Patriots Catch Massive Break With Game-Changing Dolphins Injury Update

Patriots LB Ja'Whaun Bentley sacks Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa

Getty Patriots LB Ja'Whaun Bentley sacks Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa.

For a team that’s caught a bunch of bad breaks, the New England Patriots just received a big boost to their chances of keeping their slim playoff hopes alive: They won’t have to face Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Week 17.

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel confirmed on December 28 that Tagovailoa suffered a concussion — his second of the season — against the Green Bay Packers in Week 16 and will not play January 1 at Gillette Stadium. Instead, veteran Teddy Bridgewater will start at quarterback.

“Moving forward today and the whole team’s approach is [that] Teddy Bridgewater is the starter,” McDaniel said. “This is why we thought it was so vital to go after him in free agency. This is why he’s done such a diligent job during the course of the season with his own injuries and such, to be prepared for this opportunity and I know the team is very excited and feels very fortunate to have him and him to get his opportunity that he’s totally prepared for.”

Tagovailoa had gone 4-0 against the Patriots in his brief NFL career. It’s a break for the Patriots, who are coming off a tough-luck loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that ended with Rhamondre Stevenson fumbling in the red zone. New England (7-8) needs to win their remaining two games to even have a shot at earning a postseason berth for the second year in a row.

And if New England’s fifth-ranked scoring defense takes advantage of a favorable situation, Bill Belichick, the second-winningest coach in NFL history, can move one step closer to surpassing Don Shula while also staying alive in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot.

What Tua Tagovailoa’s Injury Means for the Patriots

Despite a recent drop-off in performance, Tagovailoa represented a potential thorn in the Patriots’ side. In four career starts against New England, the former Alabama standout completed 68.5% of his passes and scored six total touchdowns, emerging victorious each time.

Now, though, a New England defense that’s feasted on backups and below-average quarterbacks gets to face a less-dangerous version of Miami’s scoring offense, which is tied for seventh in the league in total touchdowns.

Bridgewater has attempted only 60 passes all season, and three of them landed in the hands of the opposing team. Not known for his mobility, the 30-year-old could be in for a tough day against a Patriots pass rush that features two players with double-digit sacks, Pro Bowler Matthew Judon (15.5) and breakout star Josh Uche (11.5).

New England Could Also Be Missing Some Familiar Faces Against Miami

Like the Dolphins, the Patriots have several players who’ve experienced setbacks down the stretch.

According to the team’s official injury report, tight end Jonnu Smith did not practice on December 28 due to a concussion. Promising rookie Marcus Jones and wideout DeVante Parker also missed practice because of concussions.

In particular, the status of the cornerback position remains a major concern heading into Week 17 against an offense headlined by the dynamic receiver duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. In addition to Marcus Jones, fellow rookie Jack Jones (knee) and veteran Jalen Mills (groin) did not take part in practice on December 28. Battle-tested defensive back Jonathan Jones was listed as a limited participant due to a chest injury.

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