New England Patriots Fail to Close Another Game

Phil ShoreCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2009

MIAMI - DECEMBER 06:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after throwing an incomplete pass against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on December 6, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 22-21.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Another week, another opportunity for the Patriots to emphasize their weaknesses.

Poor execution, missed opportunities, the inability to win away from home, and the lack of a killer instinct once again doomed New England, as they fell to the Miami Dolphins 22-21.

New England took a 21-10 lead at the 12:02 mark in the third quarter. Suddenly the offense couldn’t punch the ball in the end zone and the defense couldn’t stop the Dolphins. Miami scored the final 12 points of the game to stun the Patriots and complete the upset.

The loss leaves the Patriots 1-5 on the road, however that one victory actually came in London against the Buccaneers, so it’s not like they thrived in a hostile environment. At the rate they’re going if, and that is a big “if” now,  the Patriots make the playoffs, they will at best host just a Wild Card round game. The rest of the road to the Super Bowl will have to be won away from the comforts of Gillete Stadium, which is something the Patriots have yet to prove they can do.

For the third time on the road this season the Patriots lost the game after holding the lead in the fourth quarter. Both the offense and the defense were guilty for lacking the guile to finish off the ‘Phins.

With 4:10 remaining in the game the Patriots held a tenuous two-point lead but were sitting on Miami’s six-yard line with a first down and looking to put the game away. However, Tom Brady’s pass to Randy Moss was intercepted in the end zone by Vontae Davis, preventing the Patriots from sealing Miami’s fate. It was also the second time in the game that New England had failed to score while inside the Miami 10, turning the ball over on downs from the six-yard line in the second quarter.

On the other side of the ball, on Miami’s last scoring possession, New England had gotten them into a fourth-down situation with six yards to go for a first down. Stop them and the Patriots would be able to run out the clock. However, Chad Henne completed a 13 yard pass to Greg Camarillo to extend the drive and set up the game-winning field goal.

Need more cause for alarm?

It was the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games since Weeks Nine and 10 of the 2006 season.

Brady threw his second fourth-quarter interception with 35 seconds remaining, sealing Miami’s victory. It was the first time Brady had thrown two interceptions in consecutive games since Weeks 12 and 13 of the 2003 season.

The Patriots are well-known for their strong passing attack, with future Hall of Fame quarterback Brady and his targets Moss and Wes Welker. They were also going up against a relatively weak pass defense. They passed for a total of 13 first downs.

Miami, a team that relies heavily on the rush and has a first-year starter at quarterback threw for 21 first downs.

The Patriots lost both the turnover battle (2:1) and the penalty battle (6-82:2-10).

Something is clearly wrong in Patriot-land.

Now with Sunday’s result and with the Jets victory over the Bills Thursday night, the Patriots sit only one game in first place in the division. The Patriots split the season series with both teams. The second tie-breaker is record against the division. The Patrtiots have a 3-2 record, with a game against Buffalo left; the Jets are 2-4; Miami currently holds this tiebreaker of New England, with a record of 4-2.

The Patriots are still in first place though, and they still control their own destiny.

However, good teams don’t lose the turnover and penalty battles. Good teams can win games away from home. Good teams close out games they are winning in the fourth quarter.

New England is showing that it may not be a good team after all. While winning the division was once a certainty, now if they continue down the path they're on and don't straighten themselves out, they’re going to have to fight to even be a potential wild card team.