Rookie QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots enter the playoffs on a sour note – NFL Nation

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The New England Patriots wanted to play their best football when they went into the playoffs. It was not.

The Patriots lost 33-24 to the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in their regular season finale. They enter the off-season in a frustrating tone – and with rookie quarterback Mac Jones arousing some concern with his latest game.

The Las Vegas Raiders’ 35-32 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers means the Patriots (10-7) are the AFC’s sixth seed and visit the Buffalo Bills (11-6) on Saturday (20:15 ET, CBS) in the first round of the postseason .

Bottom line: If the Patriots play like they did in Miami – traditionally a horror house for them – their season will be coming to an end quickly in the playoffs.

They started slowly, which has been an issue at various times of the season, allowing the Dolphins an opening-drive touchdown. They were minus-two in the turnover difference, which is never a winning formula – especially when one of them was a pick-six thrown by Jones, who also later lost a fumble.

And they made costly mental mistakes, such as hitting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa late and line up illegally after forcing a punt, giving the Dolphins a new set of downs.

Although a few questionable calls did not go their way – and contributed 10 points to the Dolphins – this was not an achievement worthy of a victory. Their late comeback attempts were lively and reflected a team that is hard to knock out, but the early hole they dug for themselves was too much to overcome.

Jones finished 20-of-30 in 261 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He was 9-of-9 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Coach Bill Belichick often talks about emptying the tank each week and then refilling it. The Patriots will now look to do that in the playoffs despite an uninspiring finale.

Silver lining: When rookie runback Rhamondre Stevenson left the game in the first quarter with a head injury, it had the potential to threaten his availability into the wildcard round of the playoffs. But Stevenson returned to action in the third quarter, which was one of today’s more significant developments. Aside from a setback, the hard-hitting Stevenson should be available for the off-season. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn (ankle) and training team-enhanced safety Sean Davis (shoulder) did not return after suffering injuries.

Note State: The Patriots have 1-4 this season when Jones has more turnovers. Jones had a season-high three passes hit the line. He has had nine passes hit the line this season, and five came against the Dolphins.

Harris’ TD in total: Running back Damien Harris rushed to his 15th touchdown of the season late in the fourth quarter, which put him alone in possession of second place on the Patriots’ record list for a single season. LeGarrette Blount’s 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 stand as the franchise record.

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