1:00 p.m. ET
Key Coaching Decision #1: (NE ball, leading 27-21 / first-and-goal, MIA 2 / 0:21 Q2)
• The Patriots had exhausted all of their timeouts, but in this particular situation, a field goal at minimum seemed a certainty. Instead, the Patriots botched the series and the Dolphins sacked quarterback Tom Brady on the final play of the first half and prevented a certain nine-point lead by the Patriots going into the half. The Patriots typically don’t leave points on the board like this, and it would come back to hurt them.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (NE ball, leading 30-28 / first-and-goal, MIA 7 / 1:50 Q4)
• The Patriots clearly had victory in their grasp. The Patriots cause Miami to burn its final timeout, and the Patriots ran the ball three consecutive times to the Miami 4-yard line. With 21 seconds left to go in the game, the Patriots settled for a field goal and a 33-28 lead. The Patriots made no real attempt to attack the end zone and pursue a possible nine-point lead. The game still seemed to be in hand, however…
Key Coaching Decision #3: (MIA ball, trailing 33-28 / first-and-10, MIA 31 / 0:06 Q4)
• With Miami in desperation mode, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick employed a defense where he rushed four defenders and had offensive players such as Rob Gronkowski protecting the goal line. Miami successfully executed a hook-and-two-lateral play for the winning score. It was the longest game-ending play in NFL history. It appeared to us that several Patriots players were out of position in trying to defend the play, and this probably will go down as one of Belichick’s greatest game management failures.
• The Dolphins gashed the Patriots defense on the ground, led by ageless running back Frank Gore. It has been a while since we have seen a Patriots defense play so poorly on run defense.
• The Dolphins were clearly mentally prepared for this game, and showed great resiliency. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase did an excellent job in keeping his team poised throughout the game. It is puzzling why the Dolphins cannot put forth the same effort and concentration on a more consistent basis.
• Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point and a crucial field goal in this game, and on other kicks did not appear very confident. This will bear watching as the Patriots make their march toward the postseason.