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Patriots want to quickly forget Monday night

The Sports Xchange
December 13. 2017 12:11AM
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on during the second half of Monday night's game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The defending champion New England Patriots had been cruising toward this Sunday afternoon’s trip to Pittsburgh for a showdown with the Steelers that will likely decide the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, simultaneously serving as a rematch of last year’s conference title game and a would-be preview of what’s in store for this January.

But New England’s eight-game winning streak and 14-game road winning streak, second-longest in NFL history dating back to the start of last season, came crashing down in Monday night’s ugly 27-20 loss in Miami that really wasn’t even as close as the final score suggested.

The Dolphins led for most of the game as Tom Brady and Co. lost their fourth game in the last five trips to Miami. Offensively, New England (10-3) couldn’t get anything going on the ground or through the air and went 0-for-11 on third down, the franchise’s worst performance in nearly 30 years.

“Bottom line was we didn’t have a good night offensively in really any area and we were probably fortunate to have the points that we had with a couple of big plays and gained a lot of yards in a few plays,” head coach Bill Belichick said after breaking down the tape from his team’s first loss since Week 4 to the Panthers. “That was probably the best thing that we did, but our overall consistency in the running game and in the passing game wasn’t at a winning level. That’s obvious.”

Said Brady, “It was pretty bad. You can’t get any worse than that so ... We couldn’t stay on the field and just didn’t make enough plays. It’s just a bad night. We’ve had a lot of good nights this year and (this) was a bad night.”

Playing without suspended tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady threw a pair of interceptions, his first multi-pick game of the year, had a season-low 59.5 passer rating and got only 25 yards of help from a ground game that had topped 190 yards rushing in each of the previous two weeks.

While New England was held to as few as 20 points for the first time since Week 5, the defense allowed more than 17 points for the first time since the loss to Carolina. Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler passed for three touchdowns with no interceptions, including two scores to Jarvis Landry. And Kenyan Drake hurt the Patriots as both a runner (114 yards on 25 carries) and a receiver (five catches for 79 yards).

As coaches usually describe good team wins, this was a complementary effort with both sides of the ball very much contributing to the loss.

Now New England has a short week to clean things up, get healthy and prepare for its biggest challenge of the season. Pittsburgh is 11-2.

“We have to spend a little bit of time on the things that we need to make sure that we correct and address or we’ll see them again and they’ll be a problem again and also turn the page and move on to Pittsburgh,” Belichick acknowledged. “Pittsburgh is schematically quite a bit different than Miami, so we can’t dwell on the Miami game. Pittsburgh is a great team. They have their way of doing things and their schemes that they run and we’ll have to start preparing for those.”

And try to regain some of the momentum lost in one dismal performance in Miami.

“It’s a short week and we have a lot to catch up on,” Brady said. “I mean we can’t go up there and play as poorly as we did (against Miami). I think we have to do a lot of things better. I certainly have to do a lot of things better and that’s what my focus will be this week.”

“I’d say everything just centered around consistency,” Belichick said. “At times we did things well enough in the game in all three phases, but not all the time. We’ve just got to do a better job of coaching, playing and being more consistent in all situations, really in all three phases of the game.”

Because next up is the biggest game of the year with plenty of possible ramifications for New England’s would-be title defense on the road to Super Bowl LII.


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