Matt Cassel and the Patriots offense were too much for the Miami Dolphins defense to handle on this day. The up and coming Miami team came into the game looking to knock New England into third place but the Patriots weren't having it.
Cassel had a monster game with 415 yards passing (43 of 30) with three touchdowns, all of them to Randy Moss, and a fourth that he ran in himself. To put some sort of perspective on his performance, Cassel became only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to have back to back 400-yard passing games. The others were Billy Volek, Phil Simms, Dan Fouts and Dan Marino.
Moss had 8 catches for 125 yards in all. Wes Welker had yet another 100-yard game this season with 120 yards on 8 catches as well. Jabar Gaffney chipped in with 5 receptions, all of them seemingly key, and 88 yards. Kevin Faulk was clutch all day, bailing out Cassel when he was under pressure. He had 6 catches for 52 yards and 8 rushes for 53.
The Miami offense was matching New England for most of the day with the aid of two first half turnovers by the Patriots. While the Patriots defense had an answer to the Wildcat, Chad Pennington was having his way to the tune of 341 yards passing (24 of 41) and three touchdowns.
The win keeps the Patriots one game behind the first-place New York Jets who knocked off the undefeated Titans.
Cassel went 5 for 6 passing on the game's opening drive. After starting off on his 40, short passes to Faulk and Welker gained big yards, 15 and 14 respectively to move the ball quickly into Dolphins territory. A holding penalty on Stephen Neal disrupted the rhythm for the Patriots enough to force the first third down situation at the 12-yard line. Needing 2 yards, Cassel looked to Gaffney over the middle but the ball was slightly high and it bounced off Gaffney's hands incomplete. Stephen Gostkowski came on for a 30-yard attempt and hit the field goal for the early 3-0 lead.
Things didn't go quite so good for New England the next time they got the ball back. On a second and 10 play from his 38, Cassel looked to Moss who was being covered by Jason Allen. The ball got there but as Moss juggled it and fell backwards Allen knocked the ball up in the air away from Moss' reach and Renaldo Hill, trailing the play, intercepted the deflection and returned it 17 yards to the Patriots 42.
On the next play from scrimmage, Pennington executed a nice play action fake and hit David Martin for 29 yards to the 13. A Tedy Bruschi personal foul moved the ball to the 3, first and goal. From there, Pennington hit Greg Camarillo to put Miami on top, 7-3.
]()Cassel and Moss came right back with Moss making a beautiful one-handed catch along the right sideline for 22 yards on New England's next series. The play moved things to midfield. By the end of the first quarter, the Patriots were first and goal at the Dolphins 8.
When play resumed in the second quarter, Cassel took the snap from shotgun, saw the middle of the field open up and ran it in for an 8-yard touchdown.
Apart from Miami's score after Cassel's interception, the Patriots defense was having success keeping Pennington, Brown and the Wildcat at bay. After Cassel's touchdown, Miami punted after three plays and the Patriots took over at their 41.
With Moss and Welker on the minds of the Dolphins secondary, Gaffney was left with single coverage and on this possession, Cassel looked to him twice on slants for gains of 21 and 15 yards. But for the second time, New England coughed up the ball to Miami. This time it was Sammy Morris getting stripped at the end of a short run. The Dolphins took over on their 28.
Miami capitalized again off the New England miscue. Pennington converted a third and 10 with a 15-yard throw to Devon Bess early in the drive. Later, he found Camarillo on third and 12 for a 20-yard pick up to the Patriots 39. A third conversion came on third and 4 from the 20 with Bess coming up big again, for 10 yards. On second and goal from the 7, Pennington got flushed out of the pocket to his left and managed to find the corner of the end zone with his scramble to give the lead back to the Dolphins at 14-10.
New England rebounded nicely with a 6-play scoring drive that ended with Moss catching a short pass, slipping by Allen and going 25 yards for the touchdown. Along the way, Cassel was impressive, evading the Miami rush and finding Gaffney and Faulk to keep the chains moving downfield. In total the drive went 63 yards.
That ended the first half scoring. Despite the costly turnovers for the Patriots, they took a 17-14 lead into the second half.
]()Miami wasted no time taking the lead on the second half's opening possession. Pennington connected with Ted Ginn, Jr., for 46 yards on the first play and then Camarillo for 16 on the next. Just like that the Dolphins were on the New England 20. Four plays later they were in the end zone on a 2-yard pass from Pennington to fullback Casey Cramer.
Back and forth they went as New England answered with an 11-play drive ending with a nice fade pass to Moss in the end zone from 8 yards out. Cassel showed great poise throughout the scoring drive as the Miami plan was to blitz and rattle the Patriots quarterback. The best example came on a third and 10 play from the Dolphins 39. Cassel stood in the pocket and rifled a pass over the middle as he was being hit. The intended receiver was Moss who snared the ball out of the air for a 15-yard conversion. Except for two Faulk runs, it was all passing as Cassel was racking up huge numbers, 279 yards with still 6:05 left in the third quarter.
Richard Seymour put a halt to the scoring pattern with a 4-yard sack of Pennington on third and 20 from the New England 37 on the Dolphins next try. After the Brandon Fields punt, the Patriots had the ball first and 10 on their 13.
The first play went to Faulk for a 2-yard run. On second down, Cassel hit Welker for what looked like a mid-range completion but Welker found his way to the sideline and literally tip-toed his way to a 64-yard pick up. He was a fraction of an inch from going out of bounds and he might have, but the Patriots got the next play off before the Miami sideline could decide to challenge the play. Stopping Miami on the previous series and this play was a huge turn of events as, on the very next play, Faulk took a handoff up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown.
The Patriots now had a two-score cushion at 31-21.
They would need it. Pennington hit Bess along the right sideline and Bess did his best impression of Welker taking it down to the Patriots 13 for a 36-yard gain. And just like New England on the previous drive, Miami scored on the next play, a fade pass to Ricky Williams that Williams made a nice diving effort for.
With 13:11 left to play, it was 31-28, New England.
Defense was nowhere to be found in this game as Cassel went over 400 yards passing for the second consecutive game on the Patriots next drive. The big play was a 23-yard completion to Gaffney on third and 10 from the Dolphins 42 as the Miami crowd did its best to make things difficult. The scoring play was 29 yards to Moss down the left sideline, his third touchdown of the day.
New England finally got a break on defense as Pennington attempted to bring his team back from down 10 with over eight minutes left. He looked to Anthony Fasano on the first play after Gostkowski's kickoff but the ball sailed high and Brandon Meriweather was in perfect position to make the interception. Meriweather returned the pick to the Miami 18 to now put his team in perfect position to seal the game.
While the Patriots did not find the end zone they did add three points on a 30-yard field goal. After the kick, Matt Light and Channing Crowder got into some after-the-play fun. Both players were flagged and ejected from the game for the scuffle.
The knockout blow had been dealt as the Dolphins were unable to work quickly enough to stage any sort of comeback. Finally, BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on a late 1-yard touchdown run on a drive in which motor-mouth Joey Porter was flagged for 30 yards worth of unsportsmanlike penalties to cap the scoring.