Tensions boiled over at Hard Rock Stadium late in the New England Patriots' Week 8 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones launched a desperation heave on fourth-and-14 that landed incomplete after wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster delivered a hard hit on Dolphins safety Brandon Jones to break up a potential interception.
Smith-Schuster was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play and several Dolphins players took exception to his hit, rushing over to confront him and causing a mini-skirmish near the Patriots' sideline.
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In the middle of the fracas was New England defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who came onto the field to defend Smith-Schuster. Barmore had some choice words for the Dolphins when asked about the incident after the game.
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"Protecting my teammate. Those boys came on our sideline acting crazy," Barmore said of the Dolphins players, via MassLive's Karen Guregian. "We’re not going to let nobody come on our sideline and disrespect us like that.
"They came on our sideline and we were protecting our teammate. That wasn’t a dirty hit. Our man was doing his job."
While Jones was injured on the play, Smith-Schuster insisted he did nothing wrong.
"Of course (the Dolphins) seemed upset. I can see why. But it was a clean hit," Smith-Schuster told reporters after the game.
That play was one of just 18 snaps that Smith-Schuster was on the field for Sunday, all of which came in the fourth quarter. After missing the previous two games due to a concussion, the veteran wideout didn't see the field until both DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne went down with injuries. Smith-Schuster's lone catch was a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones.
"It's with the coaches, the decisions they made with the players," Smith-Schuster told reporters when asked about his limited playing time. "It is what it is."
The Patriots are now 2-6 after their fourth loss in five games, and it's fair to wonder whether morale in the locker room is flagging. But Barmore at least showed some fight late in Sunday's loss by sticking up for his teammate.
"We protect our teammates here, man,” Barmore said. “We love our teammates. We defend, right or wrong. I’m sorry (Jones) got hurt. I hope he’s OK. But ain’t nobody going to come on our sideline trying to be tough people. That’s not going to happen."