SMARTEST WAY TO GET BACK IN THE FANS' GOOD GRACES
There was still talk about New England's Week 7 game in the minutes leading up to its Week 8 game. Why? Chris Jones was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct on New York's first overtime field goal attempt, which was wide left, and the Jets nailed their second chance. It was a controversial penalty call, mostly because people were not so clear on the new rule, and also because referees have been practicing salutary neglect since the rule was instituted. So it was discussed all week -- ad nauseam -- but most agreed Jones messed up. Meanwhile, the player did the only thing he could: move on. He nailed Dolphins running back Lamar Miller for a loss of two yards on Miami's very first play from scrimmage. The team ended up going three-and-out.
QUICKEST INSPIRATION OF PARANOIA REGARDING THE QUARTERBACK
Tom Brady threw a pick. Actually, he threw a bad pass to Rob Gronkowski on the first play of his first drive, and Dimitri Patterson intercepted it easily. Stuff happens, right? Well, when that kind of stuff happens after the pregame coverage shows 30 shots of Brady's hand, which is rumored to be hurt, Patriots fans shift from worry to full-throttle fear. Maybe something is wrong with the quarterback's throwing hand. But keep this in mind: Brady has thrown just one touchdown to four interceptions since New England lost to Cincinnati October 6.
WORST STAT (FIRST QUARTER)
I'll warn you now, there may be one of these every quarter. Anyway. Patriots total plays in the first quarter: 10. Of those plays, only one was good for a first down, and it came with just 45 seconds left in the frame. New England's first three drives ended with a pick, a three-and-out, and 7-yard sack of Brady. Woof.
BEST OPPORTUNITY WASTED
It's hard to rag on the defense because New England looked stout on that other side of the ball early. But when Miami chose to go for it on fourth-and-1, the Patriots should have shut it down. A run was coming -- of course a run was coming -- but Miami wasn't stuffed, it was given multiple gaps. Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas had all the room in the world and nearly took it to the house. The drive ended with another touchdown and Miami went up 14-0.
UGLIEST SIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS
The only group of players on this Patriots team that hasn't lost a man this season is the offensive line. It was, anyway. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer got rolled up on a Patriots rushing play in the second quarter. He ended up prostrate on the ground, screaming in pain and frantically slapping the turf. The team's worst fears were confirmed when an air cast was brought out by the medical staff, as that particular brace usually indicates a break. Vollmer was carted off the field and it was announced almost immediately he would not return.
MOST-NEEDED DEPLOYMENT OF A LIFE RAFT
It looked in the third quarter like the Dolphins had an answer for everything New England's defense threw at 'em. Tannehill was driving: First down, second down, first down, second down, first down. It wasn't until Miami was inside the red zone the Patriots made a play. But it was a good one. When Tannehill went on the move on third-and-2, linebacker Dont'a Hightower was ready and waiting. Hightower sacked the QB for a loss of 9 and forced the Dolphins to kick from 46 yards out. No good.
BEST CHANGE OF PACE
Your New England Patriots have scored just one third quarter touchdown this season. That's the bad news. The good? It was scored against Miami Sunday. Hightower's third-down sack of Tannehill became quite a game-changer after New England followed up with a five play, 64-yard scoring drive. The TD was scored on a perfect pass-perfect catch connection between Brady and rookie receiver Aaron Dobson. Just like that the lead was cut to 7.
SMARTEST WAY TO GET BACK IN THE COACHES' GOOD GRACES
Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan won nobody over when he celebrated a pick-6 last week by grabbing his crotch. He was not only fined $10,000 by the league, but Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said the bad behavior would also be handled "in house." So how is a kid to make peace? Apologize first. Then, sack Tannehill and force a fumble. That's exactly what Ryan did on Miami's second drive of the third quarter. Rob Ninkovich recovered and New England got the ball back on the Dolphins' 13-yard line. Fun fact: The play made this the 35th consecutive game in which the Patriots have forced a turnover. That's the longest active streak in the league.
SWEETEST PLAY BY THE SECONDARY
The game was still well in reach as Miami continued a drive into the fourth quarter. An 11-yard catch by Charles Clay gave the Dolphins a first down in Patriots territory with almost 14 minutes left in regulation. Tannehill tried a throw deep, deep right to Mike Wallace, who was covered by Marquice Cole. Devin McCourty was over the top. He was the one who skied to tip the ball away from Wallace and directly to Cole, who managed to make the catch and keep his feet in bounds. The interception is New England's ninth of the season.
LONGEST DEFENSIVE STAND
Miami's final drive was a long one, but it was a road to nowhere because the Patriots kept coming up with play after play. Logan Ryan sacked Tannehill again; Ninkovich blocked a pass attempt; Ninkovich sacked Tannehill; Chandler Jones blocked the field goal attempt and Steve Gregory recovered. New England's 'D' was brutally aggressive in the entire second half, actually, and shut the Dolphins out to preserve the win.