The Dolphins played arguably their best football of the year in the first half.
However, the Patriots woke up in the second half, scoring 27 unanswered points.
Even though the Dolphins had nothing at stake, this was easily the most heartbreaking loss of the season. Blowing such a huge lead to a divisional rival in their house will sting for a long time, but there are still many lessons to be learned from Saturday.
Miami's pass rush overwhelmed New England's offense in the first half, preventing Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game from thriving. But once the Pats were able to adjust and protect Brady, he sliced up the Dolphins' secondary.
Outside of Vontae Davis, Sean Smith and Yeremiah Bell, Miami's secondary is mediocre at best. Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson have shown flashes, but both are still young, raw and unproven.
The Dolphins won't be able to consistently compete with teams like the Patriots until they shore up their secondary. Miami has many needs on the offensive side of the ball, but free safety and cornerback are huge holes that need to be addressed as well.
As the Dolphins dominated the first half, interim head coach Todd Bowles was starting to look like a potential permanent replacement. Miami came out synchronized and energized, but their second-half collapse was embarrassing—and will reflect poorly on Bowles.
However, he should not be held responsible for this loss.
Matt Moore single-handedly turned the ball over three times, and the defense struggled to stop a surging Patriots offense on short fields.
Stephen Ross will most definitely pursue a big-name coach for next season, but after Miami's win in Buffalo last week and their incredible first-half performance this week, you have to wonder if Todd Bowles could be the man for the job.
It's unfair to criticize Brandon Marshall in wake of his seven-reception, 156-yard and one-touchdown performance, but until he stops dropping passes, the door for criticism will remain open.
After dropping a pair of potential touchdowns last weekend, Marshall dropped another one on Saturday.
Marshall is now tied for the league lead in drops—an embarrassing feat for a player earning over $10 million per season.
Earlier this season, John Jerry was being labeled a bust.
Drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft, Jerry looked completely incompetent when in the lineup, and he quietly faded into a back up role.
Last week, however, Jerry stepped in for an injured Jake Long and played outstanding, reviving hope that he can become the great lineman Miami initially hoped he would become.
Jerry was forced into action again on Saturday, and he played admirably. Miami's offensive line needs upgrades at right tackle and guard, but Jerry might be able to fill one of those holes next season if he maintains this high level of play.
One week after recording his first multi-interception game, Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis shut down Patriots wideout Deion Branch.
Tom Brady targeted Branch nine times on Saturday, but the wideout reeled in a measly three receptions for 37 yards. Granted Branch did score a touchdown; it was a one-yard catch that shouldn't overshadow Davis' great performance.
Based on his play from the last few weeks, Davis looks like he's ready to ascend to stardom.
The Dolphins took a page out of the New York Giants' 2007 Super Bowl playbook and blitzed Tom Brady on virtually every play in the first half.
Even though the 'Fins only registered four sacks, their pass rush is the primary reason they were able to thwart the Patriots offense. Brady became visibly frustrated and, consequently, New England's offense looked futile.
If the Dolphins can find a way to retain Paul Soliai, then the front seven could be incredible in 2012.
Jared Odrick is a budding sack-artist, and Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Cam Wake form a scary trio of linebackers.
Incredibly, each member of Miami's 2011 draft class has contributed to the team this season. Mike Pouncey, Daniel Thomas and Charles Clay have been integral members of the offense, and Jimmy Wilson has worked his way into the defensive rotation.
Fourth-round pick Clyde Gates may seem like the odd man out. He has only two receptions this season, but don't let that fool you—he's quietly becoming a great kick returner. Gates is averaging over 25 yards per kick return and nearly broke one for a touchdown against New England.
The Dolphins haven't possessed a special teams weapon like Gates in a long time (Wes Welker? Jeff Ogden?).
At this rate, Gates could become a nightmare for opposing teams.
Despite Saturday's loss to the New York Giants, the New York Jets still have a fairly good chance of securing the sixth seed in the AFC.
But in order to clinch a playoff berth, the Jets must defeat the Dolphins in Miami next weekend.
This season has been a monumental disappointment for the Dolphins and their fans alike, but ending the Jets' season would be the sweetest end to a season in recent memory.
The 'Skins are in dire need of a quarterback. If they finish the season with a higher draft pick than the 'Fins, Miami will either have to trade up to draft Robert Griffin III or seek an alternative option through a trade or the free-agent wire.
Next weekend, Washington must travel to Philadelphia to face the red-hot Eagles while the Dolphins will face a desperate Jets team at home.
With a Redskins win and a Dolphins loss, Miami would become the front-runner for RGIII.