4 Ups, 4 Downs: Defense, Ridley Helps Patriots Comeback Against Dolphins
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BOSTON (CBS) — It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but after a dismal first half the Patriots woke up against the Dolphins on Sunday and improved to 6-2 on the season with a 27-17 win.
As ugly as the offense played in the first half, the Patriots defense stepped up big time in the second half to shut out the Dolphins over the final 30 minutes. The offense fed off the opportunities the defense gave them (and benefited from a few penalties on the Dolphins) to put up 14 points off turnovers, and the Pats hit the midway point of the season on a high note as they improved to 3-1 against the AFC East.
Here are the Ups and Downs from Sunday’s win over the Dolphins:
Make it 35 straight games the Patriots defense has forced a turnover. Given all the key injuries they’ve had to overcome this season, it’s pretty impressive the streak is still going.
They had three more turnovers Sunday leading to 14 points. Rookie Logan Ryan got it all started with a strip-sack of Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter, giving the Patriots the ball on the Miami 13. Three plays later, the Pats were in the end zone and the game was tied at 17.
Then the Patriots got a beautiful team-work interception in the fourth quarter, as Devin McCourty knocked a Tannehill deep pass along the sidelines to Marquice Cole, who made a nice catch and got both feet inbounds. That pick led to a 13-play drive by the Pats that ended with a Stevan Ridley touchdown to put them on top 27-17.
There were plenty of other highlights on defense, as the Patriots got to Tannehill six times. A blitzing Ryan hit him twice, with Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower and Chris Jones each recording one sack. Ryan was active in this one, as he saw extended playing time with Aqib Talib inactive and Kyle Arrington going down with a groin injury. The third round pick out of Rutgers also nearly had his second pick-six in as many weeks, and appears to have a nose for the ball.
Chandler Jones also blocked a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Ridley Breaks Out Of Doghouse
Ridley didn’t see the field until the second quarter and only played six snaps in the first-half, but he played a major role in the New England comeback.
Ridley finished the afternoon with 79 rushing yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. His biggest run of the day went for 23 yards, which started the team’s first touchdown drive.
Touchdowns In Third Quarter
The Patriots hadn’t scored a touchdown in the third quarter all season, but put two on the board Sunday against the Dolphins.
Brady hit rookie Aaron Dobson in the end zone for a 14-yard score to cap off a 5-play, 64-yard drive after Miami missed a 46-yard field goal to make it a 17-10 Dolphins lead. Then shortly after Ryan’s forced-fumble, Brandon Bolden punched it in for a two-yard score to tie things up at 17.
The Golden Shoe Of Stephen Gostkowski
Gostkowski was perfect again for the sixth straight week, kicking field goals from 34 and 48 yards. He’s hit each of his last 15 kicks, with his last miss a 43-yarder right before the half in Week 2 against the Jets. Gostkowski was strong on kickoffs once again.
First Half Offense
The first half was probably one of the worst performances by a Tom Brady-led offense.
Brady was picked off on his first pass attempt of the game, and the offense didn’t find their way into Miami territory after the mid-way point of the second quarter. Brady had just 25 passing yards in the first half, the lowest of his career since 2003, and the Pats picked up just one first down in the first quarter.
Run Defense Struggles
The Dolphins ground attack had an afternoon, rushing for 103 yards in the first half and 156 yards on the afternoon. Lamar Miller didn’t find the end zone, but he rushed for 89 yards on 18 carries, with Daniel Thomas adding 47 yards on nine carries.
Third Down Struggles
Third down was once again an issue for the Patriots defense, as the Dolphins went 8-for-17 on third downs. None was more frustrating than a 25-yard catch-and-run by Mike Wallace on a third-and-23 in the fourth quarter. The Patriots were blitzing, and everyone just ran by the receiver.
More Injury Woes
The bite of the injury bug was felt again Sunday, with right tackle Sebastian Vollmer going down with a leg injury in the first half. He hit the ground screaming after having his right leg rolled up on, and it looks like his season could be done after being carted off the field.
Corner Kyle Arrington left in the second half with groin injury and did not return.
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