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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Pop quiz, everybody: if the answer is "well it started out great, but took a serious turn for the worse about halfway through," what is the question?

A. What do you think of The Matrix trilogy?
B. How did yesterday's game go for the Miami Dolphins?
C. Hey Alec, how was the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at Arby's?
D. All of the above.

If ever there was a tale of two halves, it was this game. Both halves saw one good team and one bad team take the field, and the Fins and Pats flip-flopped which unit decided to show up and New England was able to get it done and improve to 6-2 with a monster 27-17 win. Call it taking some time to wake up. Call it making some halftime adjustments. Call it getting more aggressive on defense. Call it some interesting calls from the refs. Call it whatever you want, just as long as you call it a comeback (sorry, LL Cool J). The Patriots put together their best 2nd half of the year, got a big division win, and set themselves up very well with the upcoming bye.

Let's get to it.
  • Heyyy a Nate Ebner sighting! Remember last season when everyone thought that Ebner was going to be some kind of New England legend? Oops.
  • Patriots opened up in a 4-2-5 Nickel package, a formation usually designed to give up big plays and keep most gains across a softer middle zone. One thing it isn't known for is stopping the run. New England stuffed two run plays in the backfield out of this package, and then appeared to be so proud of themselves they decided to take the rest of the half off.
  • Good Lord Julian Edelman know when to make a fair catch.
  • I am personally of the opinion that Stevan Ridley has earned the right to be the feature back again. So let's go ahead and get Blount out of there. The man has very little to show for himself this year besides a solid preseason, a bunch of lousy kick returns, and one long TD run. Belichick's commitment to him is absolutely mind-boggling.
  • Tommy B had zero business making that throw to Gronk that ended up intercepted. None. Bad decisions have been a theme all season and at this point you have to wonder whether we're at the point where it kind of just is what it is.
  • Oh, what's that? Brady has an injury to his throwing hand? Well, I guess the Pats were due for an injury to an impact player.
  • Seriously, though...Brady is hurt. I can't remember ever seeing him favor his hand so much in a game. Not than an injury is an excuse for throwing into double coverage, but Tommy B was having accuracy issues when his hand wasn't hurting. I don't know what the status is, and most likely won't, but it's just something else to worry about.
  • Marquice Cole and I have a pretty complicated love/hate relationship going on. As inept as he can be in coverage at times, he also makes big plays when the team needs him most.
  • Random note of the day: I may have a new favorite NFL penalty hand signal. It used to be roughing the kicker, but that call pales in comparison to the illegal forward pass. I make the exact same motion after I release a backward pass that isn't illegal, but probably should be.
  • I'd write that the Pats' offense came out flat to start this game, but I feel like that implies that they actually came out at all.
  • Stevan Ridley's first two running attempts went for four and seven yards respectively, which was the most offense New England had been able to generate up to that point. As a reward for his hard running, the coaching staff took him out. If you want me to drop him from my fantasy team, I'll drop him...just say the word. Whatever gets the running game back on track.
  • How bad is it when you need to root for injuries to guys like Brandon Gibson in order to help your defense out?
  • Jared Odrick stole Chandler Jones's sack dance!
  • When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an NFL running back. As I got older, I realized that a) I was likely more of the offensive lineman type, and b) I really didn't have what it took to be a runner. However, I feel like I would have a legit chance on a run up the middle against this Patriots front line.
  • Why would any team ever throw the ball? Oh yeah...because the quarterback always has time to throw it.
  • The gutteral scream that came out of Sebastian Vollmer as he blew out every tendon in his lower right leg will be keeping small children awake for years to come.
  • So let's see...we have now lost a D-lineman, a linebacker, a cornerback, an offensive lineman, a running back, a wide receiver, and a tight end this season. Tommy, maybe you should just take your swollen hand and go find a safehouse somewhere, lay low for a while.
  • I get that you missed that pass up the seam to Gronk, Tommy B...but maybe into triple coverage isn't the best time to do it.
  • Maybe that PI call against Gronk was the NFL's way of making up for the debacle that occurred last night against the Sox in the World Series.
  • Pretty much every single play that Miami tried in the first half yesterday worked. After a horrible first drive, the Fins couldn't do anything wrong, no matter what they did. Then again, all they really needed to do was run the ball up the middle, so maybe they don't deserve that much credit after all.
  • Not only was the first half of this game absolutely brutal to was INSUFFERABLY boring. Miami had a very solid yet unbelievably predictable gameplan - run it up the gut and slowly move down the field with short passes across the middle with the occasional stretch run mixed in - and all that first half consisted of was waiting for them to execute it. It was like having to watch a movie from behind the TV where all you can hear is the sound.
  • I'm getting a little sick of Brandon Spikes blowing up the backfield and watching the play completely pass him by.
  • I started to think that maybe yesterday wasn't New England's day when they went 3 and out to start the 2nd half on two plays that included a sack and Brady literally tripping over his own feet.
  • Answer me this, Goodell...if you are so concerned about portraying a positive image surrounding player safety, how come you approved a new Miami logo that removed the dolphin's helmet? Hmm?
  • Here's something I was hoping I wouldn't need to write: I completely forgot that the Patriots signed Andre Carter last week.
  • Thank goodness Miami decided to abandon the run in the second half for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Up by 14, running at will, controlling the clock, and then they decided to air it out.
  • The result? A Logan Ryan strip sack and another Nink fumble recovery.
  • I'm not even mad that Brandon Bolden stole Ridley's TD there. Honestly, I'm not.'s not like I could have used 6 points on that as I scramble to get myself back to .500 on the year or anything.
  • I feel like the New England punt coverage team commits more penalties than other units. I wonder if that has anything at all to do with Edelman's go-for-broke return style means that gunners are turning around a lot more, which leads to a lot more blocks in the back.
  • Now that the win is secure, I feel comfortable saying this: I'm glad Gronk's TD catch got called back for holding. His first Gronkspike of the season can't be a wobbly dud like that one. Gronk spiking the ball shouldn't look like Tim Tebow throwing it.
  • Marquice Cole on Mike Wallace, eh? Well alright.
  • Dont'a Hightower on anybody with a pulse, eh? Well alright.
  • I'll go ahead and give Cole his due credit on that pick - but I'm going to give most of it to McCourty. That's phenomenal heads-up football. I also know which 2-on-2 volleyball team I'm betting on at the Patriots company picnic next summer.
  • Oh Tommy B you jukin' fool. Athleticism out on full display during that first down run...putting that 5.28 40 time and 7.2 second 3-cone drill on notice.
  • Holy jeez did we get a lot of flags yesterday. The refs must all be Sox fans.
  • When was the last time we needed short yardage and we got it from Blount?
  • Stevan Ridley, on the other hand...FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LEAVE THAT MAN IN THERE
  • 3rd and 23, offense gains 24...welcome back to 2011.
  • Chandler Jones got in there on that block...that man is having a Pro Bowl year. I'll be very curious to see how the voting plays out this year.
  • Watching that replay, I have absolutely no idea how the Patriots were able to collapse the entire right side of the line. I also have absolutely no idea what made that field goal rush any different from the one that cost the Pats the game last week.
  • What an ingenious coaching move we were all witness to yesterday: the defensive line was having trouble generating pressure, and so they decided to send extra rushers in to compensate for the lack of pass rush. Who'da thunk it?
  • One thing that Ryan Tannehill hasn't been able to figure out since he came to the NFL is how to effectively read the blitz and option into the hot route. New England didn't dial up anything too elaborate yesterday; they simply used both sides of the line and ran a few stunts with the linebackers. At no point was Tannehill able to settle down, and I don't know what took the Patriots so long to get after it.
  • Another thing that all these blitzes have once again affirmed for me is that Hightower is a very good linebacker when his assignment focuses around the line of scrimmage. He only looks lost when he has to cover anyone. Just let him blitz and blow up the run and everyone will be happy.
  • The last time I saw that many sacks in one place, I was in Miami, of all places; it was mating season in the Howler Monkey cage at the Miami Metro Zoo.
  • Tavon Wilson yet another healthy scratch, and Duron Harmon gets the garbage time pick. Chalk up another 2nd round reach bust.
  • This was a huge win that had three things on display: resiliency, mental toughness, and effective coaching. That New England was able to come out so flat in the first half and put on such a strong performance in the second is a great sign moving forward.
  • That said: let's be honest here, everyone - we caught some serious breaks to help us get this win. Some of the calls that went New England's way were pretty garbage, and those calls ended up having massive repercussions on how the game shook out. There are some fans on certain teams that don't seem to want to acknowledge when questionable reffing helps their team win a game, but I am not one of those fans. Do I think the refs handed the Pats the game? Absolutely not; Miami collapsed in the 2nd half and deserved this L. Do the Pats get more calls than other teams? Not even close. But sometimes your team gets a few calls and it helps you win the game, and to refuse to admit the Pats got some referee help yesterday is foolish. But you know what? That's just football. When you're on the other side of it, you deal with it.

    Next up is a severely weakened Steelers team at home, followed by a much-needed bye. New England is in great position to regain their stranglehold on the division over the next few weeks as well as get some key players back. Time to ride this momentum, stay focused, and not lose any more key players to to injury.