The New England Patriots came into their matchup against the Miami Dolphins with a chance to jump into the driver’s seat in the AFC playoff race. Instead of taking the wheel, the Patriots sputtered against their division foe and now find themselves without control over their own destiny when it comes to earning a first-round playoff bye.
Not that getting a bye is terribly important; in fact, I wrote earlier this month that the Patriots might actually be better off without the free win. Instead, it was the Patriots’ inability to step up when they had a chance to get a statement win against a division opponent that is concerning. After the Denver Broncos lost on Thursday night, getting a win against the Dolphins became even more important to the Patriots.
Good teams know when the key moments in games, and their seasons, are at hand, and they not only know when they are, they play their best and take advantage of their opportunities. Well, New England had a great opportunity today and failed to take advantage. Instead of finding themselves ready to finish off the season strong, they are going to need to fight for their playoff spot down the stretch.
That could end up being a good thing; championship teams tend to have overcome adversity at some point in the season, but it is troubling that they failed to win such an important game. Hopefully the Patriots can use this experience as a reminder that they can lose, even to an inferior team, if they don’t play and prepare their best.