October 28, 2013

Half-bad Patriots beat Dolphins

New England’s strong second half redeems an awful opening 30 minutes.

By Howard Ulman
The Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The boos poured down on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at the end of a horrible first half.

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New England receiver Aaron Dobson, who’s had an inconsistent season, catches a third-quarter touchdown pass during Sunday’s win over Miami in Foxborough, Mass.

The Associated Press

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Miami Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson (24) attempts to stop New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22), in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Then, they gave fans plenty to cheer about with their best third quarter of the season.

Trailing 17-3 after gaining just 59 yards, the Patriots quickly turned the game around after intermission with two touchdowns in a span of seven plays and beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 on Sunday.

“We really haven’t played good in the third quarter, but we did today,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. “Things weren’t going our way in the first half. That was obvious, being booed at halftime.”

New England (6-2) rallied despite another mediocre performance by Brady, who completed more than half his passes for only the fifth time in eight games. But his 116 yards passing were the second fewest in game he played most of the way in since 2006.

Brady completed 13 of 22 passes and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson with 6:32 gone in the third quarter that began the comeback.

He threw for more than half his yards, 76, in the third quarter when the team scored 17 points. In their first seven games, the Patriots were outscored 44-9 in that period.

“I know a lot of people are frustrated,” Brady said, but “to be 6-2 is not bad.”

And he brushed off a suggestion that he wasn’t at full strength, with pictures showing possible swelling in his right hand.

“I’ll be out there next week,” he said. “For the eighth week of the year, I feel awesome.”

The Dolphins (3-4) lost their fourth straight game.

“We’ve got to keep the same mindset the whole game,” Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “We just have to step on their throat.”

Trailing 17-3, New England got the ball for the second time in the third quarter after Caleb Sturgis’ 46-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright.

“Maybe it changed momentum. Maybe it didn’t,” Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.

“That didn’t matter. We needed to execute and needed to score points and we didn’t.”

The Patriots took over and scored on Brady’s pass to Dobson.

They regained possession two plays after the kickoff when Logan Ryan sacked Tannehill, forcing a fumble that Rob Ninkovich recovered at the Miami 13. It was one of six sacks against Tannehill, who began the game having been sacked an NFL-high 26 times.

Three plays later, Bolden scored on a 2-yard run and the Patriots tied it at 17 with 6:42 left in the quarter.

Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal made it 20-17 late in the third period.

Then the Patriots got the ball back when Marquice Cole made an interception along the sideline, catching a ball tipped by safety Devin McCourty and managing to get both feet inbounds.

They got a break on their drive when Miami’s Olivier Vernon was penalized for batting forward a ball that Brady fumbled. The Patriots recovered at the Dolphins 45, but the penalty put the ball at the 13.

That series ended with Ridley’s 3-yard touchdown run.

The outlook was much bleaker in the first half.

“We weren’t playing good football at all. We had to start all over again,” Ninkovich said.

Brady’s first pass was intercepted by Dimitri Patterson, setting up a 40-yard drive capped by Tannehill’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson. But Gibson left the game later in the first quarter with a left knee injury when he jumped for a pass over his head.

There was no update on his condition, but Gibson, on crutches after the game, said, “I jumped and I felt it right away.”

Tannehill made it 14-0 on a 5-yard scoring pass to Daniel Thomas about five minutes into the second quarter.

The Patriots scored with 3:43 left in the half on Gostkowski’s 34-yard field goal, but Sturgis connected on a 52-yarder 30 seconds before intermission.

After the kickoff, Brady took a knee and was booed as New England let time expire.

“I didn’t hear much, truthfully. I just go off the field. It’s a long game,” he said. “Ultimately, you’ve got to wait ’til it all plays out.”

NOTES: Patriots starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer didn’t return after hurting his leg when defensive tackle Randy Starks fell on the back of his legs in the second quarter. ... Dolphins offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie started at left tackle as the Dolphins hoped for better pass protection. They obtained him last Monday in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. ... The Patriots beat the Dolphins for the seventh straight time.

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