Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The New England Patriots got absolutely shredded on the ground.
This time, though, it led to not only the Patriots’ Week 15 loss at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, but proved to be the knock-out factor as the New England was eliminated from postseason contention for the first time since 2008.
The Miami Dolphins ran the ball 42 times for 250 yards with three rushing touchdowns in their 22-12 win. Notably, it was the franchise’s first 200-plus rushing yard game since 2016.
“Well, I think when you have that kind of success in the run game, it doesn’t just help the quarterback, I think it helps the entire team,” rookie Tua Tagovailoa told reporters postgame. “I think the O-line did a great job today. I think our running backs did a great job as well, finding the running lanes that the O-line gave them, picking their spot in the hole and getting us yards that we needed. I think that was the big reason as to why we were successful today. That helped us in our passing game as well.”
By the sounds of it, it was the exact game plan head coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins had drawn up. After all, the Patriots entered Week 15 as the league’s 23rd ranked rushing defense.
“That defense, it’s a defense that you want to attack on the ground, which will only make throwing the ball easier, make it more effective,” Dolphins offensive lineman Mike Deiter said postgame. “To get those guys running like that, we didn’t have to be perfect as an O-line and they didn’t have to be perfect as backs. But they did a heck of a job and we just had to fit guys up and give them a chance to make plays and they did.”
Miami’s 250 rushing yards were the most allowed by New England this season, eclipsing the 197 tallied by the San Francisco 49ers. Like the Dolphins, the 49ers haven’t recorded more rushing yards this season than they did during that Week 7 game.
Rookie running back Salvon Ahmed, who began the season on the practice squad, ran 23 times for 122 yards with one touchdown. Veteran Matt Breida, who’s struggled in his first campaign with the Dolphins, ran 12 times for 86 yards.
“… I just went out there and tried to do my best and they were able to go out there and make things work. I just followed behind them,” Ahmed said postgame. “The O-line was doing great things and the receivers were blocking down field, so it was fun to be apart of.”
The 6-8 Patriots will conclude their campaign against the AFC East champion Bills and winless New York Jets. The 9-5 Dolphins remain in possession of the AFC’s third and final wild-card spot, and will travel to the Raiders on Saturday night for a Week 16 matchup.