The New England Patriots officially fell out of playoff contention this afternoon in a 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins. This game provided the final verdict that this Patriots team is not up to par, and that there is some work to be done over the upcoming offseason. The Cam Newton experiment has run it’s course, and it’s time to work on finding the next solution at quarterback.
This game got away from the Patriots in the second half. After leading at the half 6-0, the Dolphins flipped the script and unleashed a ferocious rushing attack that dismantled the Patriots defense. The Dolphins as a team finished with 250 rushing yards on 42 carries, which averages out to six yards per carry, which is a ridiculously high number. Most of those yards came in the second half, as the Patriots had absolutely no answer for the Dolphins.
It’s amazing that the Patriots couldn’t figure this out and react accordingly. Even when the Dolphins were throwing the football, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was rarely throwing it very far down the field. The defense should have played the way opposing defenses have defended the Patriots offense, which would amount to stacking the box and forcing more downfield throws. Yet time after time, the defense allowed the Dolphins to control the line of scrimmage, while they just sat back and watched. It was a disappointing effort to watch from the supposed strength of this team.
Offensively the struggles continued. Cam Newton and the offense could move the ball pretty comfortably between the 20’s, but the Dolphins red zone defense tightened up and prevented the Patriots from finding the end zone for the second week in a row. Too often this offense falls into the same predictable play calling habits, courtesy of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, which makes it way easier for the defense to stop it.
The Patriots were not very careful with the football either, and were lucky to get away relatively unscathed in that category. Newton fumbled but Christian Wilkins touched the ball while he was out of bounds, which negated a touchdown return by Xavien Howard. Howard also forced a fumble from Jakobi Meyers, but the Miami offense couldn’t turn it into points.
At this point, there’s no reason to continue playing Cam Newton. The next two games are worth nothing, and it seems unlikely Newton will be under center again come next season. He’s been a true professional in his time in New England, but hasn’t been able to consistently put up good enough results when he takes the field. It’s time to play Jarrett Stidham and see if he’s got anything that could help out, while also getting a head start on the offseason preparations. With the playoffs officially out of the picture, there is truly nothing to gain from putting Newton in charge of the offense from here on out.
So, for the first time since 2008, the Patriots will fall short of the playoffs. It seems quite likely that the team will finish under .500 for the first time since 2000. This is not a situation that Patriots fans are accustomed to after so many years of success, and it’s unfortunate the team finds itself in this position. There will be a lot of what ifs regarding this season, but we’ve been seen time and again from this team that they are not playoff material. It’s time for them to accept their fate and move forward towards building a competitor next year.