Following a disappointing overtime loss to the New York Jets last week, Tom Brady and company rebounded with a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It wasn’t exactly a smooth go of it though. The Patriots seemed to be sleepwalking as they sluggishly went through the motions in the first half. Trailing 17-3 at the half it looked as if New England would be dealt its second straight divisional loss.
Miami was controlling the football for the majority of the first half and the Patriots offense was atrocious. The passing game was abysmal and the running attack was less than stellar. Brady even tossed an interception on their first play from scrimmage.
After gaining just 59 first half yards, the Patriots were greeted with a barrage of boos as they headed for the locker room. To the chagrin of Joe Philbin and the rest of the Dolphins squad, Bill Belichick called a brilliant second half, as the Patriots dialed it up in the third quarter. They ripped off 24 unanswered points.
Brady threw for just 116 yards on the afternoon, but 76 of them came in the second half, helping contribute to the team’s best third quarter of the season. New England cashed in for 17 points, gained the lead and never looked back.
Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden each added a score on the ground in addition to Brady’s 14-yard touchdown connection with Aaron Dobson. Stephen Gostkowski tacked on two field goals along the way to victory.
Though the story of this game was New England’s second half defensive dominance. The injury-laden unit did not surrender a single point in fueling the club to their 6th win of the season. Belichick’s defense intercepted two Ryan Tannehill passes, forced a fumble, recovered another and blocked a Caleb Sturgis field goal attempt.
The Patriots have now forced a turnover in 35 straight games, marking the longest active streak in the NFL.
New England improved to 6-2 with the win while Miami dropped their fourth straight contest. They now sit at 3-4 on the year.
Here is my week 8 report card:
Brady was far from himself yet again in this one. The veteran signal caller missed many throws that we’re accustomed to seeing him make including a telegraphed pass intended for Rob Gronkowski that was intercepted. To the defense of Brady, his throwing hand was visibly swollen. Brady claimed that he was fine following the game but what else should we expect him to say?
He was under pressure a fair amount of the time and many of his progressions were rushed. When it counted, Brady connected with a pair of big ones. Dobson’s touchdown grab was a thing of beauty. He also hauled down another 26-yarder. Brady also hit Gronkowski over the middle for a gain of 23-yards.
Final Stat Line: 13/22, 116 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT
Running Backs: A
Ridley received the bulk of the carries. He ran with conviction and explosiveness, as he broke a big gainer that went for 23-yards. Ridley also pounded home a goal line feed. His efforts leave Patriots’ fans scratching their heads as to why he is not getting more touches.
Final Stat Line: 14 Rush/79 YDS, 1 TD, 5.6 YDS
Blount was handed the rock eleven times and picked up a respectable 46-yards. His signature run came when he broke a 19-yard burst through the Dolphins line and into the secondary. Blount continues to be effective when his number is called and Belichick is clearly taking notice.
Final Stat Line: 11 Rush/46 YDS
Bolden continues to get a steady amount of work. The yards may not have been there in abundance but his touchdown was hugely important.
Final Stat Line: 8 Rush/22 YDS, 1 TD
Wide Receivers: C-
Aside from Dobson’s four receptions that went for 60-yards and a touchdown, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola combined for just five catches. Dobson is consistently improving on a weekly basis and Brady is looking his way more often than not.
The other Patriot receivers drag down the unit’s overall grade. Dobson was essentially the only one producing.
Final Stat Line: 4 Rec, 60 YDS, 1 TD
Tight Ends: B+
Gronk may have only had two catches for 27-yards, but he’s not graded based off of his stats this week. Gronk was a force in the run game. The mighty tight end was consistently blowing his counterpart off the ball, opening up large holes for the Patriot backs to steam through.
Final Stat Line: 2 Rec, 27 YDS
Offensive Line: B-
Brady was sacked three times for 16-yards which is not too shabby but it certainly holds room for improving. The line was most effective in the hurry up and specifically when the Patriots ran out of it. Led by Logan Mankins and Nate Solder, Patriot backs ran behind them for impressive rushing gains.
Defensive Line: B
Hands down, the Patriots defensive front had themselves their best game of the season. They made Ryan Tannehill’s life a nightmare. While Chris Jones and Rob Ninkovich recorded the group’s only sacks, both Chris and Chandler Jones combined for 13 tackles. Ninkovich also had three quarterback hits and a fumble recovery in aiding a relentless pass rush.
Brandon Spikes and Donta Hightower collaborated for a dominant performance. The duo racked up 19 tackles, 1 sack and a quarterback hit. They stood stout in the run game and pursued well, as Hightower brought down Tannehill in a key moment.
Both Duron Harmon and Marquice Cole snagged interceptions. Cole’s first pick of the season was an acrobatic sideline-hugging grab that was batted into his arms by Devin McCourty. McCourty also chipped in with six tackles. Alfonzo Dennard added an impressive ten tackles.
Rookie Logan Ryan was the defensive MVP. Ryan notched two sacks and forced a fumble, as he blindsided Tannehill in knocking the ball lose.
Special Teams: A
Stephen Gostkowski nailed each of his two field goal tries. He now has made 15 straight attempts.
Final Stat Line: 2/2, 34 YDS, 48 YDS