AFC East Japan Reporter
New England Patriots safety Kyle Duggar put the exclamation mark on a sensational season in Sunday’s Pick 6 victory over the Miami Dolphins 23-21 in Week 17.
Duggar’s touchdown helped the Patriots keep their playoff hopes alive. New England would have lost and been eliminated from contention. Instead, the Pats’ win over the Dolphins sets New England up for a win-win game against the Bills in Week 18. Buffalo, meanwhile, will be contending for the number one seed (and first round bye). ). It should be a very tough matchup for New England.
But before looking ahead, New England will enjoy a win over the Dolphins. And in the third quarter, Duggar scored his third touchdown of the season. This has been by a Patriots defender since 1970. He also scored his seventh touchdown in a season, a franchise record.
“[Dugger is] Adrian Phillips told FOX Sports after the game, “And they’re some of the best leaders to me. All the rah-rah speeches, all the things. If you step onto the field, you’ll know Doug is playing.”
If the team can make the playoffs on defense alone, the Patriots could be Super Bowl favorites. They slowed the Dolphins who started Teddy his Bridgewater in place of Tua his Tagovailoa (concussion), but only lost Bridgewater to a finger injury in the fourth quarter.
Not long after picking Bridgewater for a touchdown, New England intercepted third stringer Skyler Thompson. Cornerback Jon Jones scored the Patriots’ second interception off a tipped pass. The cornerback toe-smashed his foot along the sideline to further secure a game-changing play for the defense. It was the same for Hill on a quiet day. He finished with four catches for 55 yards. Jaylen Waddle recorded 52 yards on his three catches.
Jones was asked if he liked playing against Hill, who has had mixed success against New England.
After the game, Jones said with a laugh. “It’s a good challenge. He’s one of the top receivers in the league….We did a good job. I think I’ve been able to control him – don’t give up big plays. A lot of things go into it.” but we showed up and played ball.”
It was actually running back Raheem Mostert who led the Dolphins’ receiving force, stealing eight balls for 62 yards and a touchdown.
If there was a clear way for the Dolphins to beat the Patriots, it would be a headline matchup against Jones and Myles Bryant after three of the team’s top four cornerbacks were ruled out pregame due to injuries. It seemed to be due to Hill and Waddle who went (Jarren Mills, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones). However, given the quarterback’s turnstile, the Dolphins weren’t able to get anything in the pass his game. They are now on a five-game losing streak as their playoff chances plummet. In addition to the Patriots losing to the Bills, they have to beat the Jets next week. It’s not that hard…if they have a quarterback.
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said after the game, “From my perspective, it’s definitely disappointing for the team, the fan base and everyone involved.” , I fully expect a hungry and well-meaning team ready to face the Jets.”
As good as the Patriots’ defense was, their offense did what they’ve struggled with all season.
Near the end of the fourth quarter, New England took a nine-point lead with a very impressive drive from quarterback Mac Jones. Completed 5 of the passes. Another throw to Jacobi Myers also drew a 22-yard defensive pass interference penalty. When Jones identified bad coverage on Myers, it set up a smart audible thud at the 1-yard line of scrimmage. It led to an easy touchdown.
“I didn’t expect that play,” center David Andrews said after the game.
Running back Ramondre Stevenson was also surprised.
“I think I was a little confused because we shifted the formation. To be honest, I was confused when the ball was thrown.” [to Meyers] Because it was supposed to come my way,” Stevenson said with a laugh.
Of course, after one drive, the Pats could have sealed the game, but they were hit with a 4-and-out. It wasn’t perfect free football. But it was better than it looked from New England.
That 4th quarter touchdown drive felt like a huge step forward for the Patriots offense that had been (figuratively speaking) churning in the mud for the entire game and, frankly, the entire season.
The first half showed a lot to expect from this unit. For example, there were the 3rd and 12th, which embodied many of the Patriots’ season-long shortcomings. His three of his four receivers in them ran the goal route directly downfield, and the fourth option, he only Tyquan Thornton stopped right near the marker. It wasn’t impressive play design. Jones decided not to push the ball downfield — he went conservative and checked it down to Stevenson. No gain. Punt.
An unimaginable play call. conservative decision. bad execution.
But New England may have found something near the end of the game.
“I didn’t play like I wanted to in the middle of the game,” Mack Jones said after the game. “The guys thought they were going to keep fighting. They made big plays in big moments. That’s what the NFL is all about. Obviously the defense did a great job putting us in a good place, a special team.”
Don’t get carried away thinking the season is saved. It will be difficult for the Patriots to beat the Bills. And Buffalo’s defense is a whole different prowess when compared to Miami’s unit, which has struggled throughout the year in the absence of top cornerback Xavien Howard and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb. Gregory Rousseau, Ed Oliver, and Matt Milano & Co. have their hands full.
But the Patriots are holding up. And they’re still about to enter their 18th week.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter. @ Macken analysis.
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