The Patriots 20-10 loss to the Dolphins in their regular season finale indicated just how much injuries have completely transformed Bill Belichick’s game plan.
Tom Brady threw just one pass in the first quarter and that was a shovel pass to running back Brandon Bolden that went for six yards. After a 20-yard screen pass to running back Steven Jackson, Brady dropped back to throw his first traditional pass at 8:25 in the second quarter. The pass, intended for Danny Amendola, was incomplete, but what happened in the backfield was more important.
Belichick did not trust the Patriots ravaged offensive line to protect Brady and as a result the coach was content with über conservative play calling. No passes to Gronkowski over the middle and only two catches on four targets for Danny Amendola. Brady did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season and finished the game with 134 yards passing (68 of which came on a short pass to James White).
The Patriots truly had no interest in winning this game and who can blame them? Every week since Week 9 against Washington, the Patriots lost a key player to an injury and Belichick had seen enough. He clearly valued health over home field advantage in the playoffs and even that seems in jeopardy after the hit on Brady from defensive lineman Ndamokung Suh, a player known for dirty hits.
So, the Patriots finish the 2015 regular season campaign with a 12-4 record after starting the season 10-0, but there is good news…
The Patriots will be the #2 seed in the AFC after Denver’s victory over San Diego and New England will play either Kansas City, Cincinnati, or Houston in Foxboro on January 16th at 4:25pm.