11 times for 58 yards.
The Patriots had deferred at the beginning of the game, so they got the ball to start the second half. They came out with a three-and-out, however.
The Patriots eventually took a 24-20 lead with just over four minutes to play in the game. The Patriots’ defense let up a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 3:29 off the clock in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Patriots then had just 25 seconds to tie or win the game, which they failed to do.
In a game where every point counted, the Patriots could have used some with some well-timed time outs to finish off the first half.
The Patriots now hold the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs and will have to play an as-yet-to-be-decided opponent next weekend. A win would have meant the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. Ouch.