Tom Brady had absolutely no answer to fierce Miami pressure and while Corey Dillon (16 carries, 79 yards) ran well in spurts, not having Laurence Maroney (out with a back injury) didn't help his cause. His numbers were paltry: 12 of 25 passing for 78 yards and a 55.1 passer rating.
Brady was sacked four times and with the little time he had when he dropped back, was unable to find anything going on in the way of open receivers. Turnovers continued to plague New England -- 3 lost fumbles -- although they had little bearing on the outcome. This was a game that was decided by Miami's defense and New England's inability on offense to adjust.
The Dolphins were the first to break a scoreless tie when Olindo Mare was good on a 35-yard field goal with 28 seconds left to play in the first quarter. The opportunity was brought about by yet another Patriots turnover. New England was working its way through a drive that began on its own 3-yard line and doing well. On second and five from the 33, Graham caught a little pass out of the backfield but was stripped by Channing Crowder. Will Allen recovered and Miami was in excellent shape, first and 10 at the 39.
The Patriots defense limited the potential damage from the turnover to only three points, overcoming a roughing call on Richard Seymour and a phantom pass interference call on Chad Scott along the way.
As the first half wound down, Miami had the ball with under two minutes left and were the beneficiary of a terrible roughing call on Vince Wilfork. Wilfork had reached for Joey Harrington in the pocket and missed, falling to the ground. As Harrington moved to buy time, he tripped over Wilfork's helmet and Wilfork was flagged. The penalty moved the ball to the Patriots 23. Miami settled for another three points on a 33-yard field goal as time ran out.
The Patriots were fortunate to escape to the locker room at halftime down only 6-0. Their first half offensive efforts amounted to nothing. In five series the furthest Brady could drive his team was the Miami 42-yard line. Fortunately for New England, Harrington and his squad wasn't much better. Harrington was off the mark several times and for the most part, kept the Patriots in the game.
Things didn't get any better for New England in the third quarter. After being pinned on the 4-yard line to begin their second drive of the half, the offense could only make it to the 13 before punting. Ken Walter's kick was a short one and Miami took over at the Patriots 43.
Five plays later, Harrington hit Marty Booker down the middle for a 32-yard touchdown that Artrell Hawkins just missed intercepting.
Even worse, both Ben Watson and Vince Wilfork had left the game earlier in the quarter with leg injuries.
The fourth quarter began with the ball in the Patriots hands. The last plays of the third quarter were a direct snap to Kevin Faulk on third and 7 that gained 11 yards to the New England 38 and a Dillon 5-yard run. New England had 15 minutes to make up a 13-0 deficit but despite beginning the final frame first and 10 on the Dolphins 42, a relentless Dolphin pass rush and excellent coverage combined to force yet another punt.
The Dolphins went three plays and out and punted on their ensuing series. Faulk returned the kick to the Miami 48 but now New England only had 10:50 to make up the same spread they began the quarter with.
There was a brief glimmer of hope when Yeremiah Bell was flagged for another NFL-style roughing the quarterback call. It came on third and 10 after the Patriots were blanked on their first two plays. The 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the 33 and from there the play call was another direct snap to Faulk. This time, however, Faulk faked a run and instead passed to Brady who had taken off for the left sideline. Brady caught the pass and just as he was being tackled, heaved the ball to a wide open Graham who trotted in to the end zone untouched. There was only one problem. Faulk's pass to Brady was not a lateral thereby rendering Brady's effort moot. New England was flagged for an illegal forward pass and three plays later Brady was sacked and stripped by Bell with Bell recovering.
Eight plays later the rout was on. Harrington completed a 26-yard pass to Marty Booker to the Patriots 11 and after three Sammy Morris runs, the last a 3-yard touchdown, the score was 21-0 with the successful two-point conversion.
New England got the ball back with just under five minutes left to play and conceded the game, taking Brady out and replacing him with Matt Cassel. The back-up quarterback was no exception to the Miami fun as he was promptly sacked and fumbled five plays into his drive.
The loss drops New England to 9-4 with the Jets playing their game later in the day against Buffalo and an opportunity pull within one game in the AFC East with three left to play.