Comeback bid falls short, Pats lose Miami 24-20

When Tom Brady’s day ended with an errant final pass, he hung

his head, unsnapped his chin strap and looked up at the scoreboard,

which summarized his frustrating afternoon.

Dolphins 24, Patriots 20.

A late drive and the Patriots’ latest comeback bid came up short

Sunday, and they missed a chance to clinch their fifth consecutive

AFC East title.

Brady was intercepted in the end zone on fourth down with 2

seconds left by Dolphins newcomer Michael Thomas. That was the last

in a series of squandered scoring chances for the Patriots (10-4),

and a miffed Brady answered only two questions at his postgame news

conference before ending the session.

”We didn’t do a good job in the red area, and didn’t do a good

job finishing drives,” he said. ”We came up on the short end of

the stick. It wasn’t a good day. Just couldn’t make enough

plays.”

The Dolphins (8-6) won their third game in a row to help their

AFC wild-card chances, and snapped a streak of seven consecutive

losses to the Patriots.

”We were short in every area,” New England coach Bill

Belichick said. ”Nothing was really good enough.”

Brady threw for 364 yards, but drives of 16, 15 and 13 plays

produced a total of only six points.

The last drive came in the final 1:15, when Brady led the

Patriots from their own 20 to the Miami 14. It was familiar stuff

from the Patriots, who had mounted second-half rallies to win their

past three games.

With New England out of timeouts, Brady threw for the end zone

four times in a row. The first three passes went incomplete,

including one intended for Danny Amendola that Thomas broke up on

first down.

Then, Thomas stepped in front of Austin Collie to make his

interception. The reserve safety, signed Tuesday off the San

Francisco 49ers’ practice squad, was making his NFL debut.

”I knew being the new guy that Tom Brady would come after me,”

Thomas said. ”He’s a great quarterback, and he’s going to exploit

any weaknesses. I knew if I got in there, I would have a chance. I

saw the ball in the air and I made a play.”

Thomas was part of an injury-depleted secondary that also

included backups at both cornerback spots on the final drive.

Brady went 34 for 55 and threw two scores. Julian Edelman made

13 catches for 139 yards, and Amendola added 10 receptions for 131

yards.

New England took a 20-17 lead when Edelman scored on a 24-yard

reception with four minutes left, but the Dolphins caught a break

when the ensuing kickoff by Stephen Gostkowski went out of bounds,

allowing them to start at their 40.

Charles Clay kept the drive going when he turned a short pass

into a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-5 at midfield, and Thigpen scored

five plays later.

”They were in some tight situations, especially late in the

game,” Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said. ”They just wanted

it more.”

New England, accustomed to slow starts, took a 10-0 lead on

Michael Hoomanawanui’s one-handed, 13-yard touchdown reception. But

on other trips to the red zone, they missed tight end Rob

Gronkowski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury a week

ago.

The Patriots mounted drives of 16 and 15 plays but settled for a

field goal each time, and Gostkowski misfired on a field-goal try

for only the third time this year when he sailed a 48-yard attempt

wide left.

”Today just wasn’t my day,” Gostkowski said. ”It stinks to

play terrible and your team loses. It’s like salt on the

wound.”

Notes: Patriots T Nate Solder aggravated a head injury in the

second half and sat out rest of game. … Dolphins DT Paul Soliai

sat out the last three quarters with an ankle injury. CB Nolan

Carroll (knee) was limited in the second half, and CB Brent Grimes

(cramps) went to the sideline in the fourth quarter. … The

Dolphins botched a field-goal try when John Denney snapped the ball

before holder Brandon Fields was ready, and the ball hit Fields in

the facemask. … Miami’s seven home games have been decided by a

total of 23 points.

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