AFC East: 2013 Week 15 NE at MIA Rapid Reaction
December, 15, 2013
By James Walker | ESPN.com
MIAMI -- Thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday.
What it means: The Dolphins picked up their biggest victory of the season to improve to 8-6 thanks to a late touchdown pass by quarterback Ryan Tannehill to running back Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 remaining and a big defensive stop to end the game. Unheralded safety Michael Thomas picked off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the end zone with two seconds remaining. Miami also snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Patriots (10-4), who still hold a firm lead in the AFC East. However, the Dolphins hold sole possession of the final wild-card spot in the AFC -- even if just for a day. The Baltimore Ravens (7-6) have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami and will try to reclaim the sixth seed when they play the Detroit Lions on “Monday Night Football."
Stock Watch: Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace had another solid performance. Wallace had six receptions for 105 yards and a 39-yard touchdown catch before halftime. It was Wallace’s fourth 100-yard game of the season. Wallace’s chemistry with Tannehill has improved tremendously in the second half of the season.
In terms of stock down, the Patriots did a terrific job to shut down Miami tight end Charles Clay. New England made a concerted effort to stop Clay by rolling extra coverage his way. Clay had zero receptions in the first half and just one reception in the game.
Field goal folly: Miami had a costly mistake in the first half. Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis lined up for a 42-yarder that was botched as Miami was going for the tie before halftime. Long-snapper John Denney snapped the ball to an unsuspecting Brandon Fields, and the ball hit Fields in the helmet. The Patriots recovered and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive before the half.
What’s next: The Dolphins will hit the road for their final road game of the regular season to play the Buffalo Bills Sunday in an effort to split the season series. The Bills upset the Dolphins in Miami 23-21 in Week 7. The Dolphins will need to win this game to firmly remain in the playoff hunt.
December, 15, 2013
By Mike Reiss | ESPN.com
MIAMI -- Thoughts on the New England Patriots' 24-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium:
What it means: The Patriots fall to 10-4 and miss out on the chance to clinch the AFC East. Furthermore, after they had the door open to potentially earn a No. 1 playoff seed with wins in their final three games, that opportunity is now off the board. This game came down to a few plays, as many of the Patriots' games have this season. A gutsy call by the Dolphins to go for it on fourth down on their winning march was a biggie. The Patriots had a valiant final drive that fell just short.
Up-and-down defense can't hold: When the Patriots needed their defense to come up with the stop, the unit couldn't deliver. It didn't help that normally reliable kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted a kickoff out of bounds, giving Miami the ball at the 40-yard line. The injury-ravaged defense had its moments, but two things stand out: (1) When it needed to come up with the big stop in the big moment, it couldn't; (2) The turnovers have dried up the past two weeks, and that's not good news for a D that thrives on them. Without those turnovers, the D is vulnerable.
Great finish: From a pure football standpoint regardless of rooting interest, most would agree that this was another thrilling finish. The Patriots' resilience was on display again, as they showed they are a tough team to knock out. The Dolphins deserve credit for doing so -- as it took all 60 minutes.
Stock watch: Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui earns a spot here for a sensational one-handed 13-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. The Patriots had been stopped in the red zone on their first trip, and just when it seemed like the loss of Rob Gronkowski was playing a major role in the team's red zone struggles ... Hoomanawanui delivered. Still, red zone struggles overall were an issue in the game.
Injuries to monitor: Starting left tackle Nate Solder, who had been on the injury report with a concussion, left the game in the second half and did not return. The team announced that he had a head injury. ... There was no official announcement, but rookie receiver/kickoff returner Josh Boyce didn't finish the game, with Austin Collie taking his place. That could have been performance-related.
What's next: The Patriots visit the Ravens on Sunday. The game will kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET after being flexed out of prime time.