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.
Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization has been saying for a long time that they hope Tom Brady prevails in his fight with the league over Deflategate. Kraft reiterated that stance on Tuesday at the NFL's annual spring meetings.
But on Wednesday, the Patriots took their support for Brady to a new level. The team has filed an amicus brief stating that it has sided with Brady and the NFLPA now that the union has filed a petition to be granted a rehearing by the Second Circuit.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the last time an NFL team took legal action against league was when late Raiders owner Al Davis sued the NFL. The amicus brief filed by the Patriots is a legal brief that plainly opposes the NFL and its legal position, Schefter notes.
On the first page of the amicus brief, in the document's second footnote, the language is strong: "From the outset of this matter, the League's conduct reflects less a search for the truth than pursuit of a pre-determined result and defense of a report which, despite no direct evidence of tampering or Mr. Brady's involvement, was reiled on to impose penalties with no precedent or correlation to the alleged offense."
The Patriots have continued to update The Wells Report in Context, a website that argues the findings of the NFL's investigation into Brady that has also accumulated various reports and scientific studies that support Brady's innocence. But this amicus brief is another way for the team to show that it has its quarterback's back.
The NFLPA filed its petition for a rehearing on Monday and now awaits a decision from the 13 judges of the Second Circuit as to whether or not they will grant Brady a rehearing.
Statistically speaking, Brady is facing long odds to be given a rehearing, but his legal team believes there's reason for optimism.
Tom Brady came away the loser when the Second Circuit's three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL and reinstated Brady's four-game suspension last month.
But the decision was not unanimous, and the lone judge who decided in Brady's favor may have some sway now that the Second Circuit has to decide whether or not it will grant Brady a rehearing. That judge, of course, was Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann.
The fact that the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit was the one who dissented with the majority opinion gives Brady's legal team some hope that seven of the 13 Second Circuit judges will agree to grant him a rehearing.
"The Chief Judge wrote a very convincing dissent," Brady's lead counsel Ted Olson told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. "He’s a highly respected individual. He’s been a member of that Court for many, many, many years. He very rarely dissents from an opinion by his colleagues. Over the years, just a few times out of thousands of cases in which he’s participated.
"So here’s an individual who is highly respected, who’s the Chief Judge of the court, who wrote a very cogent, persuasive, dissenting opinion pointing out important principles that he felt -- and we feel -- the majority got wrong. So we do think that that gives us an extra impetus in seeking rehearing."
In its petition requesting a rehearing, Brady's legal team reiterated the same arguments that Katzmann made in his dissent: a) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should not have been able to change the factual basis for the discipline once the appeal hearing had concluded, and b) Goodell should have at least considered punishing Brady based on the CBA's scheduled punishments for equipment violations.
"[The] majority . . . asserts that the Commissioner did not change the factual basis for the discipline and, in effect, that any change was harmless," Katsmann wrote. "I cannot agree."
Katzmann added: "The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty and relied, instead, on an inapt analogy to the League's steroid policy. This deficiency, especially when viewed in combination with the shifting rationale for Brady's discipline, leaves me to conclude that the Commissioner's decision reflected 'his own brand of industrial justice.' "
You can read our breakdown of the cases upon which Brady's team relied in its petition here.
BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.
In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.
The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.
That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.
And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.
In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.
So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.
A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.
"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.
"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''
Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.
They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.
Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.
Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.
The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.
When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.
Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.
Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.
It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.
The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.
For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.