1) A FitzMagical ending
It's been 11 seasons since the Miami Dolphins have come away with a win in New England. In 2008, it was the wildcat formation that gave the Patriots defense fits for the better part of three quarters. This time, on the final Sunday of the regular season, it was another type of offense that gave New England Fitz for the entire game. Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 320 yards and led his team back from a four-point deficit with just under four minutes to play in regulation. The 13-play, 75-yard drive was masterful as Fitzpatrick used four different receivers, ultimately finding tight end Mike Gesicki in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The Patriots had just taken their first lead of the game on a 15-yard screen pass from Tom Brady to James White, but the Dolphins offense had an answer against arguably the best defense in the AFC. The Dolphins kept finding ways to move the chains, converting two third downs in the drive and also overcoming a fumble along the way. Much like most of the game, Fitzpatrick was on time and on target moving within the pocket to extend plays and finding windows to throw the football. Fitz was the best quarterback on the field this Sunday, and it took all the magic he could muster to pull out a last-second victory.
2) Parker dominated Gilmore
One of the main reasons the Patriots defense is so good has been the play of their Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He's usually isolated on the opponents' best receiver and this game would be no different. The only thing that changed was DeVante Parker's skill set got the better of this one-on-one matchup. Parker not only muscled Gilmore on multiple occasions, but he used his frame and quickness to consistently beat him inside on quick slants and took the ball away from him vertically. Parker won the majority of 50/50 chances on the perimeter, catching eight passes for 137 yards and averaging 17 yards per receptions. It was the most receptions (7) and yards (119) given up by Gilmore (when lined up directly over Parker) since joining the Patriots in 2017.
3) Dolphins played with confidence
flinched. They came out and never allowed the Patriots to gain any stability on offense, getting an early pick-six by former Patriot Eric Rowe to build an early 10-point lead. The Dolphins defense flew around all afternoon, making it very difficult for Brady to find rhythm in the passing game, and totally took away slot receiver Julian Edelman, who had a meager three receptions for 26 yards. New England had much to play for and should have been the more motivated football team, but it was the Dolphins that had all of the juice and played with more emotion. They took it to the AFC East division winners and kept finding ways to execute in a hostile environment. This win hopefully will build momentum into the off-season. The goal is to find other players who can help this team win in the very near future, and play with the confidence that's on this youthful roster.