Patriots 26, Dolphins 28 recap
If nothing else, it was interesting.
The New England Patriots (10-6) wrapped up the regular season with a 28-26 loss to the Miami Dolphins (9-7) Sunday in a game that had a little of just about everything, including a play that hadn't been run successfully for points in more than 60 years.
New England now faces the Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4) in the Wild Card round on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. (ABC, Channel 5).
By now, just about everyone has heard about quarterback Doug Flutie's extra-point drop kick that made the score 28-20 late in the fourth quarter. Everyone knows it's the first drop kick in the NFL since December 1941. Everyone has heard the circumstances of Flutie having tried the play in practice, and the coaches rewarding Flutie's behind-the-scene efforts this season by allowing him to try the play. It was fun and interesting and memorable, but I don't think it was the next greatest play in the Flutie playbook after the Hail Mary against Miami (hmmm, there's some coincidence) on Thanksgiving Day in 1984.
Some have gone so far as to call it a mockery of the game, which is even more ridiculous than calling it his second greatest play. Although it tickled even Bill Belichick, I think he would still ultimately say simply that, "It is what it is," which was an extra point that kept New England within striking distance at the end of the game.
The Pats played the game with mostly backups for a great majority of the game and stayed with one of the hottest and most improved teams in the league, although that warm-weather team never has a lot of luck in these parts. Let's just say circumstances conspired to give us what ultimately was an entertaining and, yes, satisfying game to end the season.
No, I'm not happy about the loss, especially since I've been sermonizing about momentum for a week. I don't like the loss, period. Only two teams have won Super Bowls after losing their final home game. (I'm trying to find where I originally found this stat. If anyone else comes across it, give me a shout. One of the teams was San Francisco.)
It looked like our boys had a real shot at the end -- until weekly emergency quarterback Matt Cassel badly floated the final two-point conversion away from any eligible receiver.
I don't think it looked that convincing. I think, when it came down to it, Belichick wanted the No. 4 seed, and with Kansas City beating Cincinnati, and beating them well and easily all day, Belichick sent in the "dive." No chance a running back stumbles through a hole and sends the game to overtime. A nice little throwaway that no one could conceivable catch, and there's your fourth seed. I don't particularly like this Jacksonville matchup, but I'll discuss that in a couple of previews later in the week.
What else did this game have? It has Cassel's sack for a safety. Those are rare. It had Brady throwing for enough yards to secure his status at the league's top passer of the season with 4,110 yards. I'll write more about Brady, his season stats, and more later this week. It had Vinatieri planting a kickoff out of bounds, giving Miami the ball at their own 30 and leading to the game-winning Olindo Mare field goal -- and something I really don't want to see again, ever, much less in the playoffs coming up.
It had Matt Chatham leading the team in tackles for his first time this season. Ellis Hobbs and Hank Poteat were right behind him. It had the Patriots with six players listed with rushing statistics, a dismal 55 yards on 28 carries (1.97 avg.).
It had Randy Cross calling Belichick "Bill Cowher" at least three times.
The Patriots starting offense had a good opening drive until a catchable ball at the Miami 14 turned into an interception. And that's after another catchable ball was nearly intercepted just a minute earlier. That offense went three-and-out on their second drive, before finally scoring on a short field on their third and final drive. That was set up by a 65-yard Andre Davis kickoff return. Let's hope we see more of the latter than the former.
This game brought a number of streaks to an end: New England's 5-0 record in regular season games in January snapped. The Pats' 9-game winning streak against division opponents in Gillette. A 16-game streak with the weather below 35 degrees. Brady is now 20-1 as a starter when the temperature is 40 degrees or below at kickoff. The Pats lost three home games this season after not losing any the last 2 seasons. The Pats lost at home to Miami for the first time since Drew Bledsoe was quarterback -- why are there so many "since Bledsoe" statistics?
Other streaks continued: New England would have swept the division with a win for the first time. Vinatieri finished the season with 100 points, making him only the second kicker (with Jason Elam) to score 100 points or more in each of their first 10 seasons of kicking. The Patriots have five straight winning seasons. Geez, I thought there were more than this.
The Pats won 10 games this season. The only season the Patriots finished with fewer than 10 wins during the Belichick Brady era was 2002. (Note: The Associated Press says the Patriots have won 10 games for five straight seasons.) That's also the only season they didn't win the Super Bowl; in fact, the didn't make the playoffs. Of course, in every year they won the Super Bowl, they had at least 11 wins.