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Patriots continue to struggle with loss to Dolphins

The Patriots (12-4) just had to beat the Dolphins (6-10) to clinch home-field advantage through the playoffs. They couldn't get it done. Here's what we learned from Miami's 20-10 win:

  1. The Patriots' offense enters the playoffs a complete mess. We'll see if a bye week and getting a few healthy players back makes the difference. Tom Brady only threw five passes in the first half -- the lowest single-half total of his career. The entire offense was runs by Steven Jackson, James White, Brandon Bolden and throws to the same guys. When Brady did drop back to pass, he was buried. New England lost four of their final six games to finish 12-4 and, thanks to the Broncos' win, also lost home-field advantage.
  1. Ryan Tannehill deserves credit for having a solid afternoon, including a few nice throws down the field. He ended with 350 yards and two scores on 38 throws. The Dolphins smartly picked on Patriots replacement cornerback Leonard Johnson. DeVante Parker (106 yards) made a tough catch down the field on a tipped pass that set up the Dolphins' go-ahead score and even Greg Jennings got deep on the Patriots.
  1. New England's longest pass to a receiver or tight end was a 12-yard throw to Rob Gronkowski. Its only throw over 20 yards was a screen to James White. The Patriots' offensive line is the team's biggest problem heading into the offseason. It's questionable whether just getting offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer back will fix everything.
  1. Jackson ran hard but it didn't matter. He finished with 35 yards on 14 carries. The Patriots were held to 70 rushing yards on 27 tries. There's no reason to think the running game will suddenly wake up in the playoffs.
  1. Ndamukong Suh and Olivier Vernon had a great day pressuring Brady. The next Dolphins coach will enjoy watching his foundation players (Suh, Vernon, Parker, Tannehill) all playing well on the Week 17 tape. It's anyone's guess who that next coach will be.
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