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 cost the Patriots the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
With the Pats anxious 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.
"I’m pretty sore," Brady said, "but I’ll be all right."
He walked gingerly as he left the postgame interview podium.
For the second week in a row, the Patriots (12-4) missed a chance to earn the top playoff seed by winning. They were edged out by Denver, which means New England is not assured of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"Wherever we play, we play," coach Bill Belichick said.
All of New England’s losses have come in the past six games.
"Nothing over the last six weeks is going to matter," Brady said. "We have to play well going forward if we want to make anything of our season."
The Dolphins (6-10), who missed the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, will now embark on their latest coaching search. Interim coach Dan Campbell, who went 5-7, will be among those interviewed but is not expected to return.
Owner Stephen Ross spoke to the team about changes to come.
"I told the players I’m committed to winning Super Bowls," Ross said. "That’s why I own the team, and for those who stay, we’re going to be winning Super Bowls."
The Patriots, mindful of the challenges to come to reach this season’s Super Bowl, 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.
"We obviously didn’t do enough things well enough today to win," Belichick said. "That was across the board."
Brady spent most of the first half handing off, with the Patriots running the ball on 16 of their first 18 plays. He threw only five passes in the first half, the lowest halftime total in any game he has started, according to STATS.
"I thought they would come out and throw it, try to open the game up early, and then run more in the second half," Campbell said. "They flipped it. They wanted to try to establish the run and protect Tom."
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.
"I didn’t see the replay," Brady said. "I’ll be anxious to see it."
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.
"It wasn’t the season we wanted to have," Tannehill said, "but you get to leave with a good taste in your mouth, and that’s what we wanted."
NOTES: Dolphins WR Kenny Stills left the game with a hamstring injury. … Pats rookie Geneo Grissom earned his first career sack. … New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski was wide ride from 46 yards — only his third miss this year, and his shortest. … Brady achieved a career high in completions. … Before the game, Brady posed for photos alongside Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Bob Griese.