By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff.
This was more like it. We’ll also take more like this one.
In perhaps the most encouraging Patriots game in a few years, the Patriots dismantled the Miami Dolphins last night, 41-14 in South Florida. Trailing 7-6 at the half, the Patriots outscored the Dolphins 34-7 in the second half, strongly answering questions that many had about this team.
Whether they can keep it up and be consistent remains to be seen, but at least we’ve gotten a glimpse of what this team is capable of, and frankly, it’s pretty exciting.
It wasn’t all good, of course. For much of the first half, we saw a lot of the same frustrating things that had been on display over the first three weeks of the season. The opposing offense moved the ball at will, there were missed assignments and missed tackles. The offense couldn’t get into the end zone.
Rob Ninkovich kept the Patriots in the game with a pair of interceptions in the first half, each as Miami was driving. The score could’ve been 21-0 at the half, so you had to feel good that it was only 7-6 going into the locker room, knowing that the Patriots would get the ball to open the second half.
Then followed 30 of the most entertaining minutes of football I can remember in some time. First Brandon Tate runs back the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. The Patriots defense then forced a punt from Miami, which Pat Chung blocked. The Patriots took advantage of the great field position with a TD run from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. After four years of Laurence Maroney hesitation at the line, and losing yards, it’s a pleasure to watch BJGE run the ball. Like Antowain Smith in the early part of the decade, it seems like BJGE always gets positive yardage.
When the Dolphins came back with a touchdown to get within a score, the fun really began. The Patriots faced a third and long, and with the crowd trying to get into things, Tom Brady hit Wes Welker for a big gain to keep the drive going. With Welker and Randy Moss both double-teamed, Danny Woodhead was singled-covered by linebacker Karlos Dansby and scored on an 11-yard pass from Brady.
Later, the Dolphins, desperate for points, lined up for a long field goal. Chung again broke through the line and blocked the kick, which was eventually scooped by Kyle Arrington and returned for a TD. Chung later intercepted a Chad Henne pass and returned it 51 yards for the final score.
It you flipped away even briefly, you probably missed at least one of these plays. It was such a dominating second half, that even the Patriots official Twitter account was talking trash.
The Monday Night Football crew, which prior to the game had been talking about the Patriots struggles, suddenly scrambled to come up with storylines, and while Jon Gruden had previously picked the Patriots as 9-7 non-playoff team, was suddenly saying they were one of the best in the league.
When Brady was finally taken out of the game, the fire he showed, couldn’t help but fire you up at home as well. Bill Belichick going up and down the bench shaking hands with his players demonstrated further how much this performance and this win meant to this team right now.
There is still much work to be done, but at least we know now that this team is capable of playing at a high level, on the road, in the second half of a game. It’s a start.