Dolphins Close Season With 20-10 Win Over Patriots

Posted Jan 3, 2016

The Dolphins beat New England at home for the third consecutive year, following a 24-20 victory in December 2013 and a 33-20 decision in the 2014 season opener.

The Dolphins ended a disappointing season in impressive fashion Sunday when they beat the AFC East champion New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium.

The 20-10 victory, which ended a three-game losing streak in season finale, gave the Dolphins a 6-10 record on the season and put New England in position of needing a Denver loss in a late afternoon game to keep the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

“I’m just glad to see us come out here as a team where we’re at,” linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. “We had nothing to play for. We were going home after today. And for guys to come out and play as well as we did and not just physical, flying around, energy, but everybody on their assignments and honing in play in and play out and consistent play the whole game, it speaks volumes about the guys we have in this locker room.”

The Dolphins beat New England at home for the third consecutive year, following a 24-20 victory in December 2013 and a 33-20 decision in the 2014 season opener.

The Dolphins’ last victory in a season finale had come in 2011 against the New York Jets, 19-17 at Sun Life Stadium.

The Dolphins didn’t just beat the Patriots, they dominated them.

Miami outgained New England 438-196; had a 20-12 edge in first downs; and converted 47 percent of third-down situations compared to 29 percent for New England.

“We played a full game,” cornerback Brice McCain said. “We had good halves. Good quarters. Both. The first game we played a complete game all four quarters.”

Tight end Jordan Cameron scored the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter on a 2-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

The touchdown was set up by a spectacular 46-yard reception by rookie first-round pick DeVante Parker to the Patriots 4-yard line. Parker outjumped cornerback Logan Ryan at the 11 to come down with the pass, and then ran 5 more yards to the 6.

“I just saw the ball in the air and went up and got it, that’s it,” Parker said. “Just catch it. I knew it was mine.”

After the defense sacked Tom Brady twice on the next possession, the offense clinched the victory with a 19-yard field goal by Andrew Franks on the first play after the two-minute warning after a 19-yard scramble by Tannehill on third-and-11 from the Patriots 46-yard line and a 22-yard completion from Tannehill to tight end Dion Sims.

After the Dolphins’ final score, backup Jimmy Garappolo ended the game at quarterback for New England.

Parker, who became the first Dolphins rookie with 100 receiving yards in a game since 2001, had the other Dolphins touchdown, that one coming on a 15-yard pass from Tannehill in the final minute of the first half.

“He’s got a really bright future,” Tannehill said of Parker. “I’m super excited about the future he’s going to have. He’s going to be one of the best players in the league and I believe that wholeheartedly. He’s just scratching the surface.”

Tannehill had his sixth 300-yard passing game of the season and he joined Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks in team history with consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons.

The Miami defense held New England to 82 yards in the first offense, including only 20 passing yards by Tom Brady. Brady finished with 134 yards, easily his lowest total of the season (the previous low was 226 against Houston).

New England came out looking to run the ball, as Brady attempted only five passes in the first half.

After the defense forced a three-and-out the first time New England had the ball, the Dolphins marched 54 yards on 11 plays to take the lead on a 38-yard field goal by Andrew Franks.

The big play in the drive was the very first, a 29-yard run by Lamar Miller to the New England 45-yard line. It was Miller’s third-longest run of the season.

After Franks was wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt on the third play of the second quarter, New England drove 48 yards for a field goal that tied the game at 3-3.

New England missed a chance to take the lead late in the second quarter when Stephen Gostkowski was wide right on a field goal attempt from 46 yards out, and the Dolphins answered with a 64-yard drive that ended in the Parker touchdown.

The big play in the drive was a 31-yard hook-up between Tannehill and veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings on third-and-8 from the New England 46-yard line.

Two plays later, Parker scored the third touchdown of his rookie season.

New England tied the score 10-10 on the opening drive of the second half on a 2-yard run by Steven Jackson, which came one play after running back James White took a short Brady pass and turned it into a 68-yard gain.

The Dolphins played the game without four starters on the active roster: center Mike Pouncey, tackle Ja’Wuan James, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

Even without those players and with nothing at stake in terms of standings or postseason, the Dolphins put together one of their best performances of the season.

“That’s all we talked about,” Interim Head Coach Dan Campbell said. “From this point on, it’s what do you want to feel like during the offseason? What do you want it to feel like going into next year? How do you want to finish this thing? Like I said, the greatest part of winning is winning. That’s why this league is so great because you have to earn everything.

“We earned that win today. A team that checks out, there’s no way you’re going to go out there and beat the New England Patriots. We came out to play and they made the plays they had to. We overcame penalties and it says a lot. I’m proud of those guys. No, it wasn’t the season we wanted, but that’s how you finish.”

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