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There's a pretty big difference in the NFL between a 3-1 and a 2-2 record, especially in the tightly-contested AFC East. Which is just one of the many reasons Monday night's win over the Dolphins was so important for New England and its defense, says Pats Pulpit.
I also think we learned a lot about the Patriots' defense tonight. While the bend-but-don't-break defense can be frustrating at times, it can also pay off big. We saw that with the four interceptions tonight. The interceptions were due largely in part to the newfound speed of this defense. We also saw the Patriots shut down Ronnie Brown on the ground (11 for 27), and also get great pressure on Chad Henne. Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich, and Tully Banta-Cain all had great games rushing the passer. Devin McCourty, aside from his one pass interference penalty, had a great game in coverage. We'll get more into who played well tomorrow.
Big road win, big division win. The Patriots outplayed the Dolphins on offense, defense, and special teams. They outcoached the Dolphins. And for once, they showed the energy that we're used to seeing from the Patriots, but haven't seen in quite some time. That's one hell of a way to head into the bye week, don't you think?
And a bye week it will be -- the players are off until Thursday.
The Patriots only ran 25 offensive plays in the second half on Monday night's win (compared to 36 in the first half, and 44 in the second half against the Bills last week). But then again, they only had to run 25 plays, since special teams was busy controlling the game.
After a 103-yard kickoff return by Brandon Tate and a blocked punt by Patrick Chung, the Pats put the game away with a blocked field goal (Chung handled the honors, again), allowing Kyle Arrington to scoop up the loose ball and take it 35 yards for the touchdown.
Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Patrick Chung blocked two kicks in the second half and returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the final quarter, powering New England to a 41-14 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Chung had the type of game most defensive backs could only dream of, but the second year player out of Oregon had a factor in 21 of New England's 35 second-half points.
Shortly after Brandon Tate ran the opening kickoff of the second half 103 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, Chung blocked a punt, which led to a 12-yard TD run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. In the opening minute of the fourth, Chung blocked a field goal attempt and Kyle Arrington rumbled 35 yards with the recovery to the end zone.
Tom Brady connected on 19-of-24 passes for 153 yards and a score for the Patriots (3-1). It was the 100th win for Brady, as the two-time Super Bowl MVP became the 11th NFL QB to reach the milestone and the quickest ever. He did it in 131 starts, surpassing the mark of his boyhood idol Joe Montana, who needed 139 games to reach the century mark in victories.
Chad Henne finished 29-of-39 through the air for 302 yards with two TDs and three interceptions, two of those going to linebacker Rob Ninkovich. Davone Bess caught nine balls for 93 yards and a score for the Dolphins (2-2).
Monday night against the Dolphins, the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to score a touchdown rushing, passing, on an interception return, a kickoff return and a return of a blocked field goal in the same game. So, yeah: things went pretty well for New England.
Oh, and Tom Brady became the fastest quarterback to reach 100 wins in a career (just 131 games; it took Joe Montana 139).
The Patriots improved to 3-1, while the Dolphins fell to 2-2.
Patrick Chung capped off New England's scoring -- and his night -- with an interception returned for a touchdown with 6:30 left in the game, putting the game well out of reach. Chung ended the game with a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and the pick-six (not to mention four tackles).
The turning point in Monday night's game between the Patriots and Dolphins was Brandon Tate's 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Not only did it give New England their first lead of the game, but it also started a second half that has seen the Patriots outscore the Dolphins, 35-7. So why not show you video of it?
In a span of just 15:55, the Patriots have scored four touchdowns, and made enough plays to make a special teams coach happy for half the season.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Dolphins lined up to attempt a 53-yard field goal. But it never got over the line.
Patrick Chung broke through the middle and blocked the kick -- yes, again. CB Kyle Arrington scooped it up and he took it the rest of the way for a 35-yard touchdown, and a 34-14 Patriots lead in the fourth quarter.
A kickoff returned 103 yards for a touchdown, a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown and a blocked punt for a score -- pretty good night for the Pats' special teams, and coach Scott O'Brien.
The first half of Monday night's game between the Patriots and Dolphins saw just a total of 13 points -- one touchdown and two New England field goals. With 4:02 still remaining in the third quarter, the two sides have already totaled 28 points -- on four touchdowns.
The Patriots opened the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns in about two minutes on the strength of special teams play before Miami got back in it with a 28-yard pass to Ricky Williams that drew the Dolphins closer, 20-14.
New England immediately answered with a 12-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with an 11-yard touchdown pass to everyone's favorite new Patriots, Danny Woodhead, extending the lead to 27-14.
It is oddly appropriate that at the former home of Dan Marino, Tom Brady and the Patriots attempted the play that the Dolphin great once made famous: the fake spike. Unfortunately, Randy Moss just couldn't quite bring it in for what would have been a touchdown.
The Patriots settled for a field goal.
It's the second kickoff Tate has returned for a TD in the first four games of the season.
On the Dolphins' following possession, the Pats' defense forced a three-and-out, but before Brandon Fields could punt it away, Patrick Chung broke through the middle and blocked the kick, giving New England the ball on Miami's 15-yard line. Two plays later, BenJarvus Green-Ellis powered his way to a 12-yard touchdown, giving the Patriots a 20-7 lead.
In all, New England scored 14 points in 2:16 of game time while running just two offensive plays.
For the second series in a row Monday night, a Dolphins' possession came to an abrupt end when Patriots OLB Rob Ninkovich picked off Chad Henne, giving the Patriots the ball with 2:47 left in the first half. That's when Tom Brady and New England went to work.
Brady went 8-for-10 on a 13-play, 63-yard drive that sliced through the Dolphins' defense before eventually running out of time. With 12 seconds left on the Miami 12-yard line, Brady did a fake-spike and made a back-shoulder throw to Randy Moss, but the receiver couldn't haul in what would have been a touchdown, despite having it hit his hands.
A sack followed, forcing the Pats to kick a 30-yard field goal cutting the Dolphins lead to 7-6 at the half.
In their final two drives on the first half, the Patriots totaled 118 yards on 29 plays, and took 11:58 off the clock, but only have six points to show for it.
At the half, neither Brandon Marshall nor Moss has a reception.
A drive that began when Rob Ninkovich picked off Chad Henne was kept alive with three third-down conversions and a Tom Brady sneak on 4th-and-1, eventually resulted in a 23-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, as the Patriots cut into the Dolphins lead, 7-3.
While the offense only managed three points, perhaps more importantly, it gave their defense a rest.
The drive lasted 16 plays and took 9:11 off the clock.
If the Patriots made any defensive adjustments since giving up 30 points to the Bills last week, they haven't sunk in yet Monday night. The Dolphins have already racked-up over 100 yards of offense and are seemingly doing whatever they want to against a young Patriots' defense.
New England will start their second drive of the game with 5:42 left in the first quarter.
Here's who you wont be seeing at any point Monday for the Patriots against the Dolphins, via Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport.
This means the New England running game will consist of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Sammy Morris and Danny Woodhead.
It’s not too often that offensive lineman get their time in the spotlight, so why not check in with New England Patriots’ offensive tackle Matt Light to hear his thoughts on tonight’s pivotal game against the Miami Dolphins. Light joined WEEI in Boston to talk about the Fins, what makes them tough to handle, and how he and his teammates are eager to silence those who don’t believe that New England can get the job done away from Gillette Stadium.
Whether he would rather play a game in Miami early or late in the season:
“It’s kind of funny; it always seemed at first that we were down there on the hottest day of the year, and then we had this transition where they came up here for the first game and we would down there when it was cooler. When you are playing down there at 1 p.m. game early in the year it can be pretty hot. I would imagine by the time it kicks off Monday night we won’t have to deal with so much of the heat, so that would be a little bit better but I would prefer to play down there when it’s not quite as sticky.”
What it is like sitting through Sunday without football for a Monday night game:
“It’s kind of brutal. I think every guy in the league would like to wake up, or most guys anyway would like to wake up on Sunday, get their early meal in and then head to the stadium and get to play a game at one o’clock. These games you are sitting about and you’re trying to get a little extra film study in and the day keeps dragging and dragging. You might have a meeting and everyone else has already played their game. It’s definitely an adjustment that you got to definitely account for.”
What the offensive line is going to do to protect Tom Brady and whether it is all about offense this week:
“It’s always about offense putting points on the board. We have the mentality, like I am sure every other team in the league, that when we take the field we are only doing it for one reason, and that is to score points… We obviously have got guys around for a long period of time, even younger guys that have contributed greatly to the cause. But for us, I think we always talk about the same things every week. We want to be able to go out there and win however it happens. People always want to talk about the run game, and are you satisfied with that? Are you throwing the ball too much, or are you not running enough? My mentality and I think most of the guys on our team have the feeling that whatever it takes to win the game, if that means we have to throw it 60 times, then so be it. So we’re going to go down there with a game plan, obviously in mind and we worked hard this week. Unfortunately we’ve got two more days of preparation before we even get to game day. We’ll continue to do the things that we think give us the best advantage of going down there. Then it comes down to executing and executing on the road which is something we have to do a lot better.”
We’re not too far from kickoff between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Earlier in the day, Fred Taylor was ruled out. And now, middle linebacker Channing Crowder has been scratched after being limited in practice all week with a groin injury. That’s not a huge surprise to Patriots’ fans, as Crowder had been listed as questionable in the lead-up to the game.
Stay tuned for updates during and after the game, and feel free to head on over to Pats Pulpit to yuck it up with fellow fans as the game unfolds.
5. Road Game - The Patriots have been awful on the road over the past couple seasons, for no real reason. Mike Reiss of ESPN breaks down some numbers that aren't very flattering. The team has been outscored 116-41 in the 2nd half of their past 8 road games. Quarterback Tom Brady has been the worst 4th Quarter quarterback on the road in the NFL since 2009- bar none. There's a lot of past history pointing against the Patriots in this game- can they overcome? The last road game they won against a team not named the Buffalo Bills was Week 15 of 2008, against the Oakland Raiders, with Matt Cassel at quarterback. The Patriots need to bury the past if they want to win this game against a team that always gives them fits. The Patriots need to score in the 2nd half and they need to stop the Dolphins. Sounds obvious, but it's extremely true for the Patriots.
4. Secondary Starters - Does Darius Butler get his starting spot back? Will Kyle Arrington stay a starter? How does Devin McCourty match up against WR Brandon Marshall? Where does Jonathan Wilhite fit in? Who starts at safety? Will Pat Chung help out against the run, or will he drop into coverage? Has Brandon Meriweather re-earned his starting spot? Will James Sanders see the field? Does Jarrad Page see a bigger role? Does UDFA Sergio Brown make the game day roster? This is a young secondary that has very little experience playing together- so who gets to see the field?
Visit Pats Pulpit for the other key storylines, including tight ends and a look at outside linebacker.
It's hardly a surprise, considering he didn't practice this week, but Patriots running back Fred Taylor was officially ruled out of Monday night's game in Miami Saturday afternoon.
Also out for New England: tackle Nick Kaczur and CB Terrence Wheatley.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins will be without DE Jared Odrick, and LB Channing Crowder is doubtful.
G John Jerry (illness - did not practice)
DE Jared Odrick (ankle - did not practice)
LB Channing Crowder (groin - limited participation)
CB Nolan Carroll (hand - full participation)
T Jake Long (knee - full participation)
As the Patriots prepare for Monday night's game with the Dolphins, it's becoming more likely that running back Fred Taylor won't be joining them on the field in Miami. Taylor did not practice on Thursday, according to the Globe's Monique Walker, marking the second straight day he has been held out.
With both teams 2-1 -- along with the Jets at the same mark -- a win Monday night could go a long way in determining who finishes atop the division at the end of the season.
Here's how SB Nation's Joel Thorman sees it:
Breakdown: The Patriots hit a speed bump against the Bills last week but still came out with the victory. But that should tell you how intense some of these AFC East matchups are. Look for the Patriots to continue with the passing game, as they usually do, and for the Dolphins to try to slow things down with the run.
Player to Watch: Randy Moss. The Dolphins are going to try to run the ball a lot and the best way to kill that momentum is quick scores by the Patriots offense. I see Moss blowing up on Monday night.
Line: Patriots are one point favorites.
Prediction: I'm taking the Patriots but this is going to be a tight game. One point differential sounds about right.
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