Miami – No, the Patriots did not get run on and over by Ricky Williams as they had by their previous two opponents but mistakes on both sides of ball and the Dolphins defense spelled doom and a second straight loss, 26-13.
Still, Williams had 36 carries (the most ever in a game by a Dolphin runner) and that led to a lopsided time of possession for Miami. Once again, the Patriots were outplayed in all facets of the game. New England had three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and only 38 yards on the ground. The explosive Patriots offense was held in check by a swarming Dolphins defense all day.
Tom Brady had 240 yards passing but his two picks were costly. He was also sacked three times early in the game and that type of pressure caused New England to change up its protection, decreasing Brady's options in passing situations.
New England began the second half scoring when Ricky Williams had the ball stripped by Tedy Bruschi and Victor Green recovered. A 16-yard completion to Kevin Faulk on third and 10 and then an 18-yard pick-up to Christian Fauria on the next play had the Patriots down to the Miami 34. From there, Brady dropped back to pass but was flushed out of the pocket left. As Brady spun, he saw David Patten wide open. Patten made the catch and bulled his way into the end zone for the Patriots first points of the game. New England was unsuccessful on a two-point conversion try, making the score 16-6, Miami.
It looked like New England had begun to swing the momentum in its favor when Mike Vrabel sacked Fiedler for an 8-yard loss to start the next Dolphins drive. Miami punted after three plays, but New England could do nothing after fielding the kick at its own 25.
At that point, the Patriots run defense was improving on each play in their effort to stop Ricky Williams. It was through the air that Miami was doing the most damage and after 17 and 14-yard pick-ups to Chris Chambers, James McKnight beat Otis Smith down the left sideline and the 35-yard reception had Miami on the Patriots 3. Two plays later, they were in the end zone via a Fiedler to Randy McMichael toss. The third quarter ended with a 17-point Dolphins cushion at 23-6.
A Sam Madison interception of Brady hurt any realistic comeback hopes New England had in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins ran Williams enough to work the clock in their favor but New England's defense was able to give the ball back to the offense and Brady and Company took advantage behind some nifty running by Faulk and pass-catching by Patten including a 25-yard touchdown reception.
That put the score at 23-13. New England attempted an onside kick with just over four minutes but the kick went out of bounds and Miami took over. Mare chipped a 33-yard field goal home to make the final score 26-13.
The first half was a dismal 30 minutes for the Patriots. Penalties, missed tackles, missed blocks, turnovers – in other words more of the same from last week.
Both of New England's first two drives of the game ended in Jason Taylor beating Matt Light and sacks of Brady. The second one came after the Patriots were driving into Miami territory. Brady had just completed a 24-yard pass to Branch when Mike Compton was called for a personal foul on a late hit. That moved New England back to the Miami 47. Then, on third a 22, Taylor came around end beating Light and hit Brady causing a fumble and a Miami recovery on the Patriots 39-yard line.
The sack and turnover was costly as Miami turned it into six points when Jay Fiedler ran it in from 8 yards out. On the third and goal play, Willie McGinest had a shot for a sack but was blocked just in time and Fiedler escaped around the right end. Tebucky Jones blocked the extra point attempt, making the score 6-0, Dolphins as the first quarter wound to an end.
Things started to get worse in the second quarter when Brady threw a third and 11 interception from his own 22 but it looked like New England might escape with only three more points on the board. Not so fast. On the 36-yard field goal attempt by Olindo Mare, which he made, Tedy Bruschi was called for jumping on the back of a teammate to gain an advantage (officially an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty).
That penalty put the Dolphins on the 18. On third down Fiedler found Chris Cambers in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Instead of 9-0, the Patriots were down 13-0 early in the second quarter.
The Miami defense continued to wreak havoc on Patriots third and long situations. This time it was David Bowens breaking through and sacking Brady on third and 8 from the 32 on New England's next possession. Bowens dropped Brady for a 10-yard loss. But New England's defense managed to stop Miami on three plays -- a bright moment in a dark half for New England.
Mare tacked on three more points after New England went three and out on its next possession. Antowain Smith got dumped for a four-yard loss on second and eight and J.R. Redmond was similarly stopped on third down for a 3-yard loss.
Miami took over on its own 39-yard line and mixing passes and Ricky Williams runs, advanced the ball to the New England 22, where Mare hit on a 40-yard field goal. It may actually have been a relief for the Patriots to go to the locker room at the half down only 16-0.
The Green Bay Packers come to Gillette Stadium next Sunday and a Patriots team that should be out to stop a losing streak and gain some redemption awaits.