The Patriots’ playoff hopes proceed to drift on protection


FOXBORO — The Patriots are nonetheless alive. They nonetheless have one thing to play for after they journey to Buffalo for his or her Week 18 matchup.

And the explanation the playoffs stay a possible remaining week is easy sufficient.

Their protection provides them an opportunity each sport. On Sunday in opposition to the Dolphins, who additionally had a postseason push earlier within the day, the Patriots in some way managed to carry the Finns to simply three factors with basically each fingers tied behind their backs.

They needed to shield Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, some of the explosive tandems within the league, with simply two cornerbacks on their lively roster. They shut them down with Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, two guys (Quandre Mosel, Ty Hayes) off the road who joined the crew through the week, and a security corps that is without doubt one of the finest within the NFL.

Not solely did they include the Dolphins’ offense, however in addition they put factors on the board with Kyle Dugger’s pick-six within the third quarter because the Pats held on for a shot on the AFC’s remaining Wild Card with a 23-21 win.


If the protection continues to close down groups and rating factors each sport, the Patriots, who’re 8-8 via the week, will hope for extra.

Now, the offense had a say within the victory, placing collectively one in all its finest and most vital drives of the season to principally put the sport away within the fourth quarter. The ultimate 11-play drive, which began on the Patriots’ 11 with a 16-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne and ended with a one-yard landing to Jacoby Meyers, was the proper bookend for his or her opening drive, which additionally produced a landing.

What occurred between these drives, nonetheless, wasn’t fairly.

However due to a protection that continues to indicate dedication that refuses to give up even when the offense is down a lot of the sport thrice, the Patriots aren’t lifeless.

Invoice Belichick and his employees schemed and schemed their backs to maintain Hill and Waddle contained whereas taking part in with a patchwork secondary. Enjoying a ton of zone, utilizing 4 safeties and Jonathan Jones doing what he appears to do finest. restrict Hill, the protection was capable of survive.

Hill (4 catches, 55 yards) and Waddle mixed for simply 107 yards. It was greater than a recipe for achievement within the Do-or-Die sport.

“We did a great job. We have been capable of management (Hill), not surrender massive performs or what they love to do,” stated Jonathan Jones, who completed with a choose, two go breakups and 4 tackles. “We saved him in entrance of us. I am positive the quarterback scenario had lots to do with it, however we got here to play ball.”

Sure, it helped that the Dolphins have been with out beginning quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after which needed to go along with third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson after backup Teddy Bridgewater needed to go away within the fourth quarter, however that should not diminish what the Patriots have been capable of do. the execute with one half scheme, one half plan, and one half crafty.

“I feel it was a bit of little bit of every thing, however largely the final half,” Bryant stated, hinting that the protection dug deep to assist pull out the win. “The season was nearly a one-game season immediately. The truth that we needed to go on the market was flawed and simply determine find out how to get (a win), I am glad we have been in a position to do this.”

The Patriots confirmed tons of resilience after back-to-back losses, as soon as once more fighting the offense within the sport.

Even quarterback Mack Jones acknowledged the significance of a protection that might preserve them viable from sport to sport and permit the offense to beat its struggles.

“All these guys are taking part in effectively, they’re rather well coached, they have a terrific scheme, simply nice gamers,” Jones stated of the protection. “We undoubtedly need to have the ability to generate extra offense and that begins with me as a quarterback. I do know we have stated it lots. However on the finish of the day, we have simply received to attempt to preserve successful video games, taking part in with one another and attempting to complete video games sturdy and rating extra factors so they do not have to do this half for us.”

Jones (20-for-33, 203 yards, two TDs) as soon as once more melted below strain, however when he had time, he made some spectacular throws, particularly to Hunter Henry and Jacoby Meyers in key spots. He additionally led the scoring in the long run, going 5-for-7 for 51 yards, together with a go interception on a deep throw to Meyers.

Nevertheless, this sport was all about protection. And what occurs in Buffalo may even apply to the protection and attempting to include Josh Allen and Co. if the Payments play their starters and play to win if the highest spot would not fold. The protection, which has now recorded seven defensive touchdowns, a brand new franchise report, has been a key part all season, particularly if the crew wants a lift.

Dagger’s pick-six, his third defensive landing of the season, despatched a much-needed shockwave via the stadium and on the sidelines. Nick Faulk had simply hit a area aim to place the Pats inside 4 at 14-10 within the third quarter, then on Miami’s subsequent drive, Dagger jumped a route and took it 39 yards on a punt return to offer the Patriots the lead. wouldn’t refuse.

“It was an enormous efficiency. The protection stepped up lots proper there,” Patriots heart David Andrews stated. “They actually gave the entire stadium … the entire crew, some juice.”

With the offense scoring simply 16 factors, it was as soon as once more vital for the protection to place factors on the board. It gave the crew an opportunity and saved the Patriots’ hopes alive.

“That’s our aim. We present up each week to attempt to do what we will,” Jonathan Jones stated. “We’re attempting to make performs, influence performs, which we have finished lots this yr from entrance to again to assist us win.”

The unit definitely got here to the rescue in a do-or-die sport in opposition to the Dolphins. They will want much more in opposition to the Payments as they attempt to beat a crew with an elite quarterback for the primary time this season.


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