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Stock Watch: Brady's passing game loses its way in Miami

Tom Brady was hoping to pull to .500 career record in Miami on Monday night.

But yet again he and the Patriots (10-3) struggled at Hard Rock Stadium on the way to a stunning 27-20 loss to the Dolphins (6-7) that snapped a New England eight-game winning streak and kept the visitors from clinching the AFC East.

Brady now has a 7-9 career mark in Miami, including losses in four of the last five trips south.

In many ways it was a true team loss, a complementary failure playing without suspended tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady and the passing game struggled, including New England receivers going without a reception in the first half. The running game did little more. As a group the offense never was able to convert on a third down, going 0-for-11, held without a conversion for the first time in nearly 30 years.

And defensively Jay Cutler made enough plays through the air, including three touchdown throws with two to Jarvis Landry. Kenyan Drake did damage both a as a runner and a receiver to the tune of 193 yards from scrimmage, including 114 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

New England allowed more than 17 points for the first time since the 33-30 Week 4 loss to the Panthers and the 20 points scored were the fewest since the Week 5 win in Tampa Bay.

“It was just a bad night. We’ve had a lot of good nights this year and this was a bad night,” Brady said. “We just didn’t play good, got behind, tried to battle back and just couldn’t do it.”

Despite the ugly loss, a win this coming week against the Steelers (11-2) would return the Patriots to atop the AFC standings.

“We’re at a decent place. We have to go to Pittsburgh and try to beat a real good team,” Brady concluded.

Before the Patriots turn the page to next Sunday evening’s showdown with the Steelers in Pittsburgh, here are some of the few personnel highs and many lows from the loss in Miami.

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Passing backs – Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White were pretty much the entirety of the New England offense for most of the miserable night. The trio combined for 13 receptions on 14 targets for 106 yards. White hauled in Brady’s only touchdown pass of the night. Lewis had a beautiful one-handed grab down the right sideline for a 20-yard gain. Burkhead had a 23-yard pickup on a well-executed screen, a rarity these days in New England. It wasn’t good enough, but the running backs did their best as receivers even if they never really could get much going on the ground.

Devin McCourty – New England’s defense struggled in pretty much every area against the Dolphins. But the Pro Bowl safety McCourty was maybe the lone bright spot. He notched a sack on an early blitz and had four solo tackles in the first half. With the struggles on the edge against the run, McCourty had to corral Drake a number of times to keep from allowing really big plays in the run game. McCourty finished with seven solo tackles.

Stephen Gostkowski/Ryan Allen – While the offense and defense were struggling, New England’s special teams units actually performed pretty well. Gostkowski hit his field goal attempts from 46 and 33 yards. He also was solid on kickoffs, again executing the high kicks near the goal line that led to the Dolphins averaging less than 16 yards per return, three of five drives after kickoffs starting at or inside the 20. Gostkowski also did his job on the slow, rolling onside kick attempt late that was called for from the sideline, although it obviously didn’t work. Allen had an impressive night with a 46.4 net average on a season-high seven punts with three downed inside the 20.

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Tom Brady – Despite an up-and-down history in Miami, Brady hadn’t thrown an interception in South Beach since 2013. That changed on his second throw of the night, when Xavien Howard blanketed Brandin Cooks down the left side for the pick on the first third down play for the Patriots. It was the third straight week Brady has thrown a pick, and just his first of two to Howard on the night. Brady, who had 0 passing yards in the first quarter, also had less than 100 yards passing in the first half for the second straight week. The ugly night finished with Brady completing 24 of 43 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown and the two interceptions for a season-low 59.5 passer rating. He was hit six times and was, like the rest of the offense including the game plan, seemingly just a bit off most of the night.

Patrick Chung/Jordan Richards/Elandon Roberts – The trio of New England defenders each whiffed on would-be big plays at various points. Chung and Roberts gave up big runs to Kenyan Drake, while Richards missed a knockout shot on a potential sack of Cutler that ended in a Miami third-down conversion on a way to a touchdown in the second quarter. New England had problems all over the banged-up, undermanned defense, but this trio was emblematic of the performance in Miami. When your linebackers and safeties are missing tackles it exacerbates the overall problems on defense.

*Brandin Cooks – *The first-year Patriots receiver was the target on Brady’s two interceptions. Beyond Howard’s two picks, he blanketed Cooks all night long. With Rob Gronkowski sitting out with a suspension, Cooks should be New England’s next-best playmaker. Cooks and Brady didn’t seem to be on the same page on a third down slant call late in the game. Cooks did finally haul in a 38-yard pass late in the game, his only reception on seven targets, although he did pick up a 20-yard pass interference call on Howard to set up a short Burkhead run in the second quarter.

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