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It's Over.

For the first time since Barack Obama’s first term, the New England Patriots are not going to the NFL playoffs.

We knew after the debacle in Los Angeles that this was likely our fate, but who amongst Patriots nation didn’t believe that, during the season of perpetual hope, New England would run the table, get the right amount of luck from the Ravens, Dolphins and Raiders to slip into the before now nonexistent “7th playoff spot”.

It was not to be as the Patriots fell Sunday to Brian Flores’ Miami Dolphins, 22-12 in yet another game where the Patriots failed to reach the end zone.

The Patriots haven’t scored a touchdown since Jarrett Stidham connected with Gunner Olszewski from 38-yards out in the 4th quarter of the Chargers game on December 6th. (If you’re wondering about Cam’s last passing touchdown, it was one quarter earlier in an equally rare occurrence as N’Keal Harry caught a 5-yard score.)

The story of the 2020 New England Patriots, is the story of Cam Newton. Newton has 11 rushing touchdowns, the most he’s had in a season since his rookie year in 2011 (14). He also has 10 interceptions, which is slightly below his average in Carolina.

Any guesses as to how many touchdowns Newton has thrown for this season?

Answer: 5.

After throwing touchdowns in weeks 2 and 3, Cam has thrown just 3 since September 27th and has never thrown multiple touchdowns in a game as a member of the New England Patriots. (For the record Stidham has thrown 2 touchdowns to 3 interceptions this season. The lesson is, if the Patriots are throwing the ball only 3 things can happen, two of them are bad and sadly more likely than the one good thing.)

The Patriots defense pitched a shut out in the first half yesterday, with a little luck. The two plays that caused me to cuss out loud, didn’t happen. Not technically anyway. The Newton fumble along the sidelines, resulting in a scoop and score? Never happened. The fake punt on 4th and 9? Illegal touching, just a bad dream. Add in Tua Tagovailoa getting fluffed, folded and forced into a JC Jackson goal line pick by Chase Winvich plus a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Miami and this had the makings of a game the Dolphins shouldn’t lose, but do.

Alas, it was the Dolphins stable of backs, the heralded triumvirate of Breida, Ahmed and Laird that reminded most who viewed Sunday’s broadcast of Hornung, Taylor and Anderson of Vince Lombardi’s vaunted “Packer Sweep.” The Dolphins who run for an average of 95 yards per game and rank 32nd in the NFL in yards per carry, gashed the Foxborough front for 250 yards on the ground. (Or roughly the distance to Rodman Collision from Gillette Stadium, if that helps you better visualize the ground covered by teal jerseys on Sunday.)

The Patriots lost for the most basic of reasons: they couldn’t tackle. Containment and scheme weren’t a problem, but once contained, Miami players were able to wriggle away from New England defenders and find yardage when it should have been harder to find than a horror movie on the Hallmark Channel.

The Patriots playoff chances ended Sunday. The streak of consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance, dating back to 2008 came to an end, as did the run of 19- straight winning seasons. (Just one shy of Dallas’s record 20-straight winning seasons under Tom Landry.) Changes will come this off season. Some necessary (a new quarterback), some sad (potential retirements of guys like Hightower, Chung and Cannon) and some inevitable (we might have seen Stephon Gilmore’s last snap as a Patriot on Sunday.)

There are opportunities, the Patriots have about the most cap space in the league during a year that will likely see the cap reduced for the first time in 10-years. The rebuild begins from here.



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