Patriots Squish the Fish, 27-17
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Injuries. Everyone has them in the NFL, and everyone has to overcome them as well, in order to be successful. Including the Patriots.
No excuses any longer. Some major pieces to the puzzle are definitely missing on defense, even as some are finding their way back into the lineup on offense. But one big piece missing from the first half - effort - found its way back onto the field in the second half as New England came from behind to beat Miami 27-17.
On the Patriots' second play from scrimmage, Tom Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski...and CB Dimitri Patterson was right there waiting on the pass - picking it off to put Miami in superb shape early in the 1st quarter. And while the NE defense made them work for it, after a grinding 11-play, 40-yard drive...Ryan Tannehill found Brandon Gibson for a 4-yard touchdown pass to put the Dolphins on top, 7-0, with 6:32 left in the period.
The first Patriot first-down didn't come until just 49 seconds were left in the quarter - such was the dominance of the Dolphins defense. Or rather, such was the ineptitude of the NE offense, depending on your point of view. Miami held the ball for 11-and-a-half minutes in the first quarter, and the offense couldn't sustain a single drive...after Brady was sacked by Jared Odrick.
Much of the early-season criticism leveled at the Miami offense has come from their inability to run the ball effectively, and from their inability to keep Tannehill clean from the opposing pass rush. Perhaps the Patriots failed to receive that memo from the rest of the NFL, because the Dolphins ran well behind Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, and kept Tannehill's jersey completely clean in the first half. With 9:55 to play in the 2nd quarter, Tannehill connected with Thomas on a five-yard scoring pass...and shockingly, Miami found themselves with a 14-0 advantage.
With 7:02 left before haltime, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer injured his right leg and was carted off of the field, with another in a long, seemingly endless line of key injuries hitting important Patriot players. Brady again targeted Gronkowski, this time in triple-coverage, only to have safety Jimmy Wilson bail out the play, and the drive, with an interference penalty near midfield. Stalling at the Dolphins' 16, Stephen Gostkowski put points on the board with a 34-yard field goal to make it 14-3 with 3:43 left before the half.
And with just 30 seconds before haltime, Caleb Sturgis added three more for Miami on a 52-yard FG, giving the Dolphins a 17-3 lead at the break...thanks in part to pummeling the NE "D" with 103 rush yards from Miller and Thomas.
The boo birds were singing loudly as the teams retreated into the locker room.
With a stunningly anemic 59 yards of total offense in the first half, and only 18 net passing yards, Brady and the offense took the first possession of the second half and threw two straight incompletions, one of them a drop by Aaron Dobson, followed by another Odrick sack of Brady to wrap up that effort. After Dont'a Hightower sacked Tannehill for the first time in the game with 10:17 left in the quarter, Sturgis had a 46-yard FG hit the right upright - giving the Gillette Stadium crowd something to cheer about for the first time all day.
They'd soon cheer again. A 23-yard run from Stevan Ridley - the largest gain of the day to this point - set the Pats up at the Miami 41. Four plays later, Brady found Dobson in the left corner of the end zone from 14 yards out and all of a sudden...New England found themselves back in the battle, trailing 17-10 with 8:28 to go in the 3rd. Then, a big play from the defense, as Logan Ryan dropped Tannehill on a corner blitz forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Rob Ninkovich at the Miami 14. In three plays, New England came all the way back, as Brandon Bolden ran it in from a yard out.
17-17, with 6:42 still to play in the 3rd period. A brand new ballgame.
After each team got a gift from the other - a Miami defensive hold kept a Pats' drive alive, and a TD to Gronkowski was called back after a holding call on Nate Solder - Gostkowski nailed a shot with room to spare from 48 yards out to give the Patriots their first lead at 20-17 just before the period ended. The good fortune continued as Tannehill was picked off by Marquice Cole, who stayed inbounds after catching a tipped ball from Devin McCourty, as McCourty fell out of bounds.
The wheels on Miami's upset bid came flying off on the next series, as a strip sack of Brady for a big loss was ruled in the Patriots' favor after the Dolphins' were called for kicking the ball. Instead of a big defensive stop, the offense then ran it into the endzone behind LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley, with Ridley getting the last three yards for the score. 27-17 New England, with 7:14 left...24 unanswered points in the 2nd half, stunning the Dolphins (3-4) as they had shocked the Patriots (6-2) themselves in the first half.
Add to the swift turnabout a Chandler Jones block of a Sturgis 39-yard FG attempt with 2:42 left, and the comeback was complete.
He who stuns last, stuns best? Especially when you put some effort behind it.
Post Game Notes
The Patriots have won seven straight games against Miami after series sweeps in 2010, 2011 and 2012...the win is also the 14th straight at home against AFC East opponents...the offense ran for 111 yards in the second half, the defense recorded six second-half sacks (a season high total), and forced three second-half turnovers to lead the comeback. New England’s 24 second half points are its highest second-half total this season and its most since scoring 31 second-half points against San Francisco on Dec. 16, 2012. The Patriots’ winning comeback from a 14-point halftime deficit was their biggest comeback from a halftime deficit to win since December 24, 2011, when the Patriots trailed the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium 17-0 at halftime and came back to win 27-24...how about this for "way back?" The Patriots won their 432nd regular season game, tying Oakland for the most regular season wins among the original eight AFL teams (not including Oakland’s 2013 Week 8 Game)...and did someone say it's October? The Patriots are an NFL-best 37-9 in the month of October since the 2003 season. The Patriots are 22-1 (.957) at home during that time in October. The Patriots’ only home loss on October since 2003 was a 41-17 victory by the visiting San Diego Chargers on Oct. 2, 2005...Brady had an 8-yard run on fourth-and-four from the Dolphins’ 34-yard line to keep a fourth-quarter touchdown that ended in a 3-yard Ridley touchdown and a 27-17 Patriots lead...