Miami Dolphins limit Tom Brady, New England Patriots now No. 2 seed

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 4, 2016 at 1:17 AM
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The New England Patriots are limping into the playoffs, having lost four of their past six games.

That includes Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, who were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago.

The Patriots (12-4), who had already clinched a first-round playoff bye but were playing for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, employed a conservative offensive game plan at Sun Life Stadium.

Quarterback Tom Brady completed just 12 of 21 passes for a season-low 134 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked twice and took some hard hits to his legs and back.

The result was New England giving up the top seed by virtue of Denver's late afternoon victory. The Patriots enter the AFC playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

Brady did not question the game plan that called for him to pass the ball just five times in the first half.

"We're trying to be effective and move the ball down the field and score points," Brady said. "We just didn't do a good job of it."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick had little to say about his offense, which was held to 196 total yards. He said he "didn't know" why the first half included so few passes.

"We didn't do enough things well enough to win," he said. "That was a problem across the board."

This is the third year in a row the Dolphins (6-10) won a home game against the Patriots.

Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 25 of 38 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He was not intercepted and was sacked just once.

With a 10-10 score and 6:58 left in the game, he threw a 2-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron.

Dolphins rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker caught five passes for 106 yards. That included a 46-yarder that led to Cameron's score. On the play, Parker reached over a Patriots defensive back, tipped it up and grabbed it for a highlight-film catch.

"He's got a really bright future," Tannehill said of Parker. "He's going to be one of the best players in the league. I believe that whole-heartedly. He's just scratching the surface."

Miami's Andrew Franks added a 19-yard field goal with 1:56 left to put the game out of reach.

Miami (6-10), despite the surprising win, finished its seventh straight season out of the playoffs. Miami hasn't won a playoff game since 2000.

The Dolphins led 10-3 at the half after Tannehill fired a 15-yard touchdown pass to Parker with 36 seconds left in the second quarter. That capped an impressive eight-play, 64-yard drive that took just 80 seconds.

Before that, Franks made a 38-yard field goal but missed from 46. And New England's Stephen Gostkowski made a 34-yard field goal but missed from 46.

New England tied the score 10-10, getting a 2-yard touchdown run from Stephen Jackson on the opening drive of the third quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 68-yard reception by running back James White, who took a short pass, stumbled twice and still nearly took it the distance.

But that was it for the Patriots offense, and Dolphins linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said the hard hits on Brady had a "tremendous" effect on New England.

"To hold the Patriots to under 200 yards -- I'd have to check, but I don't know who has kept Tom Brady to those numbers," Sheppard said. "When you are hitting any quarterback like that, they are going to get rattled ... no matter how experienced or how young, you are going to get rattled."

NOTES: The Dolphins and Dennis Hickey, their general manager the past two years, parted ways. Team president Mike Tannenbaum heads the coaching search. ... Miami was without five starters: LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle), DT Earl Mitchell (calf), C Mike Pouncey (foot), RT Ja'Wuan James (toe) and WR Rishard Matthews (ribs). ... WR Jarvis Landry and S Reshad Jones were named Miami's co-MVPs in a vote of team officials and media. Pouncey was given Miami's leadership award as voted by his teammates. ... This was the 64th consecutive start for Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill. ... The Patriots are the Super Bowl co-favorites, with the Arizona Cardinals, at 7-2. ... Patriots WR Danny Amendola (knee) returned after missing one game. ... Patriots WR Julian Edelman (foot), LT Sebastian Vollmer (ankle), DE Chandler Jones (toe/abdomen) and LB Dont'a Hightower (knee) sat out but are on track to return for the playoffs.

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