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Week 17 Game Recap: New England Patriots 10, Miami Dolphins 20


What you need to know

New England Patriots

The Patriots seemed feeble against an underwhelming Dolphins unit. The wide receivers aren't contributing much and Rob Gronkowski can't do it all himself. The running game wasn't much better with newly signed veteran Steven Jackson at the helm.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are going back to square one again, but at least they had a glimpse of a brighter future for Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and maybe Lamar Miller. The Dolphins offense had one of their better games lately in an effort that cost the rival Patriots home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

New England Patriots

QB Tom Brady, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 12 - 21 - 134 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0
It was a bad day for the Patriots offense as a whole and an odd day for gameplanning, as the Patriots went fairly vanilla for much of the game. The first half saw a slew of runs compared to only a few passes from Tom Brady, whereas the script was flipped in the second half despite a Brady ankle injury. When the passing game was in session, it was so bad that Tom Brady was actually yanked at the end of the game, something you never see. He was relentlessly harassed by pressure and his receivers weren't getting open, all of which has been nothing new over the last month or so. Brady did overthrow a few deep balls, and almost half his yardage came on one James White slant. Other than that, it was short passes or throwaways to avoid pressure. Brady didn't complete more than 2 passes to any receiver, which is very rare. As long as the Patriots get healthy for the playoffs, that matters most, but the way the Patriots have limped into the playoffs is fairly sobering for their outlook.

RB Steven Jackson, 24 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 35 - 1, Rec: 1 - 20 - 0 (1 targets)
Jackson was thrown into the fire in the first half and a forgotten man in the second half, as gameplanning called for just that for some reason. Jackson ran with little elusiveness, but did show power on a few runs, converting one or two short conversions and running a short scamper in for a touchdown, bowling over a defender or two in the process. Jackson also saw a 20 yard dumpoff, one of the only decent plays on the day from the Patriots. If the Patriots line can block better, Jackson might see slightly more yards per carry.

RB Brandon Bolden, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 31 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)
Bolden mixed in with Steven Jackson on running downs, and ran several plays from the shotgun formation. He was afforded very little room, and didn't do much with any of his carries. Bolden caught 2 passes, but only gained 5 yards on them, as they were very short in nature.

RB James White, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 63 - 0 (3 targets)
Curiously, James White was underutilized in the game, as he had the only good Patriots play to speak of, a 68 yard catch and run on a slant route. Other than that, it was tough sledding all around for White and the rest of the offense, though White's touch count was only 5.

WR Danny Amendola, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (4 targets)
Amendola may not have been at 100%, as Tom Brady rarely looked his way and Amendola wasn't getting the separation and spacing he normally does. As a result, he wasn't able to do much with the Dolphins.

WR Brandon LaFell, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 7 - 0 (4 targets)
LaFell's miserable 2015 ends with another clunker, as he was able to do next to nothing with his targets and catches. As usual, the Brady-LaFell deep connection also missed a couple times. Ideally, LaFell will be a bit player in the playoffs.

WR Keshawn Martin, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (2 targets)
Much less involved this week than the prior few weeks, Martin's lack of involvement was partially due to gameplan, and partially due to the passing game's complete ineffectiveness. If Julian Edelman returns for the playoffs and Amendola is healthy, Martin may not have a fulltime role.

TE Rob Gronkowski, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (7 targets)
Gronk was targeted plenty, but wasn't getting his usual separation. The Dolphins defense played him well, and on many of his routes, the throws were rushed thanks to pressure on Tom Brady. As a result, Gronk had a few narrow misses, but ultimately had a bad day at the office. Things should be better in a couple weeks.


Miami Dolphins

QB Ryan Tannehill, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 38 - 350 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 17 - 0
Ryan Tannehill wrapped up 2015 (in 2016) with likely his best game of the season. While expectations have to be tempered slightly due to the Patriots missing some key front-7 defenders (Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Sealver Siliga), the Dolphins were able to play a role in thee 2015 playoffs, spoiling New England’s hopes of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Pats missing some of those key players did afford Tannehill some clean pockets, and he was able to look downfield more willingly than he’s usually been afforded in games this season. Most of the biggest plays of the day for Miami weren’t on blown coverages or big catch and runs (outside of one Greg Jennings play). Tannehill had time and threw a number of beautifully placed and lofted throws downfield. He was letdown by a few more drops by his receivers, which, had they hung on, the Dolphins may have broken the game open earlier. If Tannehill and his offensive line could’ve produced the consistently clean pockets that he received against the Pats on Sunday, there would’ve been a few more big plays for Miami and probably a few more W’s in the win column. His first TD pass to DeVante Parker was a great recognition, pre-snap, that the Pats were in zone. With Parker in the slot, and running a fade to the front pylon, Tannehill had to place the ball high and let Parker do the rest. While a good performance in Week 17 probably won’t make up for the poor play throughout the season, Tannehill can feel good about knocking the Pats out of the #1 seed.

It’s been a broken record, but when Tannehill consistently has time to throw, he makes plays. With a new coach and offensive coordinator finally set to hit South Beach, and armed with DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi at least, a dynamic hire at OC would still have the needle pointing up for Tannehill.

RB Lamar Miller, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 60 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets)
In possibly his final game as a Dolphin, Lamar Miller saw his second most carries in a game during 2015. After busting outside early for a gain of 29, he was bottled by a run defense that was getting Rob Ninkovich back and saw Jamie Collins back to his old self after an illness had sapped him of some his weight during the middle of the season. While the Miami offensive line was strong against the pass rush, they weren’t getting much push against the New England front-7. After the game, the 4th-year back was non-committal to his future. Miller averaged 4.5 yards per carry for his third time in 4 years in Miami, the Dolphins “held” him to under 200 carries for the third time in 4 years as well. The free agent running back market has been devalued in a big way over the last several years, but Miller will be one player who will command a decent number. The Dolphins would be wise to hang onto him, and his slight drop in touches may be a way of trying to get a discount on him.

RB Jay Ajayi, 16 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 2 - 0
Ajayi again struggled as his rookie season came to a close on Sunday against the Pats. While he’s opened some eyes with his physical, explosive runs as a backup to Lamar Miller, he had plenty of negative runs as well. He was consistently caught behind the line of scrimmage by the Pats, and it was his major problem throughout his rookie season. As many explosive runs through the hole he would make, he was caught behind the line of scrimmage a similar amount as well. Between that and his chronic knee issues that will likely shorten his NFL career, that may force the Dolphins to seriously consider resigning Lamar Miller. If Miller does leave though, Ajayi will definitely get the first chance to replace him, barring a high draft pick at running back.

RB Damien Williams, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 11 - 0, Rec: 3 - 38 - 0 (3 targets)
Miami’s special teamer and change of pace back, Damien Williams, continued to see a not insignificant role as receiving back for Week 17. He actually made a few plays, first turning a lost play into a first down with a fancy move. Then, he got loose on a wheel route against Jamie Collins (with help from a Jarvis Landry pick) for another third down conversion. With the specialized running back role becoming the norm in the NFL, Williams may have a role for the Dolphins next year. However, he’s not much more than a replacement level talent and won’t be asked to contribute much more than he already does.

WR Jarvis Landry, 62 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0, Rec: 6 - 72 - 0 (11 targets)
Jarvis Landry closed out his sophomore season in the NFL with another consistent game for the Dolphins. He broke Miami’s single-season receptions record with 110 this season. He continued to be a heavily-targeted player after DeVante Parker’s emergence and is Ryan Tannehill’s go-to receiver on 3rd–down plays. While his target and catch numbers may take a hit next season with a fully healthy DeVante Parker. However, with increased attention by defenses toward Parker, and ideally, an offensive line that can protect the quarterback, Landry may be able to get more targets downfield. While it may be a stretch of a comparison as a whole, Landry compares physically to Anquan Boldin. He won’t wow you in anyway with physical tools, but he’s intelligent player. DeVante Parker could be the Larry Fitzgerald to Landry’s Boldin: a physical talent who can go up and make plays downfield. If Miami finds an offensive line and time for their quarterback, both WRs will have opportunities to make plays. Both could be WR2s for fantasy purposes in 2016.

WR DeVante Parker, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 106 - 1 (6 targets)
DeVante Parker capped off his rookie season with another outstanding game against the Patriots. While his rookie season was under threat of not getting off the ground through 10 weeks, Rishard Matthews’ season-ending injury gave him more of a role, and he did not disappoint. Despite only receiving more than 6 targets twice in the final 6 weeks, he averaged nearly 75 yards per game and scored 3 touchdowns. He was a big play machine, recording at least one play of 30+ yards in 5 of those final 6 games as well. His body control was impressive as a rookie, as he reminded many of the plays that he made while staring at Louisville. His touchdown catch came against zone coverage; running out of the slot on the left side of the formation, he ran a fade to the front pylon, going up in front of Devin McCourty to make the play. He also set up the second TD of the game with another long catch. While there was an element of luck to it, as Tannehill just threw the ball up, and it was tipped into the air, it’s the type of jump-ball plays that prototypical #1 WRs are asked to make regularly. Without any setbacks to his foot, which the Dolphins should remain cautious with, Parker looks like a major candidate for a second-year breakout. He will be a major threat at all levels of the field, on the inside and outside the formation.

WR Greg Jennings, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 74 - 0 (5 targets)
Greg Jennings had easily his best game of the season on Sunday vs. the Patriots. Once Kenny Stills left the game, Jennings was the clear #3 receiver. He first turned a screen into a 20-yard play early in the game. Then, he ran under a perfectly thrown deep ball for a 31-yard play. His final big play came on a 3rd and long play, which was reviewed, before being ruled a catch. Jennings hadn’t cleared the 40 receiving yards mark prior to Week 17. At a $5.5 million cap hit in 2016, and his former coach, Joe Philbin, no longer in town, Jennings will be out the door. Green Bay could really use his services right about now.

WR Kenny Stills, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (4 targets)
Stills closed out his disappointing 2015 by getting injured and leaving the game after making one catch. Stills received multiple targets downfield on Sunday, but looked like he pulled up on one, not finishing the play. The other play, in the end zone, was slightly underthrown and he did well to help break up the play. Stills was repeatedly passed over, first by Rishard Matthews, later by DeVante Parker on the depth chart during the season. However, he’ll likely be back in Miami due to a cheap final year to his rookie deal. He’ll battle for snaps behind Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker.

TE Dion Sims, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 40 - 0 (3 targets)
Dion Sims didn’t have much of an impact in 2015, but stands to benefit from a potential Jordan Cameron departure in the offseason. While Sims isn’t natural at catching the ball, and is far from the most athletic guy on the field, he is a viable check-down target for Ryan Tannehill, who often flees from the pocket. Sims’ biggest plays as a Dolphin have come on broken plays where Tannehill has found him for a 10-15 yard dump-off. Miami unquestionably gets better at run blocking as well. With DeVante Parker available to be the “go-up-and-get-it” red-zone weapon, Sims may serve as an adequate tight end until a better replacement is found. He likely won’t be on the fantasy radar though.

TE Jordan Cameron, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 6 - 1 (4 targets)
Jordan Cameron closed out his disappointing season with the Dolphins by catching his third touchdown of the season. It was a simple quick out by Cameron from the 2-yard line, and it may have been designed for him specifically, as his disappointing season was coming to a close and he was having another terrible game. Even with the TD, Cameron was still held to under 10 yards receiving for the 5th time in his last 9 games. With an unfriendly $7.5 million due to him, Cameron’s likely out in Miami. He will be a fantasy sleeper again, as he’ll likely latch on to a team and become a red-zone option immediately again.