- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: Despite a strong effort, the Dolphins (3-4) dropped their fourth straight game and their first two in the AFC East. Miami spent its entire offseason trying to close the gap with the Patriots. It looked good for the first half following a fast start. The Dolphins led 17-3 at halftime. But New England turned it on at home and rode the wave of 24 unanswered points in the second half to get the victory. You have to wonder when things will turn around for the Dolphins. Miami has not won since Sept. 22, but the effort is there.
Stock Watch: Rising: New Dolphins left tackle Bryant McKinnie played relatively well in his Miami debut. Coming off just three days of practice, McKinnie did a solid job on New England defensive end Chandler Jones. McKinnie should improve once he gets more time to learn the offense. Miami defensive tackle Jared Odrick also had arguably his best game of the year with four tackles and two sacks.
Falling: Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis and quarterback Ryan Tannehill had two game-changing plays that hurt Miami. Sturgis missed a key 46-yard field goal in the third quarter that ultimately led to New England's first touchdown. He also had a field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. Tannehill was sacked by Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan and fumbled in the third quarter. New England tied the score with another touchdown. Tannehill also threw two interceptions.
The officiating also was shaky. The Dolphins had a few questionable calls against them, including a 10-yard penalty for illegal batting of the ball by Olivier Vernon that kept New England’s drive alive and led to a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Big loss: Miami’s receiving corps took a big hit in the first quarterback when slot receiver Brandon Gibson suffered a left knee injury. Gibson went high for a pass and landed awkwardly. He was carted to the locker room. Gibson is expected to miss significant time. Miami has only three healthy receivers on its 53-man roster and most likely will sign another from the practice squad or in free agency.
What’s next: The Dolphins will not have a lot of time to recover from this tough loss. They will host the first-place Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. This could be Miami’s last chance to make something significant of its season. The Dolphins, who had preseason playoff aspirations, can get back to .500 with a victory. A loss to Cincinnati would make it five straight and put a major dent in any hopes of a postseason run.