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Snap Judgments: After sloppy first half, Patriots roar back to post win over Dolphins

10.27.13 at 4:08 pm ET
By

FOXBORO — The Patriots mounted a furious second-half rally, overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit and posting a 27-17 win over the Dolphins Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

After having major issues over the first two quarters — a stretch where Miami jumped out to a 17-3 lead — the Patriots scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter in less than two minutes to tie the game. That momentum swing continued into the fourth quarter, as New England moved to 6-2 on the season and put some distance between itself and the Dolphins. Miami suffered its’ fourth straight loss on the year, dropping to 3-4 with the defeat.

Tom Brady went 13-for-22 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Stevan Ridley had 14 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown and Aaron Dobson had four catches for 60 yards. Meanwhile, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill ended up going 22-for-42 for 192 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Here are a few quick notes:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

‘€¢ After a completely flat first half in which the Patriots managed just one field goal and Brady was an abysmal 6-for-8 for 25 yards, New England found its footing midway through the third quarter when it scored two touchdowns in 1:46 to turn a 14-point deficit into a 17-17 game. First, the Patriots took advantage of a Caleb Sturgis missed field-goal attempt from 46 yards out, turning it into a five-play, 64-yard drive that included a 23-yard pass down the middle to Rob Gronkowski and a 14-yard touchdown pass to Dobson. (It was New England’s first third-quarter touchdown of the season.) The second one came after a strip sack of Tannehill by defensive back Logan Ryan gave the Patriots the ball at the Miami 13. Three plays later, Brandon Bolden punched it in from two yards out to tie the game with 6:46 left in the third.

‘€¢ The Patriots got one of their finest defensive plays of the year early in the fourth quarter when Tannehill went deep down the Miami sidelines for Charles Clay, only to have the pass broken up by Patriots safety Devin McCourty. McCourty not only had the presence of mind to get to the spot along the sideline and knock the ball away, but then he tipped the ball to fellow defensive back Marquice Cole, who made a nice grab as he hauled the pass in, keeping his feet inbounds as he fell. The takeaway was the second of the day for New England — Sunday marked the 35th consecutive game in which the Patriots were able to come away with at least one takeaway, the longest active streak in the league.

‘€¢ While the McCourty tip was big, perhaps the biggest momentum shift occurred early in the third quarter when Dont’a Hightower came through with a third-down sack of Tannehill. The nine-yard sack pushed the Dolphins back just enough where kicker Sturgis doinked his 46-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. Five plays later, the Patriots came away with their first touchdown of the game. (Other defensive highlights included a blocked field goal from Chandler Jones, two sacks from Ryan and one sack each from Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich and Chris Jones.)

WHAT WENT WRONG

‘€¢ There was no offensive consistency at all in the early going — Brady was picked off on his first pass attempt of the game, a quick shot to Gronkowski. In all, it was the Patriots’ worst offensive half of the season. New England was scoreless in the first quarter, and didn’t cross midfield until there were just over six minutes left in the second quarter. The Patriots did get on the board before the end of the half when Stephen Gostkowski banged home a 34-yard field goal with 3:43 left in the first half to make it 14-3, but it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise awful offensive morass for New England to open the game.

‘€¢ Many of the offensive struggles in the early going could be traced to Brady, who appeared to have problems when it came to getting a feel for the ball., and was a woeful 6-of-8 for 25 yards and an interception in the first half. Part of it may have been because it was clear he was suffering from some sort of issues with the fingers on his throwing hand. Numerous screen grabs popped up throughout the day showing swelling on his throwing hand, and he kept that hand in the sleeve he wears around his waist for much of the afternoon. The second-half scoring drives may have papered over some of the concerns, but the throwing hand will remain a topic of concern going forward, especially if he has problems again.

‘€¢ The Patriots clearly miss their defensive leaders: Aqib Talib wasn’t in the lineup because of his hip injury, while defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was out again because of a knee issue. Meanwhile linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork remain on injured reserve. There was no tone-setter early, no edge to the New England defense. The group was handled fairly easy right out of the gate by a Miami team that had serious issues along the offensive line. The defense was able to right the ship in the second half — Miami didn’t get into the end zone in the third and fourth quarters — but it’s debatable how much of a hole the Patriots would have had to climb out of if they played better early on.

‘€¢ We’re not going to hammer Ridley, because he ran really well when given the opportunity. But the fact that the running back was on the sidelines for the entire first quarter — after not appearing on the injury report all week — is curious at best. While we don’t yet know all the details, on the surface the decision to leave a guy who ran for 1,263 yards last season on the bench for a quarter in what turned out to be a key divisional game is an odd one.

‘€¢ The Patriots lost right tackle Sebastian Vollmer after the big German went down with a knee or leg injury late in the first half. He was replaced by Marcus Cannon. In addition, defensive back Kyle Arrington went down in the second half with a groin injury. One notable who did well when it came to replacing Arrington was Ryan. He was involved before Arrington went down — he had a nice afternoon with two sacks and a forced fumble, as well as a near pick-6 in the second half — but played well in Arrington’s place down the stretch.

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