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Notes and Observations, Week 15: Patriots Let One Slip Away Against Dolphins

Danny Amendola can't hold on to the possible game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter Carter)

With the Broncos loss on Thursday night, the Patriots had a chance to claim the number one seed in the AFC. All they had to do was win the rest of their games. How did they respond? They let a very winnable game slip away to a division rival who is making a late season playoff push of their own. Since the Bengals lost as well, the Patriots hang on to the number two seed for now. The loss makes the game next week against the Ravens, a team making a late season surge of their own, a must win.

- Starting off, tons of credit has to be given to the Miami Dolphins. They played a great football game. Ryan Tannehill was terrific and on point with his receivers all game. It wasn’t that the Patriots defenders were blowing coverage. For the most part the defenders were right on the Miami receivers, Tannehill was just putting the ball where only his receivers could make a play on the ball. Some great sideline catches were thrown in, and that’s how Tannehill finished 25-37 for 312 yards, three touchdowns and a QBR of 120.6. The Dolphins simply made more plays than the Patriots and that was the difference in a close divisional game.

- A cause for concern on this defense is the fact that they were being outmatched by inside slants all game. You have to think Aqib Talib is still being bothered by that hip injury as he didn’t line up on the outside all game. He was reserved for the nickel corner in their nickel set all game. This left Kyle Arrington to man the outside, which we have seen all season is his weakness. All in all he didn’t play poorly, and even picked up a key sack on a corner blitz.

- Steve Gregory had another poor showing. The Mike Wallace touchdown at the end of the first half which gave the Dolphins momentum was because of a terrible angle Gregory took towards Wallace. Marquice Cole came in for Arrington who came up lame a couple plays before. Cole had good coverage on Wallace, just missed a tip and couldn’t wrap him up. Gregory came in and looked as if he was going for a strip and Wallace just shuffled passed him and walked into the endzone. On that 4th and 5 that the Dolphins converted on their final drive, Gregory had the play blow up in the backfield but missed the tackle which could have ended the game. I know Gregory gets plenty of praise for his efforts in the run game, but he has been awful all season against the pass.

- It wasn’t all bad for the defense as they performed well against the run, which is always a bright spot considering how they’ve been getting gashed recently. Sealver Siliga saw more playing time again, and got the nod over Joe Vellano and Isaac Sopoaga for the start next to Chris Jones. Siliga is another no-name that Belichick has trotted out there on defense and he is making a very positive impact. He provides a large presence in the middle which has been greatly missed since Wilfork went down, but he also showed some agility when he got to Tannehill for a sack. The defense totaled four sacks on the day, as they continue to show the ability to get to the quarterback.

- The blame for this loss falls on the offense. Really it can be attributed to the first drive. They marched down the field on 15 plays, got to the two-yard line and settled for a field goal. They had 2nd and goal on the two and passed the ball on second and third down. LeGarrette Blount ran through the defense that entire drive and you mean to tell me they don’t trust him to finish off the last two yards? Josh McDaniels play calls continue to confuse me and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

- All the media is talking about is the impact of not having Rob Gronkowski. I am sick of hearing how will they adapt without Gronk. Tom Brady showed he can play just fine without him. In fact, Brady was 34-55 for 364 and two touchdowns while throwing to three slot receivers and a couple of back-up tight ends. The issue isn’t the passing game it’s the fact that they shy away from a balance of pass and run. The running backs combined for 22 carries and 96 yards, so it’s not like they don’t produce. The big issue here is why they aren’t running the ball more. If you have a weakness due to an injured receiver, maybe go more towards a balanced offense to take the pressure off the passing game.

- Julian Edelman deserves an immense amount of credit this season. Everyone was talking about who will replace Wes Welker. There were plenty of question marks surrounding Edelman as he had never played a full season and never had more than 21 catches. He finished Sunday with 13 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. It’s almost hard to believe that a few years ago he was a quarterback in college and now he is fifth in the NFL in receptions with 89. He is the definition of a professional football player and it has been incredible watching what he can accomplish out on the field.

- I know it’s hard to imagine that people don’t give Brady enough credit, but I really don’t think they do. He is performing this year with a make shift offensive line and a who’s who of a receiving corps and is still playing as good as anyone in the league. I would love to see what other quarterbacks would do with the offense that was placed upon Tom Brady. His top receivers last year are in Denver, in jail, and on injured reserve. He’s throwing to three slot receivers, a few rookies, and tight ends with names you can hardly pronounce. As frustrating as it has been at times watching this offense, it may be the best coaching job done by Belichick and his staff, as well as the best performance by Brady. Sure his stats aren’t up there where they normally are, but once again look at what he has to work with. Remarkable.

- Edelman got the praise he deserves, now it’s Danny Amendola’s turn. He also had a 100+ yard day and did it making some great grabs while absorbing hits. The biggest thing to take away from the passing game is that these slot receivers who are forced to play outside due to injury, will be better when the outside threats of Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins come back. It’s probably not too reassuring saying they get two rookie receivers back the offense will be better, but those two provide the outside the numbers threat that Edelman, Amendola, and Collie don’t bring to the table.

- A quick mention goes out to Austin Collie and Josh Boyce. Collie has only been called upon a handful of times but every time his number is called he produces some quality catches. As long as he stays healthy he provides great veteran depth for the end of the season and the post season. Boyce has emerged recently due to the injuries to Dobson and Thompkins. He only had four catches for 42 yards, but he’s making the plays they ask him to make. He also is bulkier than the rest of the receivers which provides a nice change of pace to the receiving cast.

- Stephen Gostkowski has had a pro bowl caliber year, there’s no doubt about that. The kickoff out of bounds at the end of the game is completely unacceptable. There is just no way that can happen and I imagine Gostkowski won’t let that happen again. Of course who’s to say the Dolphins still don’t march down the field and score leaving even less time for Brady. We’ll never know, but you still can not kick the ball out of bounds ever, especially at the end of the game.

- The last two games of the season are more crucial then ever. Next week they play the Ravens in Baltimore and that won’t be an easy game at all. They need to win to clinch the division and continue to be on pace for the number two seed. Also there is always the chance the Broncos lose another game which would give them the chance for the number one. At this point the number one seed isn’t a point of focus. The focus is still win the division and that can’t be done until they win another game.

About Steve Bastek - @sbastek12

Graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BA in Communication studies. I've been a Boston sports fan all my life and enjoy having the opportunity to write about it.

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