The Miami Dolphins entered Week 14 with a 5-7 record and essentially playing out the string of a lost season. They did everything possible to throw away a 4-2 start, with an anemic offense and seemingly random personnel changes.
On Monday night, they hosted the New England Patriots, who were 10-2 and coasting into the postseason, like usual. Tom Brady is an MVP candidate, like usual. A win would seal up the AFC East, like usual. Two weeks ago, the Patriots blew out the Dolphins, 35-17. Even with Rob Gronkowski suspended for the game, and a few key injuries on defense, all signs pointed to another ho-hum victory for Bill Belichick and his crew.
Instead, the Dolphins kicked the Patriots square in the teeth. And it was kind of glorious to watch.
Don’t be fooled by the final scoreline of the Miami victory, 27-20. This was a thorough beating, almost from the get-go. The Dolphins jumped out to an early lead after a confident scoring drive that led to a field goal, then Xavien Howard picked off Brady to set up another field goal drive. Clearly flustered by a defense that came to play, Brady ended the first quarter with zero pass completions.
The Pats got their act together somewhat in the second quarter, with Brady leading a touchdown drive that put the Pats up, 7-6. It would’ve been easy to assume they’d roll from there after a rough start.
But Jay Cutler, bless the smokin’ man, marched his team right back down the field and answered in impressive fashion.
Just like that, the Dolphins had a 13-10 halftime lead, and the narrative was flipped upside down.
Things got even better for Miami in the third quarter, when Howard intercepted Brady for a second time. He did an incredible job shutting down Brandin Cooks all night, and this play was no exception.
On the ensuing drive, Cutler hit Jakeem Grant on this beauty of a fade route, putting the Dolphins up two possessions and the Patriots into rare panic mode.
Soon after, Jarvis Landry scored his second touchdown of the night, and the Dolphins put a button on the game. Leading 27-10, they were content to bleed the clock and let Brady make a token comeback bid, but unlike the usual script, Brady couldn’t finish the job this time.
It’s not often you see the Patriots get totally outplayed like this, especially against a divisional opponent they just waxed two weeks ago. Cutler finished his night with three touchdowns and 263 yards on 25-of-38 passing, easily one of his best games all year. Kenyan Drake had a starmaking performance, making the Pats’ defense look foolish all night. He had 25 carries for 114 yards, and five catches for an additional 79 yards. A true multi-faceted threat, Drake may have fans quickly forgetting Jay Ajayi.
In the long run, this game probably won’t mean much. The Dolphins are just 6-7 and need a lot of help to steal a wild card spot. The Pats fall to 10-3, but they’re still in contention for the No. 1 seed, starting with next week’s blockbuster matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. There will be tired hot takes about “New England was looking ahead” and “where was this Miami team all year?” When the season is over, this might barely be a footnote — especially if Brady is lifting the Lombardi Trophy once again.
But for now, let’s soak it in and enjoy that one night where the Dolphins owned the Patriots. That was pretty awesome.