EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 16, 2013

Dolphins 24, Patriots 20: Two-Minute Drill


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BIG SHOWS

1. Julian Edelman — The 2013 Patriots MVP catches 13 more balls for 139 yards and shows nothing but sheer grit on his 39-yard TD.

2. Logan Mankins — Last time he played left tackle, he still had dreams of being a professional rodeo star, specializing in team roping. But when Nate Solder couldn’t answer the call, the veteran left guard did. And he performed pretty darn well under some extremely adverse conditions.

NO SHOWS

1. Dont’a Hightower — Seriously, he looked like my son, Ollie, trying to cover in flag football. Gave up the game-winning, Marcus Thigpen TD in the fourth and it wasn’t even close. Finished with 8 solo tackles, on which Miami gained 58 yards of offense, or 7.3 yards a play. Solid.

2. Kyle Arrington/Marquice Cole — Ryan Tannehill exploited these two whenever they stepped on the field. The object is not to tackle the receiver or push him out of bounds after he gets the first down, boys. A terrible day in coverage. These two weren’t the lone villains, but they’re the poster children of the week.

3. Danny Amendola — 10 catches, 131 yards ... Blah, blah, blah. Tom Brady threw this guy a perfect ball in the end zone with the game on the line and he dropped it. He bobbled it and it got pulled away. Make the play and we’re giving out hats and T-shirts for the AFC East title. But no! I’m telling you right now, old, reliable W.W. makes that play in his sleep.

4. Stephen Gostkowski — Common sense says you have to kick the ball on the field. And he didn’t. I waited for the “I slipped” excuse and didn’t get it. That, along with a missed 48-yarder to open the third quarter are reason enough for the extra “No Show” this week.

GRADING THE GROUPS

OFFENSE

Line (F) ... When my son is sick and can’t do his homework, his teachers still pounce on him for it. So I must take the offensive line’s performance and grade that, in spite of the fact that injuries have them scrambling on every series. Tom Brady is tired of getting hit, and I’m growing weary of seeing guys run free at him. Brady got hit seven times, despite throwing nothing but quick outs and quick screens and quick slants and quick hitches, a point brought up admirably by Phil Simms at halftime.

Receivers (B+) ... Finish the job and it’s an “A” boys. But you can’t bobble the potential game-winning TD when Tom Brady makes that kind of throw.

Tight Ends (B+) ... Anything from Michael Hoomanawanui is a positive, and that one-handed TD catch was priceless. Nothing at all out of Matt Mulligan and his “Steam Shovel.”

Running Backs (C) ... Shane Vereen was shut down by the Dolphins (21 yards on 5 touches). LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley combined to average a decent 4.3 average, but the yards didn’t come when needed. No explosiveness here. Little playmaking. Just four yards and a yawn per snap.

Quarterback (B+) ... My only gripe with the guy was the postgame presser, which he cut out of in less than a minute.

DEFENSE

Line (B-) ... Very deceptive day. Three of the four sacks came from the front four, but the pass rush disappeared when most necessary. Unlike Brady, Ryan Tannehill held on to the football for long stretches and lived to throw downfield. We all know what happened there.

Linebackers (D) ... Dane Fletcher’s costly pass-interference penalty capped bad day. The Dont’a Hightower thing is beyond a joke now. Just blitz him every down. He can’t cover. Don’t make him try. Waiting for the injury report on Brandon Spikes, or on all points bulletin. One or the other.

Secondary (F) ... The secondary’s play can be summed up in one play: Tannehill’s 4th-and-5 completion to Charles Clay to move the chains on the final drive. Logan Ryan’s effort, or lack thereof to meet and defeat his block was only slightly as pitiful as Devin McCourty’s tiptoe into the fray. Hey Devin, you’re a leader on this defense, act like it. Fire up into the play a la Troy Polamalu and at least try to make a hit. Bending over and attempting to arm tackle? Come on, man. Aqib Talib was not brought here to shut out No. 2 receivers ... for one half. Yet, that’s what we got from him yesterday, as Brian Hartline awoke in the second half and caught 5 balls for 70 yards.

ODDS AND ENDS FROM THE LOSS

1. Cincinnati’s loss in Pittsburgh last night might have helped the Pats in the race to the playoff bye, but it had to inject some life into the Ravens, who head to Detroit for tonight’s Monday Night Football collision and then host the Pats Sunday afternoon. Do you really want to see the Ravens or the Chiefs in Foxboro during the playoffs? Not me. ...

2. Give Miami credit for knowing their business. They threw two and three bodies at Chandler Jones much of the day yesterday. He was not going to beat the Dolhins yesterday. And neither was Rob Ninkovich. ...

3. The Josh Boyce Hall of Fame drive ended as abruptly as the Kenbrell Thompkins’ one did. You can’t play receiver in the NFL and bobble the football. ...

4. Tom Brady’s postgame mood and his abrupt, 55-second press conference should tell you plenty about the guy’s frustration level. Remember, the window is closing.