Two New England Patriots streaks ended Sunday: their 11-year playoff streak, the longest in NFL history, and their nine-game winning streak against starting rookie quarterbacks.
The Patriots lost 22-12 to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, a defeat that eliminated them from the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since 2003. Tua Tagovailoa became the first rookie starting quarterback to notch a victory against the Pats since Geno Smith in 2013.
The Dolphins closed strong, but they didn’t run the table the whole game. Offense was a struggle from the start. Tua threw an interception in the end zone at the end of the first quarter, his second of the year.
A single graze of the football led to a heartbreaker: the Dolphins returned a Cam Newton fumble for a touchdown, but it was called back when the review revealed that the ball had grazed the thigh of a Dolphin who had one foot out of bounds. The ball was dead, the play didn’t count, and the Fins didn’t even get a fumble recovery.
A missed field goal from 52 yards meant the Dolphins got shut out in the first half, while the Patriots managed to avoid major blunders (besides that Newton fumble) and went back to the locker room with a 6-0 lead.
Second half surge
The second half started much differently. The Dolphins scored a touchdown on their opening drive and claimed a one-point lead. Two plays later the Fins forced a fumble and got the ball right back.
They didn’t score on that drive, and the Patriots scored a field goal on their next possession. How did the Dolphins respond? With a Tua rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion, which gave them a six-point lead.
The Patriots attempted to get closer, cutting the deficit to three with a field goal. But time was running out, and the Dolphins could smell blood, and victory, in the water. They marched down the field and scored a touchdown to make it a 10-point game, and managed to keep the Pats from scoring again, or even getting close, by handing out a couple of sacks to Newton.
The guard is changing in the NFL. The Patriots are finally on the outside looking in, and they’ll have to live with that — for now, at least.
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