With the official end to meaningful football in New England on the line Sunday, the Patriots' defense played pacifist. Conscientious objectors to stuffing the run, New England got bullied by the Miami Dolphins and chose -- by scheme, effort and, according to cornerback J.C. Jackson, an uncharacteristic lack of urgency -- to not punch back.
“It’s not much really to say they just -- they just beat us,” said Jackson. “They competed harder than us and they just flat-out beat us.”
For the Patriots fan watching the bid for a 12th straight postseason berth disappear, there was no more apt metaphor for the AFC East future than seeing New England allow 250 yards on the ground under the South Beach sun, then being forced to glance out the window at the December desolation that has blanketed us all.
“We said it last week (after the 24-3 loss to the Rams in which New England allowed 186 yards on the ground),” said captain Devin McCourty. “We’ve got to stop the run as a defense, you watch the game, that’s what it came down to.
“Early in the game, and then really in the second half, that’s what the game turned into. I don’t think us not stopping them was from a lack of effort. If I had that answer (why New England couldn’t stop the run), I would gladly share it, and we probably would play better.”
There was no DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant or Mike Gesicki -- not that that trio would ever be confused with Moss, Welker and Gronkowski. Yet, out came the New England Patriots with a moldy vanilla base look on defense, five defensive backs and one linebacker facing bulky, two-tight end sets.
“Seemed like the stuff we were facing was pretty straight-forward,” said Patriots second-year man Chase Winovich. “Seemed like a bunch of stuff went wrong.”