Week 15 – Miami @ New England: Pats dole out revenge on ‘phins

On September 7, I dragged myself out of bed at the insane hour of 3 am to catch the first game of the 2014 NFL season for New England. All the waiting finally over. I was pretty hyped.

Unfortunately my good mood was short-lived. New England lost the season opener down in Miami. Things were looking good at halftime, with the Patriots in the lead, but the Dolphins played well after the break. The Patriots offense looked rusty. Tom Brady appeared unsure of his receivers and his offensive line. Miami won 33-20.

Miami players didn’t miss the opportunity to let New England know all about it afterwards. They said the Patriots quit in that game, and how easily they were able to take it to them in response to that.

The biggest boasting came from Mike Wallace – “I had a fumble early in the game, Lamar had a fumble, we had a double move that should have been a touchdown, we had an interception when I ran a post that should have been a touchdown, we had a throw to Clay that should have been a touchdown, we missed wide-open ones. That’s already 21 more points, so we could have had 50.”

Just the sort of ammunition the Patriots would use when the teams’ met in the rematch later in the season – on December 14.

Coach Bill Belichick organised for banners to be displayed in the team locker room before the game. Written on them were some select quotes from Dolphin players about that Week One game. The aim was to get the team hungry for revenge. When you are three weeks out from an almost certain playoffs appearance, you need to provide all the motivation you can get.

I woke up at the slightly more agreeable hour of 5 am this time to watch the rematch. Things didn’t immediately go to plan. Ryan Tannehill launched a 50-yard bomb to Wallace. But they stalled and couldn’t get another first down. The field goal attempt was blocked by Jamie Collins and the ball bounced straight back up into the hands of Kyle Arrington who took off towards the opposite end zone. A 7-0 lead within a couple of minutes, and Brady hadn’t even touched the ball.

A second quarter touchdown to Shane Vereen appeared to add more breathing space. But the Dolphins weren’t about to give this one up so quickly. They were playing for their season. A few field goals, and then with under a minute left in the half, Wallace made a difficult catch in the end zone corner to get the scores back to 14-13 in favour of the Patriots.

Things just looked a little off for New England. Miami was doing really well at putting Brady under a bit of pressure.

The good news is it broke open in the third quarter. On the opening drive, Brady needed to make a third down. Finding no good targets, the world’s slowest quarterback decided it was time to go for a run. 17 lumbering yards later and he had it, as well as large cheers from the adoring home fans. Seconds later and a hand-off to LeGarrette Blount (thanks again Steelers) had the Patriots up eight points.

Meanwhile the Dolphins offense completely stalls. Tannehill can make some nice passes, but can’t get points on the board. And a couple of interceptions don’t help. I actually do think he’s a decent quarterback. Of the rival QBs in the AFC East, I respect his ability the most. It must be frustrating for Dolphins fans who see him play very well some weeks, only to fall in a hole the next. If Miami wants to live up to their potential and actually make the playoffs, they need him to step up more consistently.

As for Brady, well he’s finally found rhythm again. A beautiful pass through the tiniest of windows gets Rob Gronkowski over the line. Another to Julian Edelman late in the third quarter puts the Patriots ahead by 25. It’s over. Just one field goal in an uneventful last quarter to put the final score at 41-13.

New England got their revenge for that season-opener. The Miami players may have felt good about themselves after that win in September. But in December, it was the Patriots who got it done. For all Miami’s talk and potential, they will again miss the playoffs.

The win gave the Patriots the AFC East title again. It’s nice, but it’s January we care about. New England holds the first seed, and if they win out they get home field advantage. Any slip-up and New England potentially has to face Denver and Peyton Manning at Mile High.

Our remaining games are the New York Jets and Buffalo. I never underestimate the Jets as they love to play out of their skins against us. But their season is a train wreck. The final game against the Bills worries me. They did something we couldn’t do and beat Green Bay. The Patriots need to keep that motivation going so that the road to the Super Bowl does indeed go through Foxborough.

Dec 14
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA (68,756)

Miami 3 10 0 0 – 13
New England 7 7 24 13 – 41

Passing: Ryan Tannehill (MIA), 346 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT’s
Rushing: Jonas Gray (NE), 11 car, 62 yds
Receiving: Mike Wallace (MIA) – 5 rec, 104 yds, 1 TD
Pigskin Almanac “Wes Who?” award: Julian Edelman (NE)

About

Sam Wilkinson lives in Melbourne, Australia. His appreciation for the New England Patriots sees him awake at some ridiculous hours just to catch their game. Like all Pats fans, he refuses to admit that one day Tom Brady will get old and have to retire.

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