Three Studs, Three Duds From Patriots’ Ugly Week 18 Loss To Dolphins

What an ugly end to the regular season

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The Patriots suffered a disappointing, potentially impactful loss to the Miami Dolphins in their regular-season finale.

New England was bad in all three phases while suffering a 33-24 defeat at Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots found themselves in an early 14-0 hole, partially thanks to a pick-six from Mac Jones, and never fully recovered, as their spirited fourth-quarter comeback died with a late third-down run from Tua Tagovailoa.

Jones was not good for the majority of this game. The rookie quarterback completed 20 of 30 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown to go along with an interception and a fumble. Tagovailoa completed 15 of 22 pass attempts for 109 yards and a touchdown while adding 38 yards on the ground.

The Patriots also committed eight penalties for 78 yards, many of which were costly.

New England dropped to 10-7 with the loss while Miami improved to 9-8 with the victory. The Patriots’ wild-card round fate now is tied to what happens in Sunday night’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers. A Raiders win will result in New England traveling to Buffalo next weekend, whereas a Chargers victory would send the Patriots to Cincinnati for a matchup with the Bengals.

Each week, we’ll give you three studs and three duds for the Patriots, no matter how hard it might be to fill either category.

Here’s the Week 18 edition:

STUDS
Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB
He wasn’t great or anything, but Bentley did lead the Patriots with 17 combined tackles. He still made his share of mistakes, but he was among New England’s better players all afternoon. Bentley finished the best regular season of his career on a high note.

Hunter Henry, TE
Delivered 86 yards on five receptions, including one of the best catches of the season for New England. The Patriots needed Jones and Henry to connect closer to the goal line, but that doesn’t erase what was another solid game from the star tight end.

Running backs
Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden all played well in this game. The running game as a whole racked up 134 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Bolden also added a touchdown reception.

Honorable mentions: Jakobi Meyers

DUDS
Matthew Judon, OLB
Had a bad roughing-the-passer penalty that nearly resulted in points for the Dolphins and also blew an edge that resulted in a long run for Duke Johnson. Judon was an absolute force in the first half of the season but has not been good down the stretch. His late-season decline is very concerning.

Mac Jones, QB
The receivers deserve some of the blame for the passing game’s struggles, but that doesn’t excuse what was another bad performance from Jones. The rookie quarterback threw a pick-six and fumbled a snap, two errors that absolutely killed the Patriots. Jones made some good throws in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.

Interior offensive line
Jones faced a lot of pressure in this game, especially up the middle. David Andrews struggled at times, and Ted Karras and Shaq Mason weren’t much better. The Patriots should’ve dominated the trenches in this game but came up well short.

Honorable mentions: Coaching; special teams; front seven

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