By: Bob George/
December 15, 2013

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MIAMI -- When the historic comeback by the Red Sox against the Yankees in 2004 was complete, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre said, very calmly, "It just doesn't always happen for you."

Given an early Christmas present on Thursday night by the San Diego Chargers with a most improbable 27-20 win in Denver to give the inside track to the top playoff seed to the Patriots, the Patriots went down to Sun Life Stadium and played a bad game defensively for most of the game. A late rally by Tom Brady fell short, and the Dolphins escaped with a 24-20 win over the Patriots on Sunday.

The loss negated the Denver loss on Thursday night, and the Broncos re-assumed the top playoff spot in the AFC. It prevented the Patriots from clinching the AFC East title. The day was not a total disaster as Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday night, allowing the Patriots to maintain the inside track to the two seed and a first round bye. Still, it turned out to be a costly afternoon for the Patriots, played on a sultry day with the game time temperature at 84 degrees.

Lots of things did in the Patriots, from a kickoff by Stephen Gostkowski that went out of bounds which ignited the final scoring drive for the Dolphins, to a blown coverage by Donte Hightower on the winning scoring pass from Ryan Tannehill to Marcus Thigpen. But the loss had its genesis in the second quarter, just before halftime.

Michael Hoomanawanui made a terrific one-handed touchdown catch from 13 yards out to make it 10-0 Patriots with 1:45 left in the half. Prior to the touchdown, Joe Philbin called two timeouts to preserve some time for the Dolphins after the score. With nearly two minutes left, the Dolphins were able to answer. On third and ten from the Miami 18, Tannehill floated a soft toss to Rishard Matthews just over the head of Logan Ryan for 24 yards. From this moment on, the Patriots never regained control or momentum in the game. Marlon Moore caught an 11-yard pass on the right sideline, then three plays later Tannehill hit Mike Wallace on a perfect slant toss. Marquice Cole, in there in place of Kyle Arrington who had cramps a few plays prior, had a bad angle and missed the tackle and Wallace was off and running. Steve Gregory was late in getting over to help, and Wallace ran 39 yards for a score that made it 10-7 at the half.

The Patriots began the second half with a nice drive that took them to the Miami 30. From this moment on, Brady would misfire on his next five throws. Three straight incompletions were followed by a missed 48-yard field goal by Gostkowski. Miami got the ball back, and Tannehill was able to hit Wallace for 13 yards and Brian Hartline on a slant route which set up a 32-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis to tie the game at 10-10.

A sack of Brady by Cameron Wake stalled the next drive, and the Dolphins proceeded to take their first lead of the game by driving 66 yards on ten plays. Daniel Thomas took a two-yard toss in the right flat and ran it in to give the Dolphins a 17-10 lead. The Patriots responded with a 15-play drive, but it ended with a 23-yard field goal by Gostkowski to make it 17-13 Miami. Twice the Patriots had drives of 15 or more plays, and on both occasions the Patriots had to settle for field goals.

The Patriots were able to hold Miami to a three-and-out, and got the ball right back and took it in for a touchdown to regain the lead. A head injury to Nate Solder forced Logan Mankins to move to left tackle and Josh Kline to left guard. This actually gave Brady better protection, and it allowed him to hook up with Danny Amendola for 12 yards, Julian Edelman for 13 yards, Austin Collie for 19, and Edelman again for 24 yards and the score. Most of these passes were slants or quick screens, but it looked like the Patriots had righted themselves and might re-assume control of the game.

But back came Miami. It began with Gostkowski yanking the kickoff out of bounds, giving the Dolphins the ball at the 40 instead of the 20. The key play of the game came four plays later, on fourth down and five at the Miami 45. Two plays earlier, Sealver Siliga sacked Tannehill at the Miami 34, making it third and 16. Tannehill hit Hartline for 11 to make it fourth and five. Philbin eschewed the punt and went for it. Charles Clay had not had a catch at all up to that point, but Tannehill flipped him the ball in the right flat, he blew by Gregory and got the first down. Two plays later, Tannehill hit Matthews with a soft toss along the left sideline just over the head of Alfonzo Dennard. Two plays later, Tannehill hit Thigpen for the game-winner.

Brady had 1:15 and three timeouts to respond. On fourth and eight at the Patriot 33, he managed to hit Amendola for 12 yards, then on the next play hit Amendola for 24 yards on a deep slant pattern. Three plays later, Edelman hauled in a 12-yard pass to get the Patriots to the Miami 19. An offside penalty on Wake put the Patriots at the Miami 14 with three shots at the end zone and only 16 seconds left.

Rob Gronkowski would be greatly missed here, though the Patriots did have a legit chance to win the game. On second down, Edelman tried a one-handed catch in the right side of the end zone but the ball was thrown too high. On third down, Hoomanawanui was open in the middle of the end zone, and Dannell Ellerbe made the defensive stop though Hoomanawanui claimed that he was interfered with. On fourth down with seven seconds left, Brady tried to hit Collie in the end zone, but Michael Thomas made the interception to end the game.

Brady finished 34 of 55 passing for 364 yards, two touchdowns and a pick for an 85.7 passer rating. Tannehill had 25 of 37 passing for 312 yards, three touchdowns and a 120.6 rating. Edelman had 139 yards receiving and Amendola had 131 yards receiving. The Patriots rushed for only 96 yards total but averaged 4.4 yards per carry.

The Patriots outgained the Dolphins 453-378 in total yards, but the Dolphins were able to finish their drives better than the Patriots did. It seemed that the defensive stalwarts up the middle were more missed in this game than Gronkowski was.

Life doesn't get any easier for the Patriots, as they will have to travel to Baltimore next week. Despite being a depleted team, the Ravens still hate the Patriots and will give the Patriots a lot of trouble. The game was moved off of Sunday evening, which may help the Patriots in that it won't be in the national spotlight.

But the Patriots know that they let one get away, along with a possible top playoff seed. Brady let an S-bomb drop in his postgame press conference, which pretty much summed up the day for the Patriots.