MIAMI — A whipsaw hit sent Tom Brady’s legs one direction and his upper body the other, leaving him face down in the turf.
Brady rose — slowly — but the hits kept coming from the Miami Dolphins, who beat New England 20-10 Sunday and prevented the Patriots from clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
With the Patriots eager to protect Brady’s health, he threw a season-low 21 passes, and even so he was lucky to make it through the game in one piece. He was sacked twice and endured at least half a dozen knockdowns, including three on one series.
For the second week in a row, the Patriots (12-4) missed a chance to earn the top playoff seed by winning. Their last shot at the No. 1 seed hinged on Denver losing its regular-season finale to San Diego.
The Patriots, who came into the game assured of a first-round bye, rested several injured starters. Brady’s afternoon ended when he was buried on a third-down sack with five minutes left, and he watched the Patriots’ final offensive series from the sideline along with teammate Rob Gronkowski.
Brady finished 12 for 21 for a season-low 134 yards, and was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
He spent most of the first half handing off, with the Patriots running the ball on 16 of their first 18 plays. Brady threw only five passes in the first half, the lowest halftime total in any game he has started, according to STATS.
Brady tweaked his right ankle in the second quarter when Ndamukong Suh rolled into his legs on a third-down incompletion, but the quarterback was back for the next series.
In the second half he came out throwing, and running back James White turned a short pass into a 68-yard gain to set up New England’s touchdown. It was scored on a 2-yard run by Steven Jackson — his first TD since joining New England on Dec 22.
DeVante Parker won a jump-ball battle for a long pass to make a 46-yard catch, setting up the touchdown that put Miami ahead to stay with seven minutes left. The rookie first-round pick had five catches for 106 yards, both season highs.
Miami scored the game’s first touchdown on Ryan Tannehill’s 15-yard pass to Parker with 36 seconds left in the first half. Tannehill finished 25 for 38 for 350 yards and two scores.