The New England Patriots are still trying to figure out just how they allowed the Miami Miracle to occur on Sunday, where the Dolphins used a series of lateral plays to score a 70-yard touchdown as time expired to win the game.
When the Pats ran most of the clock down and kicked the ball back to Miami with seven seconds left, a victory was in the bag. Backed up at their own 30-yard line, there was no way Ryan Tannehill could attempt a Hail Mary from that far out.
But it happened, and head coach Bill Belichick emphasized that the Miracle in Miami falls on him - not the players who missed the tackles and let it happen.
It starts with me," Belichick said, according to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. "We have to play better situational football. We'll work to try to achieve that."
The Patriots were criticized for putting out tight end Rob Gronkowski on the final play of the game. He's usually put out there to defend against Hail Mary situations, but the Dolphins were obviously not in position to throw one from that far away.
In this case, Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty should have been out there as the last line of defense - given his great speed and experience as an open field tackler. So when Dolphins' running back Kenyan Drake sprinted downfield, the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski had no chance of catching him in a footrace.
"It would be his ability to play the deep, long throw," Belichick said, regarding the decision to put Gronk out there on the final play.
This was an uncharacteristic mistake by the Patriots, who are almost never burned on such miracle plays. The decision to put Gronkowski out there can really be cited as an explanation for the meltdown, because a defensive back would have likely been able to get the angle on Drake and get him down.
What This Means
With the loss, the Patriots moved to 9-4 and are two games behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC. They're also tied with the Houston Texans for the second seed, with just three games to go.
Miami kept its slim playoff hopes in tact; they're now 7-6 and tied with three other teams for the final playoff spot in the AFC. If they can build off this miracle, the Dolphins will make a second trip to the postseason in three years.