The third quarter saw the Patriots pull away from the Dolphins from a mental standpoint. The offense held the ball for the majority of the quarter and showed a nice balance of passing and rushing. However, the real story of this quarter is the no-huddle offense which prevented the Dolphins from making adjustments and forced mismatches all over the field. On defense, the Patriots weren't stellar, but they bent just enough. That said, they still allowed too many large plays and never put the game away. They won't be able to afford those mistakes against the Chargers.
The defense did not look great this quarter. I don't blame them for the touchdown off of Tom Brady's interception, but the Dolphins were able to maintain possession for an additional extended drive.
Brandon Marshall beat Devin McCourty a couple times for a pair of big gains. One play, McCourty was shaken out of his shoes. The other was over McCourty's head and in a place where only Marshall could play the ball.
McCourty made a nice recovery with a pair of nice plays on the goal line (pass broken up [PBU] and a tackle-for-loss [TFL]).
The Patriots need to find an answer to their own offensive question- how can tight ends be stopped up the seam? Anthony Fasano pulled a Rob Gronkowski and earned some big yards up the middle of the field. Pat Chung isn't a great cover safety and Gary Guyton was nowhere to be seen until the end of the quarter. Someone has to step up to stop the tight end (A.J. Edds, anyone?).
Ras-I Dowling looked good. Real good. Chad Henne and the Dolphins only looked in his direction once the whole quarter and he broke up the pass. Henne was looking for Marshall and found a nice mismatch over McCourty.
Bill O'Brien did a good job with the offensive playcalling and the strategy of the quarter. The Patriots ran the ball whenever the Dolphins sat back in coverage and made a quick pass whenever the Dolphins moved up to stop the run.
Tom Brady looked good, although the interception was partially his fault. He telegraphed the play and the Dolphins were able to jump the route. So while it's his fault for the PBU, it's not entirely his fault for the interception. Just the unluckiness of the bounce.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis looked serviceable, but didn't look explosive. After watching Stevan Ridley for the preseason, it seems as if Ridley will be the long term player. BJGE is a workhorse and will grind out great yardage. He'll move piles. He just won't take advantage of every available yard on the play.
The offensive line adjusted well enough to the loss of Dan Koppen. Dan Connolly was pushed back by Paul Soliai a couple times and Matt Light seemed to wear down with the Patriots' no huddle. Nate Solder recaptured his dominance over Cameron Wake. Brian Waters and Logan Mankins were quiet and that's a good thing.
Deion Branch was awesome this quarter and knew he had a mismatch. His chemistry and trust with Brady is awesome to watch.
Woodhead's versatility is fantastic, but it makes me miss Kevin Faulk. I feel like Faulk would put up franchise running back numbers in this offense, with his receiving, running, and blocking skills.
Wes Welker looks like his old self. Hooray.
Aaron Hernandez emerged at the end of the quarter. It seems as if whenever Brady starts focusing on one player (Rob Gronkowski, then Wes Welker, then Deion Branch), he'll start looking to another player to take advantage of the mismatch in coverage. Hernandez was great.
Special Teams Notes:
Stephen Gostkowski had a good kick.
Julian Edelman is a much better returner than Matthew Slater. Just sayin'.
1. Ras-I Dowling - The Dolphins didn't challenge him all quarter, until he made a nice play on the goal line.
2. Bill O'Brien - I feel like just last off-season, we were calling for his head. Now that he has offensive weapons to play with, and a healthy quarterback, BO'B is looking great. I'm very pleased with his play calling.
3. Nate Solder - Going for the double rookie here. Solder looked like he was slipping at the end of the second quarter, but he reemerged after the break and shut down Cameron Wake.
1. Devin McCourty - He didn't look terrible, but he didn't look like himself. Brandon Marshall was making plays around McCourty and that's not the player we're used to watching.
2. Matt Light - He seems to be wearing down as the game goes on. Nothing bad happened, but he didn't seem as crisp as he did at the beginning of the game. Don't be surprised if Solder rotates with Light against the Chargers in order to keep Light fresh.
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis - Again, he didn't do anything wrong, but in a game where everyone on offense was exploding (other than Chad Ochocinco), BJGE seemed too quiet. In similar plays where Woodhead was getting 7 or 8 yards, BJGE would only get 3 or 4. Then again, in similar plays where BJGE was getting 3 or 4 yards, Woodhead was getting 1 or 2 yards. Still, BJGE needs to show some explosion or else Stevan Ridley might start creeping into the picture.
Julian Edelman returns the kickoff, another great return.
Tom Brady with a long time, beats Benny Sapp to the outside and Wes Welker has a big gain.
Running the no huddle, Koa Misi stops BenJarvus Green-Ellis for no gain. Brady caught Dolphins with too many men on the field.
False Start on Dan Gronkowski.
BJGE up the middle for around 3 yards. Didn't look explosive.
Deion Branch should have blocked Benny Sapp, Sapp hits Julian Edelman, knocks the ball up, and Jared Odrick returns it to the Patriots' goal line. Interception, not completely Brady's fault, but he telegraphed the play.
Dolphins get the ball on the 9 yard line. Reggie Bush runs up the gut, cut down by Jerod Mayo for a loss.
Chad Henne hits Briand Hartline for a touchdown over Leigh Bodden. Bodden is on the outside and Kyle Arrington is in the slot. Great pass. Poor defensive call on a goal line play. Gruden breaks the play down well; Josh Barrett jumped the route instead of staying in his position.
Dolphins squib kick to Rob Gronkowski in order to keep the ball away from Edelman.
Brady with a quick pass to Danny Woodhead for a short gain. Getting offensive momentum- great move.
Brady with a hard count to draw the Dolphins off-side. Free first down.
Brady with a bad pass over the top of the line to BJGE, too high. Matt Light almost loses control, but the O-Line held up for a reasonable time.
Danny Woodhead with a quick play for a near first down. Dan Connolly driven all the way back into the pocket.
Nice pass to Branch. Nate Solder with a phenomenal blitz pick up.
Woodhead with a nice cut. The Patriots are catching the Dolphins in a mismatched defense with a fast tempo.
Quick throw to Branch for a big gain. Brady tried to catch the Dolphins with too many men on the play, but the referees missed it.
Branch with a nice grab up the sideline. Branch caught the cornerback looking the wrong way.
Woodhead with a nice gain.
Brady motions Welker wide after the Dolphins set up to stop the run up the gut. Welker gets the easy touchdown.
Gostkowski with a nice kick into the end zone, penalty and the ball is moved backwards.
Dane Fletcher and Mayo on the field, stopped Reggie Bush. Patriots running the 4-2-5, with Rob Ninkovich as a hybrid DE/OLB.
Quick pass to Brandon Marshall, Devin McCourty gets caught off and Marshall makes a move, makes him miss, and makes a big gain.
Deep pass to Anthony Fasano up the seam; big hit by Pat Chung on Fasano.
Henne rushes for the first down. Mark Anderson runs around the right tackle and leaves a gaping hole in the defense. He needs to work on not abandoning his lane. Reggie Bush does a good job drawing Dane Fletcher into coverage and away from the gap Henne ran through.
Bush bobbles a poor toss. Incomplete.
Marshall with another big gain over McCourty. McCourty was just plain beaten on the play. Wasn't even in position to make a play on Marshall, nevermind the ball.
Dolphins use their nose tackle as a fullback. Devin McCourty with the tackle to make a goal line stop. Jake Long goes to grab Albert Haynesworth's shins to put it in a lock and Haynesworth smacks Long on the head. After what happened to Koppen earlier in the game, I don't blame him. Don't grab the legs in the trash heap. Vince Wilfork, Haynesworth, and Kyle Love is a beefy middle.
Henne goes back to Marshall over McCourty. McCourty with a nice break-up, and almost gets the pick, but Pat Chung knocks the ball away. McCourty read Marshall's eyes.
Marshall is moved to the other side of the field where rookie Ras-I Dowling knocks the ball away from Marshall.
Dolphins get a field goal.
Matt Slater returns the kick- and he's not as good as Edelman.
Quick pass to Aaron Hernandez, who has been quiet all quarter.
Three tight end set. BJGE runs to the left (behind Da Gronk) for a big gain and a first down.
Patriots force the Dolphins to call a time out due to the no huddle offense.
Hernandez as a full back. Welker is found in the center of the field for a small gain.
No huddle still. Woodhead gets the carry for no gain.
Big play to Deion Branch on Nolan Carroll.
Branch asks for the ball again and gets another big gain.
Dolphins are sucking wind. Quick pass to Aaron Hernandez for a first down. Sean Smith is limping from a cramp. Play comes back as Matt Light gets called for a hold.
Brady sees Smith limping and goes back to Hernandez for a big gain. Ball to the goal line.
Dane Fletcher is the lead blocker on a play action pass to Aaron Hernandez for the touchdown. Too easy.
Gostkowski with a huge kick and the Dolphins are down before the 20 yard line.
Dolphins called for a false start.
Ninkovich with great pressure, Gary Guyton back on the field. Quick pass to Davone Bess in the slot, Guyton was in coverage and seems to lose Bess as Ninkovich gets pressure.
End of Quarter.