Dolphins make all the misery worth it with 27-20 upset of Patriots

Jay Cutler was outstanding against the Patriots. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

MIAMI GARDENS — This makes it all worth it.

A Dolphins season full of shakeups and setbacks culminated in a shocking 27-20 upset of the Patriots on Monday Night Football that felt like the wildest party this team has thrown in years. Hard Rock Stadium, where the chants are usually calling for the backup quarterback, thundered with “Let’s go Dolphins.”

A close loss would’ve been enough to merit calling this progress, but Miami took it one step further with one of the biggest upsets of the season as an 11-point underdog. The Dolphins had the lead all night with the exception of about three minutes in the second quarter and bowed up when Tom Brady swiped at them late in the game.

This doesn’t make the Dolphins a good team, it doesn’t mean they’re inching closer to New England and all it does playoffs-wise is keep their already slim hopes in play with three games remaining. But none of that matters.

This was the best game they’ve played under Adam Gase, and everybody in aqua deserved it. The players who have endured 13 straight weeks without a bye have been wrecking their bodies just for a celebration like this, and the fans who somehow forced themselves to keep watching through five-game losing streak earned some must-see TV.

The whole country must have enjoyed it, really, considering the terrible football they were subjected to during the Dolphins’ previous national games.

This is the game everyone, especially Bill Belichick, will remember from the 2017 Dolphins.

There was drama from the onset as the Dolphins (6-7) stirred memories of their legendary 1985 Monday Night Football win over Chicago—almost 32 years ago to the day—with their retro uniforms under the lights.

There was nonstop tension, which surely played tricks on Miami fans’ stomachs but is exactly why people watch football in the first place. Anyone who bit their fingernails through the full three-plus hours knows it didn’t feel anywhere near as comfortable as that final score might indicate.

Thrill and dread were intertwined as Jay Cutler marched the Dolphins into scoring range on their first two possessions and came away with field goals, sparking electricity in a stadium still secretly worried that six points wasn’t enough payoff for all that headway.

The confidence teetered again as New England (10-3) took a 7-6 lead in the second quarter, fell behind again, then pulled back within 13-10 at halftime. Every moment was a test to see if Miami could hold off what felt like the inevitable crushing disappointment this franchise has so frequently delivered over the last 40-something years.

Some unlikely characters emerged to make sure that didn’t happen.

Cutler, one of the least popular players with this fanbase, was tremendous.

He’s been outplayed by nearly every quarterback he’s faced this year, but schooled Brady in the art of quarterbacking by completing 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (albeit several close calls) for a 112.1 passer rating. In 150 career games, this is one of the top 20 he’s ever played.

Not long ago, it looked like there was no route to the field for second-year running back Kenyan Drake. Now he’s indispensable. After grinding out 30 yards on nine carries in the first quarter, he rolled to 114 on 25.

Drake and Cutler closed out the game by leading a modest drive that ended in a punt but ran enough clock to bury the Patriots. They got the ball back at their own 23, down 10 with 2:24 remaining.

Then there’s Xavien Howard, whose inconsistency at cornerback brought into question whether he’s as good as the Dolphins thought when they drafted him in the second round last year. A month ago, Pro Football Focus ranked him the 115th-best corner in the league, but he’s come on strong lately and was exceptional against the Patriots.

It was Howard who answered when Brady launched one about 75 yards for Brandin Cooks on the first series after the half. Cooks looked like he might catch it right on time and race away for a touchdown, but Howard closed perfectly for an over-the-shoulder interception and ran it back to the New England 46.

It was his second interception of the game, fourth in the last two, and it set Miami up for a quick scoring drive. In a matter of minutes, the Dolphins went from nearly surrendering their lead to surging ahead 20-10.

The Miami defense as a whole played a better game than anyone could’ve reasonably thought possible. That group shut down Brady down and forced him into his worst game of an otherwise sparkling season. He failed to convert a single third down in 11 tries and trudged off the field with a meager 59.5 passer rating.

New England, which arrived as the No. 3 offense in the league, stomped off the field at the end of the first quarter with two total yards. Those came on one rush by Rex Burkhead. That was all the Patriots could get on a Dolphins defense that was on pace to give up one of the gaudiest rushing totals in franchise history.

In the fourth quarter, with Brady desperately firing away to overcome a 17-point deficit, Miami stopped him on three of the last four possessions to hang on for the win.

The natural question after the Dolphins put forward an effort like this is why they can’t replicate it every week, but every week doesn’t have the perfect confluence of the hated nemesis coming to town, a national TV audience and the season wobbling on the brink of oblivion.

Miami can’t play like this every game, because every game isn’t this. But for one night, this team was incredible.

[Ndamukong Suh has it out for Patriots QB Tom Brady]

[What’s Jay Cutler doing behind the scenes to get DeVante Parker out of his funk?]

[Adam Gase has his finger on exactly what’s gone wrong vs. New England Patriots]

[RELATED: Exclusive photos from the Dolphins’ huge MNF win over the Patriots]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Reader Comments 0

0 comments