Dol­phins stun Pa­tri­ots 27-24, deny­ing NE first-round bye

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By KYLE HIGHTOWER AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. >> Mi­ami dropped de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pion New Eng­land into the wild-card play­off round when Ryan Fitz­patrick tossed a 5-yard touch­down pass to tight end Mike Gesicki with 24 sec­onds re­main­ing for a stun­ning 27-24 vic­tory Sun­day.

New Eng­land (12-4) will have to play in the open­ing week­end of the post­sea­son for the first time since 2009. The Pa­tri­ots never have made the Su­per Bowl while play­ing in the wild-card round.

The Pa­tri­ots won their first eight games, the split the next eight, in­clud­ing the rar­ity of two losses at home.

It is the sec­ond straight sea­son the Dol­phins have de­nied the Pa­tri­ots an un­beaten di­vi­sion record. They scored on a wild se­ries of lat­er­als on the fi­nal play in their sec­ond meet­ing last sea­son, in Mi­ami.

After trail­ing through­out the game, Tom Brady threw a 13-yard touch­down pass to James White to put New Eng­land in front 2420 with 3:53 left. But Fitz­patrick, who fin­ished 28 of 41 for 320 yards and a touch­down, was un­flap­pable, lead­ing Mi­ami on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that in­cluded him

re­cov­er­ing a fum­bled snap, and com­plet­ing a 24-yard pass to DeVante Parker.

Mi­ami (5-11) made New Eng­land play catchup for most of the game and led 10-0 early and 20-17 in the fourth quar­ter.

Brady fin­ished 16 of 29 for 221 yards with two touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion. He went over 4,000 yards for the 11th time in his ca­reer, ty­ing him with Philip Rivers for fourth on the all-time list.

The Dol­phins drove in­side the Pa­tri­ots 20 early in the fourth quar­ter, but set­tled for a 32-yard field goal by Ja­son San­ders to take a 20-17 lead with 8:29 re­main­ing.

Bran­don Bolden gave the Pa­tri­ots good field po­si­tion, tak­ing the en­su­ing kick­off and re­turn­ing it 38 yards to the New Eng­land 40. Rex Burk­head rushed 14 yards on the first play to get the Pa­tri­ots across the 50.

Brady com­pleted a short pass to Ben Wat­son, fol­lowed by a 20-yard strike to Mo­hamed Sanu. Three plays later, Brady con­nected with White for the go-head score. But it wasn’t enough. The Dol­phins made it clear from the out­set that they weren’t go­ing to al­low the Pa­tri­ots to coast. Mi­ami took a 10-0 lead in the sec­ond quar­ter when Eric Rowe stepped in front of Brady’s pass to Ju­lian Edelman and re­turned it 35 yards for a touch­down. It was Brady’s first ca­reer pick-6 against the Dol­phins.

It also marked the first time the Dol­phins led the Pa­tri­ots by dou­ble dig­its since Week 8 of the 2013 sea­son. New Eng­land won that game 27-17.

Mi­ami twice saw its leads evap­o­rate on Sun­day as well.

The Pa­tri­ots got a 25yard field goal from Nick Folk. They tied it by cap­ping a five-play, 82-yard drive with a 4-yard run by Sony Michel just be­fore the half. Michel’s TD was setup by a 50-yard pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett along the side­line, his first catch since Week 13.

Later, trail­ing 17-10 in the third, the Pa­tri­ots went deep in the play­book when Brady con­nected with line­backer and part-time full­back Elan­don Roberts for a 38-yard touch­down.

NOTH­ING TO LOSE

With no post­sea­son to look for­ward to, Mi­ami pulled out plenty of trick­ery.

Fac­ing a fourth-and-3 on the Pa­tri­ots 45 on the open­ing drive, the Dol­phins at­tempted a fake punt. But holder Matt Haack’s pass to Deon Lacey was high and landed far out of bounds.

The tricks con­tin­ued when re­ceiver Isa­iah Ford scram­bled for a first down after an aborted pass at­tempt. The Dol­phins drove to the Pa­tri­ots 9 be­fore the 12-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 27-yard field goal by San­ders that put Mi­ami in front 3-0.

Mi­ami used even more mis­di­rec­tion in the third quar­ter when re­ceiver Al­bert Wil­son tossed a 20yard pass to run­ning back Pa­trick Laird. Four plays later, Fitz­patrick ran it in from 2 yards to put Mi­ami in front 17-10.

IRON MAN

Sun­day’s start also marked Brady’s 16th sea­son start­ing 16 games, ty­ing Pey­ton Man­ning for sec­ond all time. Brett Favre holds the NFL record at 17 sea­sons of 16 starts.

IN­JURIES

Dol­phins: Safety Walt Aikens left in the fourth quar­ter with an an­kle is­sue.

UP NEXT

Dol­phins: End of sea­son. Pa­tri­ots: Will play on the open­ing week­end of the post­sea­son for the first time since 2009.

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