Even before the Miami Dolphins took the field on Sunday against the New England Patriots, they were already thinking about next year.
With the Patriots’ listless performance against Miami on Sunday, they might be accused of thinking about the next two weeks. But that was not the case. New England’s uninspired play, coupled with a strange game plan, led to a 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
Like often throughout their run of greatness, the Patriots are resting players on the final weekend preparing for the playoffs. This year the Patriots had something to play for, though, needing a victory to gain the top seed in the AFC for the NFL playoffs that begin next week.
Miami led at halftime, 10-3 on the strength of a 15-yard scoring pass from Ryan Tannehill to DeVante Parker with just 36 seconds remaining in the first half. But that was not the story.
Patriots’ All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady attempted only five passes in the first half, a record low for him. He completed three of those passes for just 26 yards.
The Patriots showed some life when Brady led New England on an 80-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter. Steven Jackson scored on a 2-yard plunge shortly after Brady and James White hooked up on a 68-yard catch-and-run to the Miami 6.
Tannehill’s 2-yard pass to Jordan Cameron with 6:58 remaining put Miami ahead to stay, 17-10. Andrew Franks’ 19-yard field goal with 1:56 left clinched the victory.
The Patriots generated just 196 yards of offense all day. Miami, on the other hand, put up 438 total yards.
With Miami’s year-long struggles on offense, one would swear the stat lines were mistakenly transposed. With nothing to play for, other than their jobs or the coveted chance to beat the Patriots, the Dolphins excelled in all phases.
Tannehill threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns with Parker accumulating 106 yards receiving and a touchdown. The defense harassed Brady all day. All-Star tight end Rob Gronkowski caught only two balls for 18 yards.
“We earned that win today,” said interim Coach Dan Campbell. “We came out to play and they made the plays they had to. I’m proud of those guys. No, it wasn’t the season we wanted, but that’s how you finish.”
With the loss, the Patriots finish 12-4 and earned the second seed in the AFC. Miami finishes at 6-10.
On Saturday, the Dolphins organization clearly indicated they were looking to next year by parting ways with General Manager Dennis Hickey on Saturday. That almost certainly guarantees the departure of Campbell.
The new general manager will most certainly want to bring in a coach of his choosing. The leading candidate to replace Hickey is reportedly director of college scouting Chris Grier.
Campbell will have the opportunity to interview, but remaining head coach is a long shot at best.
After winning their first two games for Campbell, Miami lost seven of their past 12. New England gave him his first loss as an NFL coach and will apparently represent his last victory as Dolphins’ coach.
With so many personnel decisions, both in the office and on the field, the Dolphins are expected to move quickly. The fates of Tannehill and a few other players hang in the balance.