MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers next weekend in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The New England Patriots made sure of it with a 35-14 blowout victory over Miami in Sunday's regular-season finale.
The defeat locks the Dolphins (10-6) into the AFC's sixth seed in what will be their first playoff appearance since 2008. Miami finished the regular season 8-2 in its final 10 games. However, the Patriots exposed several weaknesses Sunday that certainly are concerns heading into the postseason.
Defensively, Miami's poor tackling continues to be problematic. The Patriots had 396 yards of total offense, and a solid amount of those came after contact. The Patriots ran the ball efficiently and often turned short passes into long gains. The best example of that was receiver Julian Edelman's 77-yard touchdown that was sprung by a couple of missed tackles and a big block by receiver Michael Floyd on Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett.
The Dolphins also displayed their lack of speed on defense; that had been the case all season, but the Patriots used it to their advantage. New England ran various crossing routes to its quick receivers and remained a step ahead of the Dolphins' defense. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had an easy day with 276 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Offensively, Miami quarterback Matt Moore and the offense were uneven and could not keep up with Brady. Moore fell to 2-1 as a starter replacing the injured Ryan Tannehill and threw for 205 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He will have to play better in the playoffs. Running back Damien Williams' fourth-quarter fumble with 8 minutes remaining essentially sealed the game for the Patriots.
Overall, the Dolphins did not look ready for an elite, playoff-caliber team like the Patriots (14-2), who earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Dolphins said they did not want to take their foot off the pedal this week. However, they mostly played like a team that already clinched a playoff berth. With the exception of a few flashes, much of the sharpness, execution and urgency they've had this season simply wasn't there.
We will find out if Miami can turn on the postseason switch next week in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are not far from New England in terms of talent and playoff experience. It will be a rematch of the Dolphins' 30-15 victory over the Steelers in Week 6.