Maybe Brady’s teammates didn’t hear him. They failed to block Taylor, who swooped up the middle untouched to force a harried, errant pass.
It was that kind of day for Brady and the Patriots, who lost to the Miami Dolphins 21-0 Sunday.
“We just couldn’t do anything right,” Brady said.
The roving Taylor led a disruptive defense that sacked Brady four times, forced him to fumble twice and limited him to 78 yards passing. New England totaled 12 first downs and 189 yards, both season lows, and lost three fumbles, giving them 11 turnovers in the past three games.
The Patriots committed nine penalties. Their best play was an illegal forward pass.
“To get a shutout against a team like that is huge for our defense,” said safety Yeremiah Bell, who had nine tackles and forced a fumble by Brady.
The last Miami team to shut out New England was the perfect-season Dolphins of 1972.
By the second quarter, Brady’s frustration was evident. When the Patriots were stopped for the fifth possession in a row in the opening half, he screamed at teammates as he trotted off the field, and again after he reached the bench.
“He was pretty frustrated,” Miami defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday said. “We saw him yelling at his linemen. It was a little bit uncharacteristic of Brady—he’s usually so cool and calm in the pocket. But we were able to fluster him a little bit.”
Brady fell to 7-5 against the Dolphins, compared with 70-20 against the rest of the NFL.
The Patriots (9-4) missed a chance to clinch their fourth consecutive AFC East title. They still lead the division by two games, but the loss snapped their three-game winning and hurt their chances of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.
They lost on the road for the first time in six games this season.
“There are a lot of teams that would like to have our record,” coach Bill Belichick said. “There might be a few who wouldn’t, but most teams would love to be where we are.”
Miami (6-7), virtually eliminated from the playoff race a week ago, won for the fifth time in six games.
“Hats off to them to be playing at that level when their future is kind of cloudy,” Patriots defensive end Ty Warren said.
And Taylor didn’t make things any easier for the Patriots. He kept them guessing by lining up at different spots and frequently harassed Brady.
“He’s the best player we’ve played against all year,” Belichick said.
“He’s relentless out there,” Brady said. “He’s got a great knack for the ball.”
Taylor made six tackles, sacked Brady once, forced a fumble and broke up a pass.
The Patriots averaged only 2.0 yards per pass play. They did reach the end zone once, but the score in the fourth quarter was negated by a penalty for passing twice.
With Miami leading 13-0, Kevin Faulk ran right on an apparent sweep, then threw back across the field to Brady. The quarterback threw long to Daniel Graham for a 33-yard score. But after a lengthy discussion, officials ruled Faulk’s throw was a forward pass rather than a lateral.
“If that was a touchdown, it’s a whole different game,” Taylor said. “The dynamic of the game is changed drastically.”
Instead, Brady lost a fumble on a safety blitz three plays later, and Miami drove 61 yards for the clinching touchdown.
Defense and special teams did the rest. Poor field position hurt the Patriots, who started their first eight possessions at the 30 or worse. Three punts by Miami’s Donnie Jones were downed inside the 5-yard line.
Against the Patriots, Taylor said, a shutout was especially sweet.
“There’s a rivalry here,” Taylor said. “It’s a division game. It’s a team I consider one of the best two or three in the league. But it’s great to get a shutout any time.”
Notes:@ Patriots NT Vince Wilfork left the game in the third quarter with a leg injury. … The shutout was the Dolphins’ first since Sept. 3, 2000, when they beat Seattle 23-0. The last time the Patriots were shut out was Sept. 7, 2003, when Buffalo beat them 31-0.