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Patriots - Dolphins Game Notes

The following are game notes from the new England Patriots 23-16 win over the Miami Dolphins.  The win moves the Patriots to 5-4 on the season.

Adam Vinatieri played in his 153rd consecutive regular-season game, establishing the second longest consecutive game streak in franchise history. Vinatieri, who has also played in 15 straight playoff games and has not missed a game in his 10-year career, passed Gino Cappelletti's mark of 152 consecutive games, which was established from 1960-70. Vinatieri now trails only Raymond Clayborn's record of 161 consecutive games, established from 1977-87.

Benjamin Watson caught two touchdown passes against the Dolphins, becoming the first Patriot to record a multiple receiving touchdown game since David Givens caught a pair of scores at Pittsburgh on Oct. 31, 2004. Watson became the first Patriots tight end to record two scores since Daniel Graham caught a pair of scoring passes at Arizona on Sept. 19, 2004. Watson now has three receiving touchdowns this season, tying him with Graham and Deion Branch for the team lead. Watson scored his first touchdown of the day and his second touchdown of the season on a 16-yard scoring reception from Tom Brady on the final play of the third quarter, giving the Patriots a 12-7 lead. With 2:16 left in the game, Watson hauled in his second score of the day, a game-winning 17-yard grab that turned a 16-15 deficit into a 23-16 lead.

Ellis Hobbs had the best game of his young career, coming up with big plays in his first career start. He snared his first career interception when he picked off a Gus Frerotte pass at the Dolphins' 31-yard line in the fourth quarter. Willie McGinest raced in to pressure Frerotte on the play and tipped the ball as it was thrown. Hobbs grabbed the ball and set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal that made the score 15-7. With 55 seconds left in the game, Hobbs came up with a play that was arguably just as important, as he jumped to bat a pass away from Miami's Marty Booker in the end zone as the Dolphins were making a bid for a game-tying score. Hobbs also recovered two fumbles on the afternoon, one which was forced by Rosevelt Colvin and one that came following his interception.

Tim Dwight hauled in a 59-yard pass from Tom Brady with 2:19 left in the game and the Patriots trailing 16-15. Dwight's catch was the first strike in a lightning quick 2-play game-winning drive, setting up a game-winning touchdown to Benjamin Watson on the next play. The catch was Dwight's longest since hauling in a career-long 78-yard bomb from Doug Flutie on Sept. 23, 2001 when both players were playing for the San Diego Chargers.

Patriots fullback Heath Evans recorded 17 rushes for a career-high 84 yards. His 84 yards not only set a single-game career high for Evans, but also exceeded his single-season career high of 53 yards, set in 2002 with the Seattle Seahawks. Evans recorded a 21-yard run on the second play of the game. It was the longest run of Evans' 5-year career, besting a pair of eight-yard runs in 2002 and 2003. Evans' 21-yarder was his first rush as a Patriot and exceeded his 2004 season total of 20 yards. Evans, who was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on Nov. 1, entered today's game with 34 career rushes for 108 yards. Evans's 84 rushing yards are the second most by a Patriot in 2005, trailing only Corey Dillon's 106-yard performance at Atlanta on Oct. 9.

For the fifth consecutive week and for the sixth time in seven games, the Patriots started a different player at the safety position opposite Eugene Wilson. Michael Stone became the sixth player to start at strong safety for New England this season, joining Rodney Harrison, Guss Scott, Randall Gay, James Sanders and Arturo Freeman.

The Patriots defense stood strong at the end of the game, as the Dolphins failed to score after gaining a first-and-goal from the Patriots' 5-yard line with 58 seconds left in the game trailing by eight points. On first-and-goal, Ellis Hobbs acrobatically batted away a Gus Frerotte pass intended for Marty Booker in the end zone. On second down, Hobbs's tight coverage helped to force an incompletion to Chris Chambers. On third-and-goal, Hank Poteat broke through to stuff Ronnie Brown for a 5-yard loss on a rushing attempt. Then, on fourth-and-goal, New England's coverage helped to force another incompletion to Chambers, sealing the 23-16 victory.

Tom Brady engineered his 21st career game-winning performance to lead his team to a victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. Brady presided over a 2-play quick-strike drive that covered 76 yards in just 43 seconds to turn a 16-15 deficit into a 23-16 lead on a 17-yard touchdown to Benjamin Watson with 2:16 left in the game. The other play on the drive was a 59-yard bomb to Tim Dwight. Brady has now recorded four fourth-quarter comebacks in 2005: at Miami on Nov. 13, vs. Buffalo on Oct. 30, at Atlanta on Oct. 9 and at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25. During his 2005 comebacks, Brady has been perfect, completing all 20 of his passes for 329 yards (see below). The performances are the latest addition to a long list of late-game heroics for Brady, who has led three Super Bowl-winning drives.

Rosevelt Colvin forced Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael to fumble at the Patriots' 8-yard line, reaching in to punch the ball away and kick-starting a Patriots scoring drive. Rookie cornerback Ellis Hobbs recovered the loose ball, giving New England possession, thwarting a Miami scoring chance and starting a drive that ended in Adam Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal. The forced fumble leading to a Patriots recovery was Colvin's second in three weeks, having strip-sacked Buffalo's Kelly Holcomb in New England's 21-16 win over the Bills on Oct. 30.

Tom Brady's third-quarter interception ended a string of 121 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Prior to getting picked off by Miami's Travares Tillman to end New England's first drive of the second half, Brady had not thrown an interception since he threw one to Atlanta's Demorrio Williams on Oct. 9. Brady had gone three straight games without throwing an interception prior to today's game and has now thrown just six interceptions in 318 pass attempts in 2005 (1.9 percent).

Josh Miller's first two punts of the day pinned the Dolphins deep in their own territory. His first boot of the day was downed by Andre' Davis at the Dolphins' 3-yard line, giving the Patriots defense good field position to begin their first series of the day. Miller's next punt traveled 59 yards, marking his longest boot of the season and besting a 58-yard kick at Denver on Oct. 16.

* Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown made his first appearance of the season on defense when he lined up as a defensive back on the first third down of Miami's first possession.

  • Tight End Christian Fauria recorded his first reception of the season on a 5-yard pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter.
  • Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi combined to stop Miami running back Ronnie Brown for no gain on third-and-two in the first quarter, forcing a Dolphins punt.
  • Tedy Bruschi saved a touchdown in the second quarter when he leaped in and batted down a Gus Frerotte pass at the goal line intended for Wes Welker on third-and-11. On the next play, Miami was forced to attempt a 31-yard field goal, which Olindo Mare missed wide right.

Adam Vinatieri nailed all three of his field goal attempts against the Dolphins. Including his 33-yarder in the fourth quarter against Miami, Vinatieri has been successful on 22 consecutive fourth-quarter field goal attempts, dating back to Dec. 8, 2002, when he missed a 43-yarder against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Vinatieri's fourth-quarter boot against the Dolphins came with the Patriots clinging to a 12-7 lead, raising his accuracy rate to 22-for-23 (95.7 percent) in the fourth quarter when the Patriots are either leading or behind by a touchdown or less since 2001. Vinatieri was 2-for-2 in the second half against Miami and has now has hit 27 of his last 28 field goals (96.4 percent) in the second half, dating back to the 2003 regular-season finale.

Two Patriots defensive players - rookie Ellis Hobbs and veteran Michael Stone - made their first career starts today. Hobbs, who was drafted by the Patriots in the third round (84th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft, began the game at right cornerback. Stone began the game at strong safety. Stone is in his fifth NFL season and is playing in his 43rd career game today. He was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on Sept. 28, 2005.

In nine games this season, the Patriots have fielded 35 different starters - 15 on offense and 20 on defense. Three players have started at two positions (Randall Gay S/CB; Mike Vrabel OLB/ILB; Patrick Pass FB/RB).

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