MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Maybe they were looking ahead. Maybe injuries finally caught up to them. Maybe the suspension of star tight end Rob Gronkowski was too much to overcome.
Whatever the ailment — or combination of them — the New England Patriots flopped 27-17 in a stunning loss to the Miami Dolphins Monday night, snapping an eight-game winning streak and preventing them from clinching the AFC East.
Next Sunday's marquee matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which will likely determine supremacy in the AFC, suddenly lost a little luster.
What was most shocking was the degree of futility the Patriots (10-3) displayed.
In the first quarter, quarterback Tom Brady did not complete any of his four passes — unless you consider an interception to Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. In that first period, Miami (6-7) outgained New England 123-2.
As ugly as it was, one silver lining still remains. If New England defeats the 11-2 Steelers, both teams will be in a tie atop the AFC. What the Patriots will have, however, is the tiebreaker and the path to the conference’s No. 1 seed, bringing home field advantage throughout the postseason.