How does it feel to be back? The Patriots are once again AFC East champions, heading into the playoffs, and one victory away from a record-setting fifth consecutive first round bye. It's clockwork and as time marches forward, the Patriots are getting to where they need to be.
The theme of this week is about returning. Back to health, back to strength, back to the state of the roster that the team needs that would help propel them through the final stretch and towards a Super Bowl.
Over the past two weeks, we've seen the return of Sealver Siliga, Dont'a Hightower, and Chandler Jones from injury. We've seen Jonas Gray re-emerge from obscurity. We've seen Jamie Collins find his form that made him a star at the end of the last season.
Welcome back everyone. Now it's time to move onwards.
Jamie Collins isn't Human
Kyle Arrington steals the show with a flip that probably led to his hamstring injury later in the game. He lands pretty hard- but this is his second special teams touchdown on the season, having returned a Cincinnati fumble on a kickoff against the Bengals for a touchdown. This is Arrington's return to the end zone.
But Jamie Collins wins this play with superior athleticism. The Dolphins filed a complaint about Collins lining up in the defensive line's feet, which they say should make him be on the line of scrimmage, but it's fairly clear there isn't a prima facie case for Miami.
Collins slices through the line and became probably the hundredth Patriots player to block a kick this year. Well done.
Run Harmon, Run!
Duron Harmon helped keep the Patriots in this game while the offense struggled mightily in the first half. He returned an interception sixty yards and deep inside Dolphins territory. The Patriots followed this up with a touchdown and let the Patriots enter halftime with the slightest of leads.
Possibly the best part of this return? Tavon Wilson. The oft-maligned second round draft pick, who has seen a surprising rise in snaps over the past couple of weeks, not only leads Harmon down the field, but also lays a huge crack on quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The two safeties that are pointed at for Bill Belichick overdrafting players in recent years. This doesn't disprove that. But it's still poetic that they're responsible for keeping the Patriots in front in a T-Shirt game.
Dont'a Hightower is a Missile
This was Hightower's first game back after hurting his shoulder. Looks like he's fine. I don't think the laws of physics would allow anyone to take a better angle than what happened on this play. Five yard loss. Knocks the Dolphins back from a 48 yard field goal, to a 53 yard attempt. They still made it, but c'mon this was a big play.
Tom Brady's Got Wheels
We know this is going to win. That's fine.
Real talk, Brady could probably have thrown a little toss to Shane Vereen up the middle and he'd have scored a touchdown. But that would have deprived us of probably a top 3 Tom Brady run of all time. No way does Peyton Manning lower his shoulder on this play. No way does any other quarterback jaw at the defensive back that lays the wood.
Brady smelled blood. He wanted to put the team on his back, to act as the Brandon Browner on offense. Sure, he got lit up. But that's a winner right there, folks.
Rob Gronkowski Up the Seam
How's this for text book? Brady looks right to freeze the safeties and linebackers. Rob Gronkowski gets a free release up the seam, with the defensive back on the outside. This is the most perfect set-up for a throw up the seam. Brady could not have thrown a more perfect ball, and did so with Jared Odrick running by Dan Connolly and absorbing a hit.
This play had perfect execution. It also came on literally the next play after Pat Chung's interception on Brandon Browner's probably-should've-been-a-penalty hit. Way to cash in, fellas.
Chandler Jones Never Left
Remember back in Week 1 when the Patriots had the really bad idea of playing Chandeler Jones as a 3-4 defensive end for the whole game, and then Miami gashed the defense, specifically in his direction?
Well, he's in 3-4 position right here and he absolutely abused the Dolphins offensive line for this huge strip sack. He knocked Miami back from the 17 yard line to the 33 yard line. If Miami was still in the game at this point, this would have been a huge defensive play. Instead, it became just another great defensive play by the Patriots, lost in the echoes of time.
Some say that Tannehill's cries can still be heard on the winds in Foxboro.
2012 1st Round Picks
Way to ice the game and way to return from your injuries.
This defenders will always be a pair for as long as they're together. They were the chips that Bill Belichick cashed in after years of trading down. They were supposed to anchor the defense and take them back to another Super Bowl.
Does anyone doubt that they could meet that lofty expectation?