5 notes from the first half

5 notes from the first half
December 24, 2011, 7:44 pm
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FOXBORO - Pass. The. Eggnog. It's 17-0 Miami and the top seed in the AFC is getting planted. McCOURTY MISERY ONGOINGThings aren't getting any better for the Patriots second-year corner. On a third-and-9 in the first quarter, he allowed a 39-yard completion to Brian Hartline when he bit on a double move. On the first play of the second quarter, he allowed a 47-yard bomb to Brandon Marshall. On a third-and-12 from the Dolphins 9 later in the second quarter, McCourty got called for pass interference on a ball that was sailing over the receiver's head. Each of those drives ended in points for Miami. Additionally, McCourty had a pass breakup in the end zone on a bomb intended for Marshall thatprobably could have been picked off. Bad. Not good. PROTECTION BREAKDOWNWith Matt Light unable to go today, the Dolphins have feasted on the Patriots' patchwork offensive line. Tom Brady's been sacked three times already and the pressure has been in his face and forced hurried throws on several other plays. Brady's 7 of 19 for 87 first-half yards. The Patriots' shuffle of Logan Mankins to left tackle, Donald Thomas to left guard got punctured when Mankins started limping in the first quarter. Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor both have sacks off the edges already. Mankins has been out since the first quarter. DABOLL DEALINGThe Miami offensive coordinator - formerly a Patriots assistant, Jets quarterbacks coach and Browns' offensive coordinator - is pulling all the right levers so far. He's picking on McCourty and had a slick throwback pass from Reggie Bush to quarterback Matt Moore that drew a pass interference on Rob Ninkovich as he steamrolled Moore. The Dolphins have 255 yards of first half offense and have run for 83 on a Patriots run defense that fancies itself as stout. TIGHT END SHUTDOWNMiami has so far limited Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to just four catches for 36 yards. Some of that has to do with the pressure being brought on Brady, some of it has to do with the coverage. PLAYOFF PRECURSOR?This Patriots' team has been one that Bill Belichick's praised for its resilience and mental toughness. The Dolphins have a playoff quality defense. How New England adjusts and what it can generate offensively in the second half is the No. 1 storyline in the second half. Second? What can the defense do to slow a Miami team with nothing to lose that should by all rights keep its foot on the gas while New England's reeling.