Defense, special teams cost Patriots in loss to Miami

The old woes of Patriots past have returned in the secondary. While the Pats defense started strong, holding the Dolphins scoreless until their final possession of the first half, that momentum-changing touchdown pass to Mike Wallace opened the floodgates for the remainder of the game.

The defense, the secondary in particular, could not make big stops when they needed to in what was an impressive overall performance from Ryan Tannehill. A 4th quarter, 4th down conversion from Tannenhill to tight-end Charles Clay was a critical moment in which the Pats defense had the play stopped in the backfield before Clay scrambled for a first down. Shortly after, Tannehill through an easy touchdown pass over the head of utterly clueless Dont'a Hightower.

The score put the Dolphins up for good despite another frantic last-minute drive orchestrated by Tom Brady. Unfortunately this week, Tom's trademark heroics came up just short. But Brady can't do it by himself. While the absence of Rob Gronkowski was more than noticeable on Sunday, the offense played well overall. The defense and special teams play is what ultimately cost the team the game and the opportunity to capture another division crown. Furthermore, the #1 overall seed in the AFC was controlled by New England for a grand total of 2 days. With a Cincinatti win tonight, the Patriots could suddenly find themselves as the third overall seed heading towards the playoffs.

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Stephen Gostkowski has been one of the team's strongest players this season. But two mistakes on his part played a major part in today's loss. He uncharacteristically missed a 48 yard-field goal in the third quarter. But his truly unexpected error came late in the fourth quarter when he booted a kickoff out of bounds, setting up the Dolphins at the 40-yard line for what would prove to be the game-winning drive.

Unfortunately, today's game exposed many of the flaws that are going to plague this team going forward. To exacerbate these problems, starting tackle Nate Solder appeared to suffer his second concussion in two weeks, making the offensive line the newest area of concern for a team already decimated by injuries.

A poor performance by the defense and rare mistakes by kicker Stephen Gostowski hurt the Patriots big-time today. And today's loss may have cost the Patriots home-field throughout the playoffs, and potentially a first-round bye depending on the outcome of tonight's Steelers/Bengals game.