By Danny Cox

Last week, New England Patriots (10-3) tight end Rob Gronkowski delivered a cheap shot against the Buffalo Bills that garnered him a one-game suspension. As the Pats had been playing lights out for the majority of the season, it was believed that others would step up in his absence on Monday night and deliver a message against the Miami Dolphins (6-7).

Little did anyone realize that the loss of one of their star players would end up affecting every single other aspect of the Patriots squad in a 27-20 loss to the Dolphins. Now, the Pats have seen their eight-game win streak come to an end with a huge game awaiting them next week.

Offense: D+

New England didn’t only suffer at tight end; the offense was bad all around. They had a mere two total yards in the first quarter and minus one yard in the third quarter until the final minute. From there, the Dolphins essentially played to hold onto their lead, and that was exactly what they did.

Tom Brady was pressured all evening and was only sacked twice, but he ended up on the ground countless times. He finished the game with 233 passing yards and two interceptions in an uncommonly bad performance. New England’s running game ended up being abandoned due to their deficit, but 25 yards total on 10 carries from Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead didn’t help matters at all.

Defense: C-

Jay Cutler looked more like the future Hall of Famer as he threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns in what can only be seen as an upset and a rout that would have been much worse if not for the fourth quarter.

Running back Kenyan Drake continues to play well as he led the Dolphins in pretty much every category—the Patriots could not stop him at all. Drake ended the night with 114 yards rushing and 79 more yards receiving. The missed tackles by the Patriots are what allowed Drake to keep forcing his way down the field and that kept the ball in the possession of the Dolphins.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski is responsible for eight of the Patriots’ points, but there wasn’t much else to be happy about.

Ryan Allen had a very busy evening as he punted seven times and did his job well. He pinned the Dolphins back inside their own 20-yard line on three occasions, but the defense simply couldn’t do anything to help him out.

Coaching: D+

This was just a confusing game all around for the New England Patriots—nothing worked and nothing seemed to matter, either. It wasn’t just the absences of Rob Gronkowski and Trey Flowers that brought about the loss on Monday night; something just seemed incredibly off. No matter what the Patriots unleashed, the Dolphins were ready for it and able to answer it.

Up Next: The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) are now the team with the best record in the AFC, and they’re looking forward to welcoming the Patriots into their home. Gronkowski will be back on the field for practice this week and will play in the game against the Steelers, but the Patriots had a lot more problems than just missing their star tight end on Monday. If other issues aren’t corrected this week, the Patriots may be looking at another loss late in the season.

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