Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins strong safety Chris Clemons (30) defends New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) in the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated New England 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriot Way – New England Patriots News 12/17

So the Patriots lost to the Dolphins. I guess it had to happen eventually. There’s plenty of pieces out today looking at the big picture for the Pats, looking at the first game post-Gronk, the team’s issues with the Red Zone and missed opportunities to take hold of the 1 seed in the AFC. Here are the best of the links from today.

Starting with Bleacher Report, Erik Frenz has been taking a look at how the offence has been working since Gronkowski got hurt. Getting players open and the efforts to use route running to manufacture separation seem to be key.

One of the recurring themes for the Patriots offence is red zone execution, which was mentioned at BR, and is also the focus of this piece at Boston.com, where both Tom Brady and Coach Belichick addressed the team needing to perform better in the red zone – an area where Gronkowski’s sheer size creates much bigger issues than the slippery route running of Amendola, Edelman and the rookies.

Speaking of rookies,PatsPulpit have been looking at the contribution of the Patriots first-year players – the “Rise of the Rookie” – and you can see that there have been significant rookie contributions made at virtually every position of the offence, with the exception of QB, kicker and running back. That’s not something that has been the case over much of the Brady/Belichick era.

One staple over the years, however, has been games coming down to the final drive, with Brady having to steer the offence down the field for the Patriots to win. Somehow they’ve managed it over the last few weeks, but as Richard Hill at PatsPulpit points out, they’ve been living on borrowed time, and it came back to bite them against the Dolphins.

Hopefully, heading into the playoffs the team will get back on form and keep squeezing out the wins – though the fans could certainly do with some more comfortable wins!

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