Teams with 12-1 records aren't supposed to lose to teams with 2-11 records. But when the game is an AFC East match-up, anything can happen and in this one it was the Miami defense, not the Patriots, making the plays when it needed them, and stealing this one from New England, 29-28.
Tom Brady was intercepted four times while Dolphin thrower A.J. Feeley came away unscathed in that department. That was the difference as Miami's defense continues to give Brady trouble in the passing department.
Brady finished 18 of 29 with 171 yards passing, three touchdowns and the four interceptions. Corey Dillon had 121 yards rushing and a score on 26 carries.
The Patriots first drive of the game was perfect, not a dropped pass or negative run in nine plays. Dillon started it out with an 18-yard run that began in the middle and then bounced out to the left. It ended with a 31-yard pass from Brady to Kevin Faulk down the middle of the field. Faulk made a nice adjustment to the ball, looking for it first over his left shoulder and then finding it over his right.
A breakdown in New England's punt coverage led to Miami's first points of the game. Still in the first quarter, Josh Miller got off a 41-yard kick from his own 29. Dolphin returner Wes Welker saw an opening to the left and was gone. Welker would have taken the ball into the end zone but as he cut inside around the 5-yard line he tripped up and fell at the 2. Sammy Morris went up and over the pile on first down and the score was tied at 7.
As the first quarter came to a close, New England was in punt formation for the third time in four series. Miami's defense was getting pressure on Brady, already with a Jason Taylor sack, and its linebackers were beginning to get a bead on the runs of Corey Dillon.
Aside from the Welker punt return, Miami was having its own trouble with New England's defense. A.J. Feeley had been sacked twice, by Jarvis Green and again by Mike Vrabel and Roman Phifer. Continuing the trend, the Dolphins first try of the second quarter was quick one, going three and out and giving New England good field position at midfield after the punt.
New England used the opportunity to put together a plodding 12-play scoring drive done mostly on the ground. Aside from 8-yard passes to Patten and Fauria each, it was all Dillon with a couple runs by Patrick Pass and one by Faulk thrown in. The final play was a 3-yard touchdown by Dillon behind the left side of the offensive line.
That drive seemed to wake up the Dolphins offense, as it began to show signs it could pass on the Patriots defense. Starting at his own 30, Feeley threw his way to the Patriots 12 but on third and five his pass intended for Randy McMichael was low and Olindo Mare came on for a 30-yard field goal.
Up 14-10, New England took over at the Miami 27 with 1:45 left in the first half after the kickoff. With three timeouts available, New England had plenty of time to get at least within field goal range. But Brady threw three straight passes, the third a bomb intercepted by Miami's Sammy Knight. Elapsed time of the drive was 25 seconds.
Despite getting the ball back with 1:20 left, Miami was unable to take advantage and when Matt Turk's punt was downed at the New England 4, Brady was content to take a knee and his team's 4-point lead to the locker room.
Both teams opened the second half by turning the ball over. Miami's was first, a double reverse dropped by Marty Booker and recovered by Vince Wilfork.
The Patriots took the ball to the Miami 20 but once there, Brady threw his second interception of the night to Sammy Knight. After the return and an unnecessary roughness call on Matt Light, the Dolphins were first and 10 at the Patriots 43.
This time, Miami avoided anything complicated and after 10 plays, had itself a touchdown, a 1-yard Travis Minor dive. Feeley managed to convert two third downs with passes during the drive and was finding holes in the New England defense.
Perhaps sensing the urgency, the Patriots offense answered with a 71-yard drive culminating in a 2-yard Brady to Dillon touchdown pass. Along the way, Miami hurt its defensive cause with two big penalties, a facemask on Morlon Greenwood after a 10-yard pick-up by Daniel Graham, and an unnecessary roughness call on Sam Madison that gave the Patriots first and goal at the Miami 2. Dillon ran five times with a 20-yard left end run down to the Miami 5 a key to the drive.
As play moved late into the fourth quarter with the score 21-17, New England's defense began to settle down into a rhythm, stopping Miami on two successive drives.
That's when Brady and the offense seemingly put the game away with an eight play drive. Both Dillon and Faulk carried successfully with Dillon again cracking a 20-yard gainer (25 carries, 120 yards to that point), this one to the Miami 2. From there, Brady hit Graham in the end zone for a 28-17 lead with the point after.
Still with some fight left in them, the Dolphins managed to get six points back with a seven play drive. Sammy Morris scored from 1-yard out after Rodney Harrison was flagged for pass interference in the end zone on Chris Chambers.
Miami was unsuccessful on its two-point conversion try and with 2:07 left to play and down by five at 28-23, kicked away hoping its defense could get the ball back
It did just that, intercepting Brady as he was being dragged down on a third and nine play. Brady made an ill-advised, no-look pass trying to avoid the sack and it was picked off by Brendon Ayanbadejo and returned to the Patriots 21.
Then for New England, the unthinkable happened. On fourth and 10 from the 21, Feeley thrw over Troy Brown and hit Derrius Thompson falling into the end zone.
With a 1-point lead at 29-28, Miami went for the 2-point conversion and came up empty for the second time but the damage was done. New England had 1:17 and two timeouts to win this one.
The drive began at the Miami 24. On first down Brady was sacked by David Bowens for a loss of nine. Brady's next pass was intercepted by Arturo Freeman to put the shocking end to this one.