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Other Week 14 Game Recaps

Week 14 Game Recap: New England Patriots 20, Miami Dolphins 27

What you need to know

New England Patriots

-Rob Gronkowski was sorely missed, as the middle of the field wasn't threatened all day against the Dolphins. -With the shoddy protection, the deep ball was non-existent, as routes didn't have time to develop. -This was arguably Tom Brady's most inaccurate game of the season. Whether it was due to the Achilles issue earlier in the week or something else remains to be seen. -The run game barely saw any work due to the game getting out of hand by the early second half.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins had their biggest win of the season on Monday night, defeating division rival New England Patriots, 27-20 to improve their record to 6-7. Jay Cutler played his best ball of the year, completing 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Kenyan Drake was the star of the game, rushing 25 times for 114 yards while also catching five passes for 79 yards. Jarvis Landry made the Patriots pay in the red zone, scoring two touchdowns to go along with eight catches for 46 yards. DeVante Parker caught four passes for 40 yards, while Kenny Stills had two receptions for 18 yards. Jakeem Grant scored the other touchdown for the Miami offense, finishing with two catches for 42 yards. Julius Thomas had a quiet evening, catching only two passes for 11 yards, but his fellow tight ends Anthony Fasano (one catch for 17 yards) and MarQueis Gray (one catch for 10 yards) also saw some playing time on the night as the Dolphins tried their best to take advantage of the Patriots lack of size on the outside. With the win, the Dolphins kept their slim playoff hopes alive and will need to defeat the Buffalo Bills twice in the next three weeks if they want to sneak in the postseason as an AFC wild card team.

New England Patriots

QB Tom Brady, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 43 - 233 - 1 TD / 2 INT
It was an ugly, ugly day for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Brady absolutely did not help the cause, throwing a host of totally off-target passes, getting rattled in the pocket, making poor decisions, and more. His two interceptions were bad underthrows, an oddity considering how well he's thrown the deep ball this year. Brady started off the game poorly, underthrowing several balls, and it went out of control from there. The Patriots didn't convert a single third down, which is history in the bad way for Brady. The line was constantly caving in as well, though even when he had time, Brady was off. His lone score was a short play action toss to James White in the flat. In fact, running backs were a theme on the day, as Brady completed most of his passes to backs instead of wide receivers due to limited time and great coverage on many plays. Rob Gronkowski's absence was also very noticeable, as without him and Julian Edelman, Brady barely threw to the middle of the field. There wasn't much else to say about the performance other than it was abysmal, but maybe it was a ‘get it out of the system' kind of game. Unless the Achilles injury bothers him, he should be back to form soon.

RB Rex Burkhead, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 8 - 1, Rec: 5 - 45 - 0 (5 targets)
Similarly to Dion Lewis, Burkhead wasn't able to get anything going on the ground, and the Patriots had to abandon the run game in the second half. He was involved in the passing game, but there were no big or spark plays to speak of. Burkhead did score a 1 yard touchdown on the ground after a pass interference call got the Pats to the goal line. He should see more success going forward.

RB Dion Lewis, 18 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 17 - 0, Rec: 5 - 50 - 0 (5 targets)
The entire Patriots offense was unable to get anything going against the Dolphins, the running game included. In fact, with the way the game unfolded, it was the Patriots who had to abandon the running game in the second half. As a result, Dion Lewis wasn't used much on the ground, though he was utilized heavily in the passing game. His best play was a one handed snare of a lob pass from Tom Brady, but other than that, there weren't many standout plays on offense.

RB James White, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 11 - 1 (4 targets)
As with the last few weeks, White played a bit role on offense, even with the Pats in throw-only mode for much of the second half, which was surprising. White did score the only passing touchdown of the day on a play action flat route.

WR Danny Amendola, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 76 - 0 (9 targets)
Amendola was the only wide receiver who was able to do anything against the Dolphins, but all his damage came when the Patriots were in throw-only mode. Expect his workload to dwindle with Gronk back from suspension.

WR Chris Hogan, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (5 targets)
In his first game back from injury, Chris Hogan was simply beat by coverage and inaccurate quarterbacking. As a result, he caught one pass for one yard. Better days are assuredly ahead.

WR Brandin Cooks, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 38 - 0 (7 targets)
Due to a combination of Tom Brady getting harassed in the pocket, inaccurate passing, and being smothered in coverage, Brandin Cooks got nothing going besides a 38 yard chunk play. Xavien Howard dominated Cooks in coverage for most of the day, and actually intercepted two underthrown passes intended for Cooks. The speedy wide receiver did also get a pass interference call at the 1 yard line, but all in all, it was a matchup that was won by the defense.

Miami Dolphins

QB Jay Cutler, 73 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 38 - 263 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 4 - 0
Jay Cutler completed 25 of 38 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Dolphins win over the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. It was only the third game this season where Cutler did not turn the ball over. In his first six starts of the season, Cutler averaged 165 yards passing with seven touchdowns to five interceptions, however in his last five games, he is averaging 221 yards passing with 11 touchdowns to only six interceptions. From the very first drive of the game, Cutler went after the porous New England secondary and attacked their cornerbacks. This helped Kenyan Drake immensely, as the Patriots were unable to stack the box and slow him down, and it allowed the Dolphins to move the ball consistently. Even when they did not score points, the Dolphins controlled field position and forced Tom Brady into long drives that wore down a lot of clock. Cutler definitely missed some throws, but he also did a great job of avoiding the New England pass rush, taking only two sacks on the night with one of them coming on completely blown coverage where he had no choice but to go down. Cutler was able to manipulate the pocket well, stepping up when he felt it collapsing around him, which gave his receivers time to get open in space. Cutler completed only two passes of 20+ yards, but it was the intermediate passes where he really threw the ball well. You wouldn’t have guessed it by the Dolphins terrible third down conversion percentage (4/14, 28%), however he did have nine first down conversions on first and second down. His long gain of the night went on a straight go-route to Kenyan Drake who was lined up on the outside on the right side of the formation. Drake got a step on his defender and Cutler threw him perfectly open 42 yards downfield on a rope, which went for a 47 yard gain. If Drake did not trip soon after catching the ball, it had a great chance of going for a touchdown.

RB Kenyan Drake, 66 offensive snaps, Rush: 25 - 114 - 0, Rec: 5 - 79 - 0 (6 targets)
The Patriots simply did not have an answer for Drake on this night, both as a runner and a pass catcher. The Dolphins coaching staff knew that in order for them to beat the Patriots, they needed to get Drake into space where he could create big plays with his speed, and that is exactly what he did. Drake lined up as an outside receiver and in the slot, and even on the plays where he motioned to the outside and did not catch the ball, the Patriots secondary paid him so much attention that opened up lanes for Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. Drake’s biggest play of the night came on a 47 yard catch, where he lined up on the right side of the formation on the outside hash mark. Drake ran a straight go-route and had a step on his defender almost immediately, allowing Jay Cutler to hit him in stride for a big gain. Drake stumbled soon after catching the ball, or it would have most likely gone for a 65+ yard touchdown. Drake also had runs of 26 and 31 yards where he abused New England’s defensive line. On both plays, Drake looked dead to rights, as he Patriots defenders were in the backfield almost simultaneously as he received the hand off. On the first play, Drake planted his outside foot and juked the defender before doing the same thing at the line of scrimmage and bursting into the secondary for a 26 yard gain. On the second play, Drake put a nasty spin move on a New England defender before bursting to the outside and gaining 31 yards down to the New England four yard line. There are only a handful of players in the league who could have avoided getting stopped for negative yards, let alone gain 57 yards combined on the two plays.

WR Jarvis Landry, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 46 - 2 (8 targets)
Jarvis Landry caught all eight of his targets for 46 yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins win over the Patriots on Monday night. Landry converted both of his red zone targets into touchdowns, and despite his rather low yardage total, he was a big part of the Dolphins passing game. Four of Landry’s eight catches came on first down, which allowed the Dolphins to open their entire playbook up on second down and this is where Miami attacked the New England secondary. On Landry’s first score, Jay Cutler ran a play-action bootleg to the right side of the formation, and Landry ran a shallow dig route across the field in front of Cutler. He caught the ball at the four yard line, put a hesitation move on his defender before dragging him across the goal line for a touchdown. Landry’s second touchdown catch came when Jay Cutler was given an eternity in the pocket and was able to manipulate the Patriots linebackers into leaving Landry wide open in the middle of the end zone. It was an easy pitch and catch for a touchdown, and it marked Landry’s eighth touchdown catch in his last ten games. His eight touchdowns have doubled his totals from the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Landry will have another great matchup next week against the Buffalo Bills, and Miami will need some more big games out of him if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

WR DeVante Parker, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 40 - 0 (6 targets)
DeVante Parker caught four of his six targets for 40 yards against the Patriots. Jay Cutler tried to get Parker going right from the jump on an easy crossing route, but he looked up and downfield before he was able to secure the catch. The drop was a continuation of a trend that has destroyed Parker’s fantasy value over the second half of the season. The 40 yards was his highest yardage total in his last four games, but on a night where Jay Cutler threw the ball 38 times, Parker should have played a much bigger role in the Dolphins passing offense. It would be an understatement to say that Cutler has lost faith in Parker, as the drops have mounted and so have the number of interceptions that Cutler has recorded on plays where he targeted Parker.

WR Kenny Stills, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (4 targets)
Kenny Stills caught two of his four targets for 18 yards against the Patriots on Monday night. This was Stills lowest yardage total in his last nine games, and his two catches were his lowest reception total over the same span. The Dolphins dominated this game from the very start, so Jay Cutler was playing with the lead and did not have the same urgency to throw the ball downfield as he would normally have. Stills weekly production is almost always going to come down to whether he is able to generate or two big plays, and despite Cutler favoring Stills over Parker in the passing game, Parker is still the preferred option in two wide receiver sets as he is the superior blocker.

TE Julius Thomas, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 (4 targets)
Julius Thomas two of his four targets for 11 yards against the Patriots, although his stat line could have very easily been much bigger had Jay Cutler not missed him on two deep throws. The Dolphins lined Thomas up on the outside looking to exploit the matchup against the Patriots cornerbacks where he has the size and strength to outmuscle them down the field. On one such play, Thomas actually had a step on his defender but Cutler led him too far down the field. Cutler also had Thomas wide open down the field when the Patriots safeties took a poor angle, but once again he threw the ball too high for Thomas to corral and it went as an incompletion. Thomas also did not help his cause by fumbling the ball on one of his two catches, although he did recover the ball to keep the Dolphins drive alive. Thomas is never going to be a high volume receiver in the Dolphins offense, and he is nothing more than a touchdown dependent option at this point in the season.