Best and Worst: Patriots vs. Dolphins

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Best and Worst: Patriots vs. Dolphins

WORST WAY TO INSPIRE FAITH IN THE FANS

Oh, Devin McCourty. Miami's first series on the game wasn't really going anywhere until McCourty got burned on third-and-9. Brian Hartline burned the Patriots defensive back by making him bite on an out-and-up along the sideline. The gain? 39 yards. The obvious issue? It was not unlike a third-and-8 play McCourty got schooled on last week in Denver. Things aren't getting better.

WORST PREGAME NEWS

Matt Light, who's been a stalwart at left tackle this season, came up lame in pregame. That meant the Patriots had to shuffle. Logan Mankins started at left tackle instead of left guard and Donald Thomas started at left guard.

WORST UPDATE TO PREGAME NEWS

On the Patriots first offensive series, a miscommunication on the left between Mankins and running back Danny Woodhead resulted in a sack on third-and-8.

WORST UPDATE TO THAT UPDATE

Mankins began hobbling. Then Nate Solder, summoned from his right tackle spot to play left tackle, yielded a sack to Jason Taylor. Meanwhile, Marcus Cannon had entered the game at right tackle. And Tom Brady had started the game 2 of 9.

WORST DEFENSE... GETS WORSE

The Patriots were slapped with TWO defensive pass interference penalties on one drive. Devin McCourty was whistled for the first, after he put his hands on Brian Hartline. Two things to note: the down was third-and-12 and Hartline would have had to use a jetpack to catch the pass. (Another) stupid play by McCourty. The second was on linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who manhandled Matt Moore on a running back throwback play. Another blatant penalty on an uncatchable ball. ANOTHER stupid play. (US Presswire)

BEST WAY TO DISTRACT PATRIOTS FANS FROM THE SCOREBOARD

Rob Gronkowski set a new franchise record on Saturday. His first 43 receiving yards put him at 1,184 for the season, and pushed him past Ben Coates (1,174) for single-season yardage amassed by a tight end. Impressive! Did you forget Miami was winning 17-0 at the time? No? I tried.

BEST WAY FOR THE PATRIOTS TO GET IN THE GAME

Hope the Dolphins keep taking themselves out of it. Matt Moore's decision to throw deep left to Will Yeatman (Will Yeatman!) on second-and-8 was dumb. New England's secondary didn't even have to worry about making a play on the ball because the throw was off. Immediately after that, Moore fumbled at the line of scrimmage and Vince Wilfork recovered for the Patriots. Presents!

BEST TESTAMENT TO HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS

If a team could be collectively bipolar, your New England Patriots could have gotten an affirmative diagnosis Saturday afternoon. After entering the half down 17-0 the Pats returned 17 unanswered. Brady and Welker started connecting after starting just 5-for-12, the running game picked up some yards, and the defense played defense. Bill Belichick surely had words during the break -- none suitable for print.

BEST CASE FOR REDEMPTION?

Remember how we started out with McCourty looking awful? And then the second half began and things got all backwards and inside out for the Patriots -- in a good way? Throw McCourty back in there, too. He got his hands on his first interception of the season on a first-and-10 bomb hurled by Matt Moore. The relief he felt to finally pick off a pass -- after having 7 in his 2010 Pro Bowl season -- was evident in his heated celebration.

Solder, Patriots training staff earn Ed Block Courage Awards

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Solder, Patriots training staff earn Ed Block Courage Awards

FOXBORO -- Patriots left tackle Nate Solder has been through a lot over the last few years. 

He battled and beat testicular cancer before the 2014 offseason and then went on to help the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl title. In 2015, he tore his biceps in Week 5 and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve. Just weeks later after suffering that season-ending injury, Solder's son, Hudson, was diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor in his kidneys. 

A quiet leader in the Patriots locker room, Solder has used his platform with the team to spread awareness stemming from personal hardships in addition to serving as a prominent supporter of the Hockomock Area YMCA. For his devotion to helping those in need, and for the example he sets at his job and in the community, he has been named the team's Ed Block Courage Award winner for 2016. 

Solder also participated in the NFL's My Cause My Cleats initiative wearing cleats to raise awareness for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which gives financial aid to cancer patients and their families. He also supports The Fresh Truck, which describes itself as a mobile food market on a mission to radically improve community health.

Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, Wes Welker and Tedy Bruschi have also recently been named Ed Block Courage Awards-winners for the Patriots. 

The team's training staff, led by head trainer Jim Whalen and assistant trainer and director of rehabilitation Joe Van Allen, was also honored on Tuesday as it was named the 2016 Ed Block Courage Award NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year.

"The annual award, named for the longtime head athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts who demonstrated an untiring dedication to helping others, recognizes an NFL staff for their distinguished service to their club, community and athletic training profession," the Patriots announced in a statement. 

In the release, trainer Daryl Nelson and physical therapist Michael Akinbola are also credited with helping keep the Patriots healthy. 

Others, including head strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera and team nutritionist Ted Harper, have a hand in keeping players at their physical peak. Combined, given the overall health of the roster this season, they've all had a hand in keep the team humming as it heads into its sixth consecutive AFC title game.