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Patriots season finally ends

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            Though they tried to prevent it, the Patriots season came to a close with a 27-24 loss to Miami Sunday night.  

One week after winning a long overtime battle in Buffalo, New England had its most bizarre ending of the season. Both teams had left the playing field after the game had apparently ended on an illegal forward pass call. The Patriots returned to the field after being informed that there was still three seconds left in the game.

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            However, the officials ruled the game over and sent New England back to the locker room citing the safety hazard the players would face because of not being properly loose. Several minutes later, the officials overturned their own ruling and brought the teams out for a final play from the Patriots 40-yard line.  

Unfortunately Michael Bishop's Hail Mary toss was well short, and the season was finally over. The rest of the game served as a microcosm of the season for New England. They battled the division champions right to the end, only to fall short in the end.

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            New England appeared to be driving for a game-winning field goal with just five minutes to go. After Miami had tied the game on a 1-yard touchdown by Lamar Smith, Curtis Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to the Patriot 40-yard line. Drew Bledsoe (18-of-34, 312 yards, 2 TDs) hit Troy Brown for a 22-yard completion to give the Patriots a first down at the Miami 38.  

Bledsoe hit Brown again on the next play, but the ball was tipped into the air and intercepted by the Dolphins' Zach Thomas. Miami then drove 45 yards on 12 plays to set up Olindo Mare's game-winning 47-yard field goal.

It was a tough night for New England, as they gave up 10 points off turnovers, had a blocked punt lead to a touchdown and saw their longest pass play of the season result in a lost fumble.

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            "I told the guys in the locker room after the game that we just lost to the AFC East champions," Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "We are the last-place team, but as was the case all year, we battled tough but couldn't come up with enough plays. We need to close that gap between us and the other teams before next season."  

The tough part was that New England played a solid game. Bledsoe through touchdown passes to Kevin Faulk and Terry Glenn, and fullback Tony Carter ran in a 1-yard touchdown. All of that scoring came in the first half as the Patriots led 21-17 at the break.

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            Unfortunately, after showing a solid offensive attack in the first half, the Patriots faltered after the break. An Adam Vinatieri field goal was all the team could muster, as Miami outscored the home team 10-3 to pull out the victory.  

Bledsoe, who said he was ready for a break from football after the game, was disappointed with the final result, which was all too familiar this year

"We had a lot of lost opportunities, and we had a few plays where we screwed up and ended up giving the game away," said Bledsoe, who threw two costly interceptions.

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            "Offensively and defensively we did a nice job against Miami in the first half, but the interception on the screen play and the blocked punt gave them 14 points and made a ballgame out of it. It's typical of our season because we are very close in a lot of these games and we don't come up with the plays when we need them."  
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