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Rob Ninkovich on M&M: ‘We’ve got to come up with a big play’

12.16.13 at 11:53 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss Sunday’s disappointing 24-20 loss to the Dolphins in Miami.

The defense played well overall but could not stop the Dolphins on key drives toward the end of both halves. Miami scored on a field goal on its final possession of the first half to close within a touchdown, then scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter for the winning points.

“You can’t have a minute left before the half and let a team drive the length of the field and score,” Ninkovich said. “It comes down to doing little things better, and fundamentally stopping certain things that they were repeating throughout the game. You’ve got to give credit to [Ryan] Tannehill, because if you see some of those passes — I rewatched the game, and those were some tight windows he was throwing into. Just quick stuff that was slants and back shoulders, which are good throws, they’re tight throws.

“With those two drives, that’s the game right there. At the end there, with that fourth-and-5, that one was a tough one. A tear screen, that’s a bold call to run that play, because you’re throwing the ball behind the line of scrimmage, or at the line of scrimmage, to try and get five yards.”

On the fourth-down completion to Charles Clay that kept Miami’s winning drive alive, Ninkovich was close to batting down the pass.

“I was unblocked there and I was trying to mirror the hand,” Ninkovich said. “He pumped once and then threw again, so he kind of gave a little sidearm there, and my hands were straight up. I wish I would have just stopped. But again, an empty [backfield] in a fourth-down situation. If I just would have stopped and retraced, I might have been able to get there. That’s one of those plays, at the end of the game you pin your ears back and you’re just trying to get to the quarterback and disrupt him. That’s another play where you wish you had that one, get your hands on it and knock it down and the game’s over.”

Added Ninkovich: “You’d like to stop it right there, and game over. ‘€¦ One of these drives the defense has to make a play; we’ve got to come up with a big play. At the end of the game we can’t leave it up to the offense with a minute [left] to expect them to go down and score every time.”

Since their dramatic comeback victory over the Broncos last month, the Patriots have not looked impressive in wins over the Texans and Browns and the loss to Miami.

“Execution, that’s the name of the game. Who can execute better, who can run better routes, who can defend the routes better. That’s Football 101,” Ninkovich said. “Who’s going to go out there and have a better three-phase — offense, defense, special teams. When one of those is off, when a couple aren’t working the way they need to work, then you lose football games.

“I always like to say you’ve got to continue to kind of progress. I feel like the last three weeks we really haven’t had much progression. We need to get it going.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

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