The New England Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins 27-24 on Sunday. In doing so, the reigning Super Bowl champions fell to the third seed in the AFC behind the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Dolphins earned their fifth win of the year when Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Mike Gesicki for a five-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining.
That opened the door for Kansas City. The Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 earlier Sunday and overtook New England by virtue of their head-to-head victory in Week 14.
The Patriots now face a possible trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the divisional round. They'll first have to overcome the final wild-card team in the AFC, a race that's down to the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders.
This is the first time since 2009 that the Patriots have to play in the wild-card round.
The end of New England's dynasty has been foretold so often it's effectively an annual trope; the Patriots look vulnerable at some point in the regular season before putting together a Super Bowl run. Nobody is counting out a team with three titles and four Super Bowl trips over the past five years.
Having said that, Sunday's loss encapsulated why things might be different this time around. With plenty to play for, the Patriots couldn't beat a four-win Dolphins team with Fitzpatrick under center.
Sheil Kapadia @SheilKapadia
Patriots lose first-round bye, divisional round home game. Will now have to win three games to reach the Super Bowl - including potential road games in KC and Baltimore. Defense gave up three scoring drives of 75+ yards to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Patriots were 16-point favorites.
Tom Brady is showing signs of decline as well. Entering Sunday, he was averaging 255.7 yards per game and completing 61.1 percent of his passes, well below his 2018 performance (272.2 yards, 65.8 percent completion rate). According to Pro Football Reference, his 3.8 percent touchdown rate is also the lowest of his career (excluding his rookie year and injury-shortened 2008 season).
The Patriots are ranked first in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders, which shouldn't be overlooked. The Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl thanks in large part to their dominant defense as Peyton Manning suffered through the worst year of his legendary career.
But having to play during AFC Wild Card Weekend presents a clear hurdle for New England. That's one more game the team has to win and an extra week of work the players could've otherwise used to rest up for the divisional round.