After more than 30 minutes of football, it looked as if the New England Patriots were imploding. The Patriots were dead in the water. They were on the verge of losing three of four, and we were ready to question if this team was even good. If Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis were to hit a 46 yard field goal with just over ten minutes to go in the third quarter, it would give Miami a 20-3 lead with seemingly all of the momentum.
But as fate would have it, Sturgis' attempt would clank off the right upright and the Patriots would take over down 14.
From that point on, it was all New England.
Tom Brady would have perhaps his finest second half of the season. He only threw for 116 yards on the game, but in the second half, his precision accuracy was back. Brady had a long completion to Rob Gronkowski after the Sturgis miss, and then found Aaron Dobson on a beautifully run out and up in the end zone for a 14-yard score.
The Patriots would then get the ball back on a short field thanks to a Logan Ryan strip-sack of Ryan Tannehill that was recovered by Rob Ninkovich. The Patriots then tied the game with a short Brandon Bolden touchdown run.
Defensively, the Patriots found success in the second half through good coverage on the back-end and a variety of exotic blitzes called by Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. The Dolphins were still able to run the ball with relative ease with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, but couldn't get anything going in the air in the second half. In total, the Patriots picked up six second half sacks and forced three turnovers.
On offense, the Patriots were also boosted by a strong running game. LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden handled the majority of the snaps in the first half, as Stevan Ridley inexplicably sat on the bench. The Patriots finally inserted Stevan Ridley into the game in the second quarter, and he found immediate success. Ridley hit the hole with fire, and finished with 79 yards on 14 carries and a score.
There were certainly some concerns from this game. For about 35 minutes, the Patriots looked purely bad. If things hadn't turned around in those last 25 minutes, we'd be singing a completely different song post-game. But the Patriots did turn things around. They found a way to play their best football of the season, and they found a way to move to 6-2.
The sense of urgency that Tom Brady and the offense displayed in the second half yesterday was something we hadn't seen this year. It was only one half of football, but it might have been the momentum swing the Patriots needed to turn their season around. In reality, that seems sort of silly to say considering the team is 6-2, but this was a big win.
For those who are going to make the point that the Patriots got a lot of breaks today, I can't deny that. But the Dolphins had a lot of breaks as well - the Gronkowski touchdown that was called back on a questionable hold, the dropped potential pick-six by Logan Ryan, and the delay of game call that extended a fourth quarter drive.
The Dolphins have now fallen to 3-4, and are in third place in the AFC East. The Patriots maintain their AFC East lead as they move to 6-2. They will host the Steelers next week before a week ten bye.