Patriots' second-half rally sinks Dolphins, 27-17

Patriots' second-half rally sinks Dolphins, 27-17
October 27, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Bury Tom Brady and the Patriots if you will. There certainly were many people -- right, Troy Brown? -- doing that after the first half of Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

But bury them at your peril.

After a first half in which they fell behind 17-3 and couldn't possibly have looked more inept offensively, Brady and the Patriots did an amazing 180-degree turnaround in the final two quarters. The defense forced three turnovers, the offense cranked out nearly 200 total yards (after being held to 59 in the first half), the special-teams unit blocked a punt . . . everything worked.

The result was 24 consecutive points as the Pats pulled away for a 27-17 victory at Gillette Stadium. 

"I'm proud of what they did," said coach Bill Belichick. "They gave us a good team effort. We got plays from the secondary, from the linebackers, from the front, from veterans, from rookies, from guys that have been here a long time, from guys that haven't been very long. It was a good team effort."

And who would have thought Belichick would have been saying any of that after the first half?

Brady's first pass of the game was intercepted by Dimitri Patterson, setting up an 11-play, 40-yard drive capped by Ryan Tannehill's 4-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson. (Gibson left the game later in the first quarter with a knee injury and didn't return.)

Tannehill, who threw a career-high three touchdown passes a week earlier in a 23-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, made it 14-0 on a five-yard scoring pass to Daniel Thomas about five minutes into the second quarter.

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

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

"Things weren't going well in the first half, that's obvious," said Belichick. "Getting booed at halftime and all that, we could see the way it was going."

New England got the ball for the second time in the third quarter after Sturgis' 46-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright.

"That helped us," Belichick said of the missed field goal.

Stevan Ridley rushed 23 yards to the Miami 41, a 23-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski moved the ball to the 18 and Brandon Bolden ran four yards. Then Brady threw his first touchdown pass of the day, to Aaron Dobson, cutting the deficit to 17-10.

The Patriots regained possession two plays after the kickoff when Logan Ryan sacked Tannehill, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Rob Ninkovich 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 two-yard run. Gostkowski's extra point tied it at 17 with 6:42 left in the quarter.

New England took the lead for good when Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal made it 20-17 with 8 seconds left in the third period.

The Patriots appeared to score a touchdown on the drive when Brady hit Gronkowski for a 30-yard completion into the end zone. But it was nullified by a holding penalty against left tackle Nate Solder. Then Brady led the Patriots on their longest drive of the game, 13 plays covering 82 yards and ending with Ridley's 3-yard touchdown run with 7:14 left in the game.

"Our overall execution was a lot better this time, and that's the key," said Belichick. "We made plays in all three phases and didn't do some of the things we've done in the past, like get penalties, turn the ball over, give up big plays on defense and things like that.

"We eliminated some of those things, and we had some success."

That success lifted the Pats to 6-2 in the AFC East, with a chance to rebuild their two-game divisional lead over the Jets (who have a tough 4 p.m. game at Cincinnati). The Dolphins lost their fourth straight and fell to 3-4, becoming the first team since the 2002 Patriots to lose four straight games after winning their first three.

"We're 6-2," said Brady, "and we have the whole season ahead of us."

A season that's looking a whole lot brighter after the last two quarters Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.