Patriots come from 17 down, top Dolphins, 27-24

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Patriots come from 17 down, top Dolphins, 27-24

FOXBORO Trailing 17-0 to the Dolphins after one half of atrocious play, it looked like the Patriots would need a Christmas miracle to turn things around.

They got it, coming back to beat the Dolphins 27-24, and clinching a first-round bye in the process.

Of course, its a lot more complicated than miracles. The first half saw Tom Brady (27-46, 304 yards, touchdown, two rushing touchdowns) on his butt, Logan Mankins (knee) on the sidelines, and Dolphins swimming around in the end zone.

With Matt Light a game-time scratch suffering from a leg injury, and Mankins following suit later, Brady was under constant pressure from the Miami pass rush.

"Matts ankle was he just wasnt able to push off on it, so we were scrambling around there," Bill Belichick said. "And then Logan Mankins played a few plays and then he went out, so we had to take what was left."

How could you sum up each and every New England (12-3) drive in the first half? Six punts and a missed field goal. Meanwhile, Miami was attacking through the air with Brandon Marshall (seven receptions, 156 yards, touchdown) and on the ground with Reggie Bush (22 carries, 113 yards). As the Pats headed into the locker room boos raining down it wasnt a question of if they were going to lose to Miami (5-10), it was by how much.

But then something changed.

------ STATS: Patriots 27, Dolphins 24 ------

The Patriots, quite frankly, were ticked off. They didnt necessarily come out with guns blazing in the second half, but an 11-play drive led to the first three points of the game.

There was life. The Pats were given an inch they took it. Then they took the ball back from the Dolphins.

Fins quarterback Matt Moore (17-33, 294 yards, three touchdowns, interception) fumbled on the ensuing possession and after Vince Wilfork fell on the ball, New England took over at Miamis 38-yard line.

"They made a mistake," Belichick said, "the ball bounced right to us, and we recovered it, so that was great."

We have been surviving on turnovers all year," Jerod Mayo said. "We just have to continue to grow. Those things always help our offense anytime they are struggling, which is seldom. But at the same time, turnovers always jump-start us.

Seven no-huddle plays later, Brady found Deion Branch (three catches, 37 yards, touchdown) in the back of the end zone, and it was 17-10.

The no-huddle offense just makes the defense hurry up and make a decision," Aaron Hernandez said. "We play so fast and we can do so many things that cause a lot of problems to a defense.

As panic set in for the Fins, so did confidence for the Patriots -- and comfort between Brady and his targets. On the day, Brady connected with Wes Welker 12 times for 138 yards. Tack on another seven receptions and 78 yards for Rob Gronkowski.

Both receivers were essential once again in the second-half surge put on by the Patriots.

Wes Welker and Tom Brady started clicking and when theyre clicking everyone starts clicking, so they got it going and we just followed their lead, Hernandez said.

After the Branch touchdown, a three-and-out for Miami would give the Pats favorable field position to start, at Miamis 41-yard line. With the no-huddle offense in full effect, the Patriots tied things at 17 just seven plays later as Brady rushed in for the touchdown.

The first half troubles were clearly over.

"We just didnt do a good job in any phase of the game in any area," Belichick said of the first half. "I know were capable of more than that and the players showed that. They responded. It wasnt perfect in the second half and we got a couple breaks, but we made a few plays on our own, so thats good. We were able to come out on top, but we dug ourselves a big hole there."

But Miami helped the Pats climb out of that hole. A deep pass from Moore intended for wide receiver Brian Hartline was picked off by Devin McCourty just shy of the end zone. In what seemed like a matter of seconds, Brady again in the no-huddle took the team from the two-yard line to midfield.

A few plays later, kicker Stephen Gostkowski put the Patriots up for the first time, hitting a 42-yard field goal with 9:00 to play to cap off the Patriots' 74-yard drive.

On their next possession, Brady and the Pats drove 59 yards in 11-plays before Brady rushed in for his second touchdown of the day and third on the season. That put the Pats up 27-17, and gave them a little wiggle room.

Brady wasn't the only successful rusher on the day. Stevan Ridley set the tone with 13 carries for 67 yards, coming up big on a number of important carries.

But that Brady touchdown turned out to be huge. On the ensuing drive, Moore drove the Dolphins 80 yards in just over a minute, finding Davone Bess for the touchdown to make it a three-point game, 27-24, with under two minutes to go and three timeouts.

That would be it though.

Brady found who else Welker for the first down that would enable the Patriots to run out the clock and seal the win.

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

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Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

CINCINNATI -- For most of the game, A.J. Green piled up more yards than the entire Miami Dolphins offense in a virtuoso performance. As an encore, he thrilled the crowd by juggling some Florida citrus.

The Bengals receiver followed his disappointing game with a dominating one - 173 yards and a touchdown - and a Cincinnati defense that was inspired by Vontaze Burfict's return clamped down on the Dolphins for a 22-7 victory Thursday night.

The Bengals (2-2) rebounded from a 29-17 home loss to Denver on Sunday with a solid all-around game against a depleted team.

Green led the way, beating the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route . He was upset with himself after he dropped a pivotal third-down pass and failed to make an impact against the Broncos.

"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Green, who had 10 catches. "I know what I'm capable of. Last week I didn't perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week."

During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.

Afterward, Green and Andy Dalton appeared on the postgame show, and the receiver entertained the dozens of Bengals fans who stayed around by smoothly juggling three oranges at the interview desk.

"Any time he was one-on-one, he was able to make the play," Dalton said.

The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron. They had one big play - Ryan Tannehill threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills - but couldn't do anything else on offense.

"We've got to get it fixed and quick, and by that I mean Monday," Tannehill said. "We're kind of in a dark spot right now. It's squarely on our shoulders."

The Bengals' defense expected to get a lift from Burfict's return. The volatile linebacker was suspended by the NFL for the first three games because of his illegal hits. He got a loud ovation when he ran onto the field during introductions wearing a baseball cap. Burfict knocked down a pass and had three tackles.

"He's amazing," end Carlos Dunlap said. "Did you see the plays he made? Those aren't plays you can coach. He came off his couch and played great. It's good to have him back."

Mostly, it was Green's show. He caught a 51-yard pass off Dalton's scramble in the first half, and had a 43-yard catch that set up another field goal in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

REMEMBERING FERNANDEZ

A large fan banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium honored Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died with two friends in a boat crash early Sunday near Miami Beach. The banner read: "Jose 16 Heaven's Bright."

STILL CAN'T RUN

The Bengals rushed for 77 yards and only a 2.1-yard average against the second-worst run defense in the league, one missing two starting linebackers.

SLOPPY DOLPHINS

Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal out of it.

INJURIES

Dolphins: LT Branden Albert and C Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles. Also missing were LBs Koa Misi (neck) and Jelani Jenkins (groin). C Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.

Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was inactive again, contributing to the Bengals' trouble close to the goal line. He's recovering from offseason ankle surgery and returned to practice on a limited basis last week. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was inactive with a hamstring injury suffered Sunday. G Clint Boling sat out most of the fourth quarter with an injured left shoulder.

ANTHEM STATEMENTS

Stills and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas knelt with their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

FANTASY IMPACT

Tannehill was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks. Dalton was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack.

UP NEXT

The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They're 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They've dropped their last six at New England, last winning in 1986.