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Halftime analysis: Patriots 14, Dolphins 7

09.12.11 at 8:39 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Patriots and Dolphins have reached halftime and New England holds a 14-7 lead after two quarters. Here are a few quick notes:

• Miami got the jump on the Patriots with a really impressive opening drive (12 plays, 84 yards), which consumed 7:18 and ended with a nine-yard run up the gut from quarterback Chad Henne. But New England quickly assumed control on both sides of the ball for most of the rest of the first half, putting together two efficient touchdown drives, one that ended with a run from BenJarvus Green-Ellis (four-yard run) and and a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski (a 10-yarder). A late New England drive came up short when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard field goal attempt.

• The Patriots did a lot of rotating on both side of the ball throughout the first half in hopes of keeping their legs fresh in the wilting humidity of South Florida. The positions that stood out were: defensive line (where they didn’t have the same combinations on any of their defensive series’ throughout the first half), linebacker (Dane Fletcher and Gary Guyton, although that could be because of Guyton’s early struggles against the run) and offensive line (where Brian Waters and Dan Connolly combined at right guard).

Tom Brady has had a lot of time — he had more than seven seconds to try and complete a second-quarter pass to Wes Welker that ended up falling incomplete. The New England offensive line (particularly the tackles, Matt Light and Nate Solder) are getting some help from Dan Gronkowski and his brother Rob, but they have done a very good job keeping outside linebackers Koa Misi and Cameron Wake at bay. (Solder was flagged for holding late in the first half, and Wake broke through with his first sack of the night on the next play.)

But the Patriots thin offensive line got even thinner after starting center Dan Koppen went down with what appeared to be a left leg injury late in the first half. Connolly replaced Koppen, while Waters moved to the right guard spot.

Albert Haynesworth was part of the defensive line rotation, and held up well. (You have to figure a lot of that was due to New England’s constant rotation, but nevertheless….) He drew a pair of holding calls on Miami’s right guard Richie Incognito, and generally managed to cause a lot of havoc when he was on the field.

• A so-so night so far for New England’s special teamers. There’s been some good — a second-quarter punt from Zoltan Mesko was downed inside the five by Kyle Arrington. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman — who, along with Matthew Slater, appears to have seized the role of returner — fielded a second-quarter punt at his own one which will likely draw the ire of the coaches when the team watches the film later in the half.

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