Patriots Capitalize on Dolphin Mistakes
Trot into Bye Week 2 Games Atop AFC East
Asante Samuel intercepted two passes, Stephen Gostkowski made two field goals, and Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, as the underachieving New England Patriots raised their record to 3-0 in the AFC East and 4-1 overall after beating the Miami Dolphins, 20-10 on Sunday.
No single squad played a perfect game, but the parts summed up to a win as the Pats head into their bye week a game behind Indianapolis (5-0) for the conference lead. Baltimore, who plays Denver tonight, is 4-0, while San Diego and Cincinnati are 3-1. The Broncos can climb to 3-1 with a win tonight.
There were few bright spots in yet another ugly win. Samuel was definitely a high mark, as he made a couple nice plays besides the interceptions, and without those, the outcome may have been different. New England copped three turnovers altogether, the third being a Ronnie Brown fumble forced by Rodney Harrison and recovered by Tedy Bruschi on the Dolphins' third play from scrimmage.
Patriots defensive end Mike Wright also blocked an Olindo Mare field goal attempt and buried Dolphins punter Donnie Jones, who dropped a ball he was about to punt and just held on as Wright drilled him.
New England Patriots defensive tackle Mike Wright (99) buries
Miami punter Donnie Jones in the third quarter of Sunday's 20-10
win over the Dolphins. Vince Wilfork is also in on the action.
The Patriots scored all their points off the Miami miscues, two Brady touchdowns off the Joey Harrington interceptions, a field goal off Brown's fumble, and another field goal off Mare's blocked attempt.
Otherwise, it was a subpar game for a team that now leads the division by two games over the 2-3 Bill and Jets just five weeks into the season.
The running game went nowhere. Corey Dillon led the way with 45 yards on 10 carries (4.5 avg.), while Laurence Maroney had only 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 avg.) after gaining 125 yards last week against Cincinnati. The passing game was virtually inert, with Brady throwing for a season-low 140 yards on 16 of 29 passing (91.2 QB rating). Brady had several passes (four officially) blocked or tipped at the line.
The defense, too, was less than its usual stellar self, but for the turnovers. Miami moved the ball at will and controlled the clock for most of the game. Ronnie Brown fumbled on his second carry of the game. Starting from the Dolphins 37, New England hardly moved the ball with an 8-yard Dillon run, an 18-yard Brady-to-Troy Brown connection, and a 1-yard Maroney plunge that set up a 35-yard Gostkowski field goal. Gostkowski was just 3 of 6 on field goal attempts entering the game. He was 2 for 2 on Sunday.
Miami embarked on an 8-minute, 13-play drive that culminated in the block of Mare's attempt, when his plant foot slipped in the bare region of the Gillette Stadium field, much as Gostkowski had done a couple games earlier.
New England responded with its own longest drive of the game -- by far -- a 15-play, 8-minute drive that also ended in a Gostkowski field goal from 31 yards.
Just three plays later, Samuel nabbed his first pickoff of the day, making a great read on Harrington and even better athletic move on the ball, intercepting the ball at the Dolphins 36 and returning it to the 10. After a Maroney no-gainer, Brady hit Troy Brown up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead, not quite midway through the second quarter.
Just when it seemd New England would impose its will for the length of the game, the Patriots left the field and some imposter team took over, allowing Miami two 8-play scoring drives while accomplishing nothing on offense before the half. A Ronnie Brown 2-yard dive and a Mare 40-yard field goal (after changing into longer cleats) closed the gap to 13-0 at halftime.
Neither team did much of anything, the Patriots virtually dormant, for the next 20 minutes. That's when Harrington made his second big mistake and Samuel made his second big play. That left New England again with a short field. Starting from the Miami 24, it looked like the Patriots might need to settle for another field goal attempt after an imcomplete pass and a mere 2-yard ground gain. But Will Allen mugged Doug Gabriel at the one yard line, drawing a pass interference penalty. It also drew the ire of Miami head coach Nick Saban, who vehemently protested the call, saying Allen had turned to look for the ball and that Gabriel was running back through Allen to get to the underthrown pass.
The penalty put the Patriots at the 1 yard line, and New England decoyed with Mike Vrabel at tight end, Brady hitting Heath Evans for the touchdown.
Mare pushed another field goal wide right on Miami's ensuing possession, effectively the Dolphins' last gasp. New England held onto the ball for the final 6 minutes, a 13-play drive, their second longest of the game.