FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Miami quarterback Matt Moore dropped back from the New England 15-yard line and lofted a jump ball toward the corner of the end zone.
Except Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker didn’t jump. And Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore did.
The interception kept Miami from cutting into an 11-point deficit just before halftime, and it was just one of the key mistakes made by the Dolphins in a 35-17 loss to the AFC East-leading Patriots on Sunday. There were seven sacks, six penalties, two interceptions and a fumble, and they also got caught napping when New England faked a punt on fourth-and-8 from its own 27.
“There’s self-inflicted wounds that kind of reared their ugly heads,” defensive lineman Cameron Wake said after Miami lost its fifth in a row - and ninth straight at New England. “They cost you plays, which in turn cost you position on the field, which in turn costs you points on the board. And, obviously, that sways the course of the game.”
Miami seemed on its way to forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive, but upback Nate Ebner took the snap instead of the punter and ran 14 yards for a first down that sent the Patriots on their way to their first touchdown. It was 14-7 when the Dolphins committed two defensive holding penalties in three snaps, clearing the way for another touchdown drive.
But Miami had a chance to cut into the deficit just before the half, driving to the Patriots 10 before settling for a field goal and then quickly getting the ball back when Bobby McCain - more on him later - intercepted Tom Brady just before the 2-minute warning.
With the ball on the New England 15 and 16 seconds left in the half, Moore threw the ball toward Parker, who didn’t react until it was too late.
“I thought Matt made the right read,” coach Adam Gase said. “(I) don’t know if he was early or DeVante didn’t think it was coming to him that quickly. It looked like the ball was in the air, when he got his head around, he was trying to stop then fell.”
More mistakes followed in the second half.
On New England’s first possession, defensive back Xavlen Howard grabbed a face mask away from the play to move the Patriots across midfield. Three plays later, McCain was ejected for throwing a punch at receiver Danny Amendola, with a penalty that advanced the ball to the 12.
On second down, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski from 15 yards out for his second TD catch of the game and a 28-10 New England lead.
“That was a terrible series for us,” Gase said. “I mean, that was one we really couldn’t have at that moment in the game. We really put ourselves in bad position, especially losing Bobby like that. That puts a lot of guys in a bad position.”
Despite fumbling on their next possession, the Dolphins still trailed only 28-17 when they forced a three-and-out with 10:28 left in the game. But Miami gained negative yardage on each of its next three possessions, thanks to four sacks for 42 yards.
Moore’s last pass - another lob targeting Parker - came down with two Patriots fighting over the ball. Duron Harmon was credited with the interception.
“Obviously they’re going to make plays; they’re professional athletes. But then if you do damage to your own self on top of the things that they’re doing, you’re fighting a losing battle,” Wake said. “This game, that was the most frustrating thing.”
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