Loss a shock to the system for the Wild Card Patriots
They played all your favorite New England Patriot hits at Gillette Stadium late Sunday afternoon.
The music blared and the sellout crowd grinned and posed for the Jumbotron, celebrating like it was a typical end of season rout over the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, it was anything but. It was instead a shocking, revolting, stunning 27-24 loss to the Brian Flores-coached Miami Dolphins, who knocked the Patriots into the strange world of Wild Card Weekend, where more mortal playoff teams to go die, or go to gain false hope that they can win three straight games to get to the Super Bowl.
Either way, it’s not what anyone was looking for.
“It’s tough, it is what it is, it happened,” Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who didn’t look like the top corner in the league he’d been all year as Dolphin receiver DeVante Parker had eight catches for 137 yards. “We’ve got to correct the things that happened, go back to the drawing board and play better.”
And play next week against Tennessee at Gillette on Saturday night.The last time the Patriots had to play in a Wild Card Game they were bludgeoned by the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.
“Just got to suck it up,” Gilmore said. “I don’t know who we play next week. Just got to go back and practice hard and correct the things we didn’t do right, and go from there.”
Let’s face it, no one on the planet expected this. As a measuring stick, Parker had no catches in the New England rout of Miami earlier in the season, when we were all thinking of an undefeated season.
One theme going into this one was that maybe, just maybe, it could be Tom Brady’s last regular season game. When it was over, no cared about that. Brady (16 of 29 for 221 yards, two TDs but an interception) was out played by Ryan Fitzpatrick (28 of 41, 320 yards, one TD). It was Brady, not Fitzpatrick, who tossed a pick six.
And, with 3:53 to go, it was Fitzpatrick, not Brady, who led his team on a game-winning 13-play, 75-yard TD march, and tossed the game-winning 5-yard TD to tight end Mike Gesicki. Hmmm, a tight end in the red zone, where has that been seen before?
The Patriots had not allowed a quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in 24 straight regular season games.
“I was kind of happy (the Patriots) took the lead (24-20) rather than tied it up, just so then it was really all on us to go down there and score a touchdown or not,” Fitzpatrick said. “A great situation to be in with a lot on the line for them, and for us, maybe not as much on the line, but with the pride and all the things that we worked through this year, there was a ton on the line for us, too.”
In other words, nothing to lose, and Fitzpatrick welcomed the chance to stick it to the Patriots. They’ve stuck it to a few teams over the second half of the season, going 5-4 after an 0-7 start that had them labeled as one of the worst teams in the NFL’s 100 years.
“They were just making good throws, good catches, and we didn’t make enough plays,” Gilmore said, as he and the other Patriot defenders saw Dolphin crossing routs and trick plays in their Sunday night sleep.
For the Patriots, it’s a cold slap in the face.
“Certainly it is a different situation, but it’s important for us to have the proper perspective,” the team’s conscience, Matthew Slater, said. “We’ve been very blessed to have the type of season we have had (12-4) and being in the playoffs A lot of teams don’t get that opportunity.
“Would it have been nice to have the bye? But now we don’t have one. We have to do everything in our power to recover and prepare and be excited about our opportunity. Let’s not mope around and feel sorry for ourselves, we’re in the playoffs.”
In other words, it could be worse, just ask the teams whose coaches are getting axed today on Black Monday.
But unfortunately, it’s not the Patriot way to have to play three to reach the Super Bowl. But they have to accept the cards they’ve been dealt – or dealt themselves.
“You have to,” Gilmore said. “When it’s good you do it, when it’s bad you’ve got to do it. Got to move on. Can’t do nothing about it. Just got to play better.”
Can they? Well, we’ll find out in one week instead of two.
Now they literally have no days off.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK, or email@example.com