Patriots 'D' keeps at it, gets to Tannehill in 2nd half

Patriots 'D' keeps at it, gets to Tannehill in 2nd half
October 27, 2013, 8:30 pm
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FOXBORO -- Coming into Sunday's game, the Dolphins featured one of the league's most porous offensive lines. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill had been sacked 26 times and taken 39 hits.

The Patriots were set to go to work against a left tackle brand new to the Dolphins offense in Bryant McKinnie, and though hampered by injuries on the defensive side of the ball, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones -- who surpassed his 2012 sack total last week against the Jets when he got to 6.5 -- were healthy and ready to disrupt.

But early on, the Patriots couldn't get to Tannehill. Thanks to Miami's offensive game-plan that featured running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas as well as a quick-passing game, New England never really got the chance to test what had been proven to be a suspect offensive line.

"First half they had a little lead there so they were just trying to run the ball, run the ball run the ball," Ninkovich said. "Throw 90s, throw quick stuff. They never took a five-step drop in the first half."

By taking an early 14-0 lead, the Dolphins were able to implement a conservative offensive approach that kept Tannehill off of his back.

But then early in the second half, the Patriots finally got into the Miami backfield, and the tide began to shift.

With the Dolphins inside New England's red zone and looking to take a 21-3 lead, Tannehill threw behind and incomplete to wideout Mike Wallace. Then Tannehill was sacked for nine yards by Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, which pushed rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis' field-goal attempt to 46 yards. He clanged his kick off the right upright. 

Hightower's sack was the first of six second-half sacks for the Patriots after they finished with none in the first 30 minutes.

As the Patriots offense began to click, the defense found itself in more and more pass-rushing situations.

Soon after Tom Brady hit Aaron Dobson for a 14-yard touchdown to cut Miami's lead to 17-10, the Patriots defense pressured Tannehill again. On a second-and-seven play from Miami's 23, Patriots corner Logan Ryan rushed off the right edge -- Tannehill's blind side -- and strip-sacked the Dolphins' second-year man. Ninkovich recovered the fumble and the Patriots scored three plays later to tie the game.

"I think it was a great play call obviously because it worked and I think everyone executed," Ryan said. "That's not just a one-man play. A lot of people need to do a lot of things right, people need to cover people need to stunt the right way to be able to cut me free, and I have to make a play everyone did that and I think it was a good result."

"That was something we game planned for, specific call and it worked the way it should've worked," Ninkovich said. "He did a great job of getting the ball out and when the ball's out you gotta get it. Get on it."

When the Patriots took the lead on a Stephen Gostkowski 48-yard field goal, the Dolphins were again forced to throw, and again the Patriots made them pay.

Ryan finished with two sacks, while Ninkovich added one. Dane Fletcher and Chris Jones also got to Tannehill for sacks.

After Stevan Ridley scored to make the score 27-17, the Patriots sacked Tannehill four times on his next 16 dropbacks to close out the game.

"A defensive lineman plays a lot different," Ninkovich said, "when you've got your ears pinned back and you're just going to get the quarterback, as opposed to playing the run and reacting to the pass."