BOSTON (CBS) — Typically, if you are a Patriots fan and you elect to boo the team off the field at halftime, you deserve to be made to feel some shame the next day.
But, whether you were inside Gillette or on your couch, if you were one of the boo birds on Sunday, you are forgiven.
Bleak does not even begin to describe the picture for the Patriots after two quarters. Tom Brady had twenty-five passing yards. The team had three points. They had scored just nine points in their last four quarters. It was fair to wonder what world we were all living in, because one where the Patriots are that inept offensively is not one we’ve seen since Y2K was a real concern.
You only had to be human to understand where these boos were coming from.
Yet, somehow, some way, Bill Belichick’s team scored the next 24 points of the game, won another divisional game and walked away with a ho-hum 6-2 record, third-best in the Conference.
It all happened so fast, so let’s run through all of the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 27-17 victory over the Dolphins.
–Sorry to start with a negative, but there is not one good reason for Stevan Ridley’s first touch of the football to come 20 minutes into the football game. None whatsoever. If, as it has been suggested, Belichick was trying to punish him for sort of high-stepping his way into the end zone last week, then the coach ought to have his head checked.
Ridley may be the best, most explosive playmaker they have on offense, and yes that includes No. 12. “But he fumbles,” you may say. It’s true, but Brady also throws interceptions on the first offensive snap of the game. Give Ridley the ball.
–The second-most explosive player on offense may be Logan Mankins. Did you see the catch he made on a Ryan Tannehill throwaway while seated on the bench? It was so smooth.
–If you’re a Twitter user, it’s OK to admit that once this game ended, you went back and deleted all of your tweets from the first half. It really was that bad for the Patriots through 30 minutes. The idea that they could score even 10 points, let alone 27, seemed to be a ludicrous thought, and questions about whether the Patriots could even win the AFC East began popping up all over. And when the third quarter started with an Aaron Dobson drop on first down and a Brady sack on third down, it was more of the same. When Caleb Sturgis’ field goal attempt clanked off the right upright nearly 35 minutes into the game, it was pretty much the first positive play for the Patriots all day long. And yet, just about every single snap after that point seemed to go their way.
–After Daniel Thomas caught a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 14-0 lead, Belichick immediately pulled out his little secret notepad and began scribbling.
I do not know what is scrawled on that paper, but I bet if you could decipher that chicken scratch, you’d understand the secrets of the world.
Either that, or it just says, “Damn it.” One or the other.
–Hearing the 6-foot-8, 320-pound Sebastian Vollmer scream in agonizing pain was something that you can never un-hear. It was scary but it was also just … kind of sad. Football is a pretty brutal game. Hearing a giant German man lying facedown on the turf, screaming at the top of his lungs while punching the ground made me re-evaluate my entire life.
–On a similar note, do you cringe every time Danny Amendola catches the ball and is about to get hit? After the concussion vs. the Saints, I’m officially uncomfortable watching Amendola run around the field.
–The broadcast crew was searching desperately to find instances of Brady displaying signs of an injured throwing hand, including the revelation that he upon arriving at the sideline, he immediately placed his hand … in a hand warmer. Aside from that life-altering observation, I noticed one that actually might have indicated something.
As he walked off the field late in the second quarter following a failed third down, Brady unclipped his chin strap. But rather than use his right hand for the right side and his left for the left, he used his left hand to unclip both sides, somewhat awkwardly reaching across his face to unbuckle his chin strap.
It stood out. Maybe it means nothing. But I don’t think he or anyone else uses his left hand to unstrap the right side of the helmet.
–Robert Kraft remains the undisputed champion of the sunglass game. Nobody else is even close.
–The game changed, obviously, when Logan Ryan blitzed from the right side and strip-sacked Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter. The crowd went nuts, thinking Rob Ninkovich had recovered it and ran it in for a touchdown, at which point referee Walt Anderson had decided the crowd was whooping it up a little too much.
“The ruling on the field is that you all need to stop screaming and high-fiving each other. I have a headache and you’re all annoying.”
–I understand and accept the fact that I’ll never know what it is like to be filthy rich, but I do know it costs between $500 and $800 to sit in the club level, which holds all of those empty red seats you see in the pictures below. Why those people choose to drop $1500 on a pair of tickets for something they’re not going to watch, I do not know.
–Rob Gronkowski’s nifty little touchdown catch didn’t count due to an awful holding call on Nate Solder (a make-up call, perhaps, of an awful defensive holding call on Dimitri Patterson), but you have to appreciate the effort that Gronk put into dreaming up that spike. He really showed his artistic side as he displayed the eagerness to dust off the old touchdown spike before finally releasing the ball into the turf. It’s a shame the touchdown didn’t count, but it will only make the next spike that much better.
–That tag-teamed interception from Devin McCourty to Marquice Cole was simply a thing of beauty. It’s not as if coaches waste precious practice time by having their safeties leap and tip passes back to a trailing cornerback. That thing was all instincts, and it was pretty cool.
–Even Joe Philbin had to applaud the pick after the call on the field was upheld via replay review. Why the head coach of the Dolphins paced the sidelines, lightly applauding nobody, I may never know.
–When Brady ran for 8 yards on a fourth-and-4 early in the fourth quarter, it was not a thing of beauty. But you know what? That’s been there for him a lot this year and he hasn’t taken it as often as he should. If he does that, even picking up 8 yards a time, defenses might have to start respecting it a little more. When he steadfastly refuses to take free yards, it allows defenses to dedicate one more man to coverage. If he had a stable of All-Pro receivers, maybe he’d be best to pass up the minimal gains. But as it is, he’d be wise to start taking what the defense gives him. It just might open something up.
–I thought that on my own, but it helped make me feel like I was in good company when Belichick made a similar point after the game.
“One thing about Tom, he’s a smart player, he knows when to run,” Belichick said. “The only time he runs is when there’s a whole lot of space. He made a great decision there. The Dolphins were in man coverage, they were all locked up and he saw some space and it was a huge first down for us. As usual, a great decision by Tom. But we know he’s not in there to run the ball but sometimes it opens up alike that and you can take advantage of it, and he did.”
–Last week, people in New England were angry that the Patriots were penalized for pushing. This week, the Dolphins were penalized for pushing a football. At least the Patriots pushed a human. Pushing a football doesn’t even hurt anybody.
—Steve Gregory had his best game as a Patriot, I think. One play in particular that stood out came late in the first, when he broke on an inside route and drove his shoulder right through Rishard Matthews to break up a pass and force a punt. Gregory gets criticized a lot, with reason, for some of his routes to balls, but he put forth a notably solid performance on Sunday.
–Leave it to a Belichick-coached squad, though, to make NFL history one week for being the first team called for a new penalty on a field goal block attempt, only to have a newly drawn-up field goal block play that works to perfection the following week.
–If this photograph does not win all sorts of awards, something went terribly, horribly wrong in the voting process.