It would have been hard enough beating the 7-2 Miami Dolphins at home. Five interceptions by Drew Bledsoe made it impossible. As a result, the Patriots dropped their second straight game and AFC East contest by a score of 27-17. They are now 6-4 headed to Buffalo to take on the 7-4 Bills.
Aside from a couple impressive drives to end the first half and begin the second, the Dolphins offense wasn't that impressive. The New England defense certainly played well enough to win, intercepting Miami quarterback Damon Huard twice, forcing two fumbles and allowing only 229 net yards of Dolphin offense.
The Patriots offense was another story. Against a tough Miami defense, Bledsoe continually was hit before and after the pass (he was sacked four times). He finished with his worst outing since his five-interception performance his rookie year against Pittsburgh, going 15 for 34 for 201 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.
The Dolphins offense began the second half looking like a juggernaut as they blew the Patriots off the line of scrimmage on the way to a 17-10 lead. JJ Johnson had 36 yards of running while Huard went 4 for 4 passing with the last completion to Oronde Gadsden in the end zone for 3 yards.
Miami didn't need to look like anything after Bledsoe did the work for them by throwing his second interception of the day. He was looking for Ben Coates when Miami corner Terrell Buckley got in the way. Miami took over on the New England 10 and went in for the score on a Johnson dive over the middle three plays later.
It didn't take long for Bledsoe to make up for his mistake. After the New England defense held the Dolphins three and out, Bledsoe found Shawn Jefferson for a 68-yard bomb to pull within seven at 24-17. Jefferson was in a one-on-one battle with Buckley along the right sideline. The speedy wideout got a step and Bledsoe threw a perfect pass. Once in his hands, Jefferson took the ball cross-field and went untouched the rest of the way.
The New England defense answered the call on Miami's next series as Willie McGinest slammed into Huard for a sack. Huard had to be helped off the field with a broken nose.
After yet another Bledsoe interception (blame Tony Simmons for this one who let the ball bounce off his hands), former Patriot Scott Zolak took over under center.
Although Zolak was ineffective (0-4 passing) during the final quarter, two more Bledsoe picks and a final Olindo Mare 23-yard field goal sealed the game.
Due to a couple of first downs in their first two possessions, the Patriots were winning the battle of field position when they punted after their second series putting Miami back on their own 12-yard line. Huard tried shoveling a pass to Johnson. The problem was that Johnson wasn't looking. Chad Eaton jumped on the loose ball and the Patriots offense took over on the Miami 7. Two plays later, Terry Allen took it up the middle for the first score of the game.
Miami answered with a field goal later in the first quarter when Bledsoe, working from deep in his own territory, threw one right into the numbers of Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison. Madison returned it back to the 9. But the Miami offense could not manage to get the ball into the end zone and settled for a 19-yard Mare field goal to bring the score to 7-3, Patriots.
New England added to their lead when Kevin Faulk popped a 43-yard run, the longest of his career, to put the Patriots on the Miami 34 near the end of the first quarter. A Bledsoe to Coates completion brought them down to the 17. Two Allen runs got his team as close as the 9-yard line but New England stopped there and Adam Vinatieri booted a 27-yard field goal for a 10-3 Patriots lead.
The Miami offense came to life in the second quarter, putting together a 12-play, 76-yard, 5:44 drive that ended in Huard finding Gadsden over the middle for the touchdown to tie the game at 10. During the drive, Miami converted two third and 10 plays, both to Gadsden.
Miami again looked like it had solved the Patriots defense later in the second quarter. But after eight plays brought them to the Patriots 28, Miami fullback Rob Konrad fumbled a swing pass. Ty Law caused the turnover and Steve Israel recovered to put the Patriots on their own 33. New England, however, went three and out due to a Bledsoe sack and loss of 5 yards and the half ended tied at 10.
On the day Miami runner Johnson finished with 106 yards, the first time in a while a Miami back had a 100-yard game