The Miami Dolphins continue to limp toward the end of the regular season.
With Tua Tagovailoa out again in concussion protocol, the Dolphins fell to the New England Patriots 23-21 at Gillette Stadium on Sunday for their fifth-straight loss. Miami is now on the outside of the AFC playoff picture. The Dolphins will need some serious help next week to make the postseason, something that didn’t seem remotely in doubt a month ago.
“Definitely didn’t expect this, it’s pretty frustrating … You want to get the results you feel like the team deserves and fall short," Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said, via ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques.
The Dolphins were in it for much of the game Sunday, but things fell apart quickly in the second half.
Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down in the third quarter, after throwing a 39-yard pick-six to Pats safety Kyle Dugger. As Dugger was about to reach the end zone, he landed a massive stiff arm to Bridgewater’s face, which sent the quarterback to the ground hard. He was quickly replaced by Skylar Thompson and did not return.
That touchdown gave the Patriots a 16-14 lead, their first since the first quarter when Tyquan Thornton caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones to begin the game.
The Patriots then all but sealed the win with an 11-play, 89-yard drive in the fourth quarter that Jones capped with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers.
Bridgewater finished 12-of-19 for 161 yards with a touchdown and an interception before he went out. Thompson went 12-of-21 for 104 yards with an interception of his own. Thompson mounted one last scoring drive in the final minutes of the game, however, when he found Mike Gesicki for a 4-yard touchdown pass to cut the game to a single possession. That came with 64 seconds left in the game. After a failed onside kick, the Patriots ran out the clock to take the two-point win.
Jones went 20-of-33 for 203 yards with two touchdowns on the day for the Patriots. Rhamondre Stevenson led them on the ground with 42 yards on eight carries.
With the win, New England jumps the Dolphins in the standings for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Though both are 8-8, the Patriots hold the tiebreaker. The Dolphins will have to beat the Jets on Jan. 8 regular-season finale to make the playoffs. Even though that’s a doable task, it will be much more difficult if Bridgewater is still sidelined. McDaniel said he wasn't sure how severe Bridgewater's injury is.
It’s unclear when Tagovailoa will be able to play after he suffering his second official concussion of the season.
A Patriots loss is key next week, too — which looks favorable, at least on paper. New England faces the first-place Bills in Buffalo. If the Patriots win, they're in.
But if the Dolphins can't snap this losing skid, whatever happens with the Patriots next week doesn't matter.
"It’s tough for me. I believe in the people I work with and the players. It’s not fun," McDaniel said, via the Palm Beach Post's Joe Shad. "I am less sad and more angry at how certainly things transpired because I want desperately for guys to get what they deserve. I start with myself."