It’s unlikely to have long-term impact on the AFC East, but the manner in which the Miami Dolphins slayed the New England Patriots on Sunday will live forever in the video archives at NFL Films.
Admit it? How many times have you watched a team on death’s doorstep fire up their “fire drill” last-gasp ploy? We hear all the time how teams practice jetting up the field in the final seconds with a series of impromptu dips, dashes and laterals. As we learned later, the Dolphins do on Fridays and Saturdays.
When have you not become hysterical watching it all disintegrate within seconds of launch?
Well, we guarantee that will never happen again. If it can happen to the Patriots, it can happen to anyone.
On the verge of another division title, all the Patriots needed to do was survive Miami’s final riff, nicknamed “Boise.” All they had to do was tackle someone or force a failed lateral at any point during the 69 yards separating the Dolphins from a game-winning touchdown.
You know now that didn’t happen. And it didn’t take much, either. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill got things going with a 14-yard completion to Kenny Stills, who pitched it to DeVante Parker just before hitting the ground.
Parker then got the ball to Kenyan Drake. And it was Drake’s spectacular open field dash over the final 54 yards, flying past stumbling and bumbling Rob Gronkowski over the final yards, that ended in the endzone.
Miami 34, New England 33. We hope you weren’t marinating your chicken wings.
The key block was delivered by guard Ted Larsen. His work essentially isolated Drake with The Gronk and it was no contest.
“That was the last part of the play that was scripted, when I got the pitch. It was sandlot football,” said Drake said. “It was just me and Gronk. I couldn’t let Gronk tackle me in that situation. I said, ‘Look, sorry Gronk,’ he’s a great player but I got somewhere to be.”
Tannehill, who reacted by doing snow angels in on the Hard Rock Stadium field, broke it down in typical analytic style.
“Drake runs a 4.3 [40-yard dash] and Gronk probably runs a 4.6 or 4.7, so I feel good about that matchup,” said Tannehill said. “There’s no quit in me. There’s no quit in this locker room.”
The reason The Gronk, who is 6-feet-7, was on the field was to help knock down a potential Hail Mary pass. Instead, Drake gave him an education of how not to tackle.
“The way it ended sucked,” said Gronk. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I feel like it’s going to test our character big-time. I have to make that tackle.”
The Elias Sports Bureau says it was the longest winning touchdown with no time left in regulation during the Super Bowl era, as if we needed another reason to hail the Pats.
Maybe we should have seen it coming. For some reason, the Patriots have always had trouble winning in South Florida. They have won only seven of 17 in the Tom Brady era.
But it’s really no big deal for New England (9-4). Clinching the division will just be delayed for a week. The bigger impact is that Miami (7-6) is still alive for the sixth AFC playoff spot.
One Bear Of A Defense
Let’s face it, the offenses of the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City have sucked the effusiveness out of this season. Touchdowns are sexy. We understand.
On Sunday Night, the Chicago Bears offered another point of view. In a style reminiscent their Super Bowl champion 1985 team, they throttled the Rams with a force unlike anything we’ve seen this year.
The Rams came to Soldier Field averaging 34.9 points and 439.9 yards. They limped off with just six points and 214 yards. Todd Gurley, the NFL’s leading rusher, was held to 28 yards. The Bears won 15-6.
“I looked like a skunk. That’s what I looked like,” Gurley told The Orange County Register. “They did a great job. We played like s—. They held us to six points. Simple as that.”
Looked like a skunk? Maybe smelled like one.
The Rams (11-2) hadn’t been held under 300 yards this season. In fact, no one would have thought it possible. But that’s what everyone said about the Saints until the Dallas Cowboys stifled them a few weeks ago,
“I know this, we’re not going to allow this to be a bad thing no matter how you cut it. You learn from this. You’ve got to move on. It starts with me,” said Rams coach Sean McVay declared. “Really, I think every week provides a new narrative and this one was a humbling night for us.”
The Bears (9-4) intercepted Jared Goff four times. He completed only 20 of 44 passes for 180 yards. He was also sacked three times and fumbled once. The Rams managed only 14 first downs and were limited to a pair of Greg Zuerlein field goals.
It was quite the turnaround for a defense that struggled through a 30-27 overtime loss last week to the New York Giants.
“When we control what we can control, we dominate — and you saw that tonight,” said safety Eddie Jackson. “Like Coach (Matt) Nagy always says, can’t nobody in the NFL mess with us when we play our game. If people aren’t (figuring that out), they’d better do it quick, cause we’re coming. We’re coming every week.”
The loss might have major ramifications for the Rams. The Saints have now regained the upper hand for homefield in the NFC playoffs. Although both are 11-2, the Saints own the tiebreaker after beating the Rams 45-35 on Nov. 4.
Something has gone terribly wrong with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s become quite clear after Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Steelers (7-5-1) have lost three straight. But this one really resonates. The Raiders? Really?
Pittsburgh’s defense broke in the final minute allowing Derek Carr to connect with Derek Carrier for the game-winning TD with just 25 seconds left. And then special teams broke down. Kicker Chris Boswell slipped and his game-tying field goal was blocked.
Boswell has missed six field goals and five extra points this season. Has that cost the Steelers? In two ways: Lost games and the $20 million extension they gave him this summer.
What complicates all of this for the Steelers, who hold a ½-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the NFC North, is that Ben Roethlisberger sustained a rib injury in the second quarter that kept him sidelined until 5:25 remained in the game with the Raiders leading 17-14.
It’s unlikely we will know the full severity of Big Ben’s injury, but if its substantial, it’s certain to trouble him over the last three games even if it does not sideline him.
“Ben had a rib injury,” said Tomlin after the game. “He was able to come back into the game. Nothing else to specifically mention.”
Big Ben (25-of-29,,282 yards) didn’t look very impaired. Once back, he guided the offense on a six-play, 70-yard drive that led to a TD pass and a 21-17 lead. He was 7-of-7 for 118 yards after coming back.
Whether or not the Steelers win the division, they can all but forget a first-round bye, especially now with the upset Patriots and Saints coming next, even though both will be in Pittsburgh.
Redskins Working On No. 4
The sad descent of the Washington Redskins continued with emphasis. The Giants pounded them 40-16. The Redskins have now lost four straight.
Worse yet, the hopes they had for the rejuvenation of QB Mark Sanchez have dissipated. And it didn’t take very long. With the Redskins trailing 40-0, Sanchez 6-of-14, 38 yards, two INTs) was yanked at the end of the third quarter for Josh Johnson, who was just signed last week to backup Sanchez, who was signed Nov. 19 to back up Colt McCoy, who replaced the injured Alex Smith (broken leg) until he too suffered a broken leg.
“What did work?” coach Jay Gruden said. “There’s nothing that worked. Nothing worked. So everything did not work.”
Just look at the Redskins: They were 6-3 and heading to at least an NFC playoff spot. Now they are 6-7 and struggling both on offense and defense as the Dallas Cowboys (8-5) have opened a two-game lead over both the Philadelphia Eagles and themselves.
Johnson, who threw for 195 yards and rushed for 45, hasn’t made a start since the end of the 2011 season with Tampa. He admitted last week that he brought himself up to speed about his new teammates by playing the Madden NFL video game.
“I learned their names,” he said.
Another Step For Mahomes
Every week provides more evidence the Chiefs knew exactly what they were going doing by trading Smith to the Redskins to clear the way for Pat Mahomes.
On Sunday in Kansas City, the Chiefs (11-2) had to deal with the rolling Baltimore Ravens, a team brought to life with the injection of rookie Lamar Jackson at QB and the dominating play of its defense.
And they had to do it without Pro Bowl halfback Kareem Hunt, who was released two weeks ago, or receiver Sammy Watkins, who is likely out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury.
So what did Mahomes do? He tossed for 377 yards and another two TDs. And he brought his team back from a 24-17 deficit with just 1:29 remaining. The big play: On fourth-and-9, Mahomes escaped pressure by darting right and hit Tyreek Hill to the left for 48 yards.
Not long after. Mahomes 5-yard TD pass to Damien Williams sent the game into overtime where the Chiefs won it with a Harrison Butker 35-yard field goal. Butker had missed a game-winner at the end of regulation and two others earlier in the game.
“You always want to be in the situation where you can go win a football game or go tie it to win it,” said Mahomes. “It was a crazy play. I thought the offensive line gave me a ton of time and I extended the play and Tyreek came back to the ball to make a great play. We wound up finishing the drive, getting that touchdown and getting it into overtime to win the game.”
Mahomes now has 4,584 yards passing with 43 TD passes and just 12 INTs.
The Chiefs are in great position in the AFC. After New England’s loss, and because the Indianapolis Colts ended Houston’s nine-game winning streak, Kansas City has a two-game lead for homefield in the playoffs with three games to play. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993.