Key takeaways from NFL Week 15: Gronkowski a big miss, Romo does it again

Gronkowski

James Dudko on the weekend's NFL action...

In Week 15, UK viewers saw the Miami Dolphins upset the New England Patriots, something so rare the game film is probably being bronzed for prosperity.

They also saw the Dallas Cowboys throw away a 23-point lead thanks to poor play-calling, something that should no longer come as a surprise.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers kept their faint playoff hopes alive by besting a fierce division rival.

Here are the main takeaways from that action:

New England Patriots 20-24 Miami Dolphins: It didn't take long for the Patriots to miss Rob Gronkowski

The moment they lost "joker" tight end Rob Gronkowski for the season, the New England Patriots' hopes for a fourth Super Bowl title were as good as doomed.

So it proved on the road in Miami, where Tom Brady and his offense missed Gronkowski's skill in the red zone. Of the four trips New England made inside the 20-yard line, they came away with just one touchdown.

That's a 25 percent success rate in the red zone. If Brady had Gronkowski's 6'6", 265-pound frame to aim for things would have been very different.

In the end he had three chances to win the game from the Dolphins 14. He was incomplete on two throws, before the third was intercepted to end the game.

It was too easy to assume that Brady and Bill Belichick could simply compensate for losing for Gronkowski with schemes. No matter how they try and cover it, their offense doesn't pose anywhere near its usual threat without Gronkowski causing headaches for defensive coordinators.

Dallas Cowboys 36-37 Green Bay Packers: Jason Garrett's unbalanced play-calling should surprise no-one

The Cowboys blew a 23-point lead, mainly due to their unwillingness to run the ball to kill the clock in the second half. In the aftermath of this dismal collapse, the focus has been on the unbalanced play-calling of head coach Jason Garrett.

He has tried to pin the blame on quarterback Tony Romo, while the Green Bay Packers are just grateful they didn't see more of running back DeMarco Murray.

It isn't the first time Garrett and the Cowboys have been guilty of abandoning the run. His play-calling has always been skewed heavily toward the pass.

It was the same when he was offensive coordinator under Wade Phillips and hasn't changed since he became head coach. Don't count on it changing now either, even after the disaster against the Packers.

Garrett has claimed he is ready to call more runs and emphasise greater balance more than once this season. Frustrated Cowboys fans and running backs are still waiting.

Cincinnati Bengals 20-30 Pittsburgh Steelers: Andy Dalton can't beat the blitz

The pressure is on Andy Dalton to become a more rounded quarterback in his third season. But that won't happen until the Cincinnati Bengals starter proves he can beat the blitz.

Against the Steelers on Sunday night, he struggled against a myriad of pressures sent by legendary defensive guru Dick LeBeau. Dalton rarely had an answer, as blitzers came from base 3-4 and dime defensive looks.

With pressure around him, many of his passes were high and wide. He also made little adjustment to target hot reads behind the blitz.

Dalton's struggles against pressure have cost Cincinnati in the playoffs the last two years. If the Bengals are going to go further in the postseason this time, they'll need their young quarterback to prove he can beat the blitz.

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