NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
--S Patrick Chung had a huge game with a blocked field, a blocked punt and an interception return for a touchdown.
--OLB Rob Ninkovich chipped in with the first two interceptions of his career. Both came on play-action fakes by the Dolphins in which he read the play perfectly and stayed in his spot.
--ILB Jerod Mayo finished with a game-high 16 tackles and made a significant impact in the middle of New England's defense as the Patriots slowed Miami's progress enough to keep the game competitive.
--OT Matt Light looked lost trying to contain Dolphins DE Cameron Wake and also got flagged for a penalty that negated a big pass play to TE Aaron Hernandez.
--CB Jonathan Wilhite continued to show he cannot cover on the outside, as he got beat several times by Miami WR Davone Bess in what can only be described as a poor outing.
PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Tom Brady was efficient if not spectacular. Brady held onto the ball at times when Miami (particularly DE Cameron Wake) got after him, and he engineered one of his trademark lengthy scoring drives in the second half to keep the Dolphins at bay.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Dolphins clearly can't stop the run, and the Patriots exploited that weakness with consistency Monday. BenJarvus Green-Ellis did a nice job on first- and second-down carries to help set up manageable third-down situations.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Patriots are still giving up too many yards in the passing game, but you can't knock the four interceptions, including Patrick Chung's 51-yarder for a touchdown. The Patriots bent at times, but they refused to break. Still, there's room for improvement.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- This was good enough to win. Neither Ronnie Brown nor Ricky Williams made any earth-shattering plays, and the Dolphins did little to establish their presence on the ground. One thing that's worth noting, though, is the defense as a whole needs to be better on first and second down to avoid giving up so many third-down conversions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-plus -- New England blocked a punt and a field goal, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and watched as Stephen Gostkowski boomed every kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. This is the best any special teams unit has looked at any point in the season.
COACHING: A -- You have to applaud Bill Belichick for his approach to diversity on offense. The Patriots ran the ball knowing Miami couldn't stop the run, and it worked effectively. Leaving Brady in as long as the team did during a blowout could've backfired, but it didn't, so no harm, no foul.
--WR Davone Bess posted his second-best statistical game with nine catches and 93 passing yards, including a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Bess also hurt the Patriots in the teams' previous meeting, Game 12 last year, when he had a career-highs 10 catches for 117 yards. So it's not fair to say his numbers were solely attributable to the extra attention given WR Brandon Marshall.
--WR Brandon Marshall went 19 snaps (one wiped out by penalty) before the Dolphins directed their first pass in his direction. It was intercepted. It took 31 snaps before Marshall got his first touch, a 4-yard reception. He finished with five catches for 50 yards but was clearly frustrated at times as the Patriots rolled a safety his way on most snaps.
--OLB Cameron Wake was extremely active with a sack and three hits on Patriots QB Tom Brady to go with his five tackles. Wake leads the team with three sacks in his first year as a starter. He also induced a holding penalty on Pro Bowl LT Matt Light in the first half and appeared to draw another in the third quarter; instead, the officials picked up the flag after a quick huddle. Brady hit Danny Woodhead for a 12-yard touchdown on the next play.
--Pro Bowl LT Jake Long visited the X-ray room after the game but managed to finish the game. It was unclear if he was being checked for the left knee issue that got him listed on the injury report during the week. He first suffered that ailment in the final preseason game at Dallas.
--Journeyman RG Pat McQuistan made his second consecutive start in place of the ill John Jerry and struggled at times. McQuistan was flagged for a false start and was beaten for a first-quarter sack by Patriots DE Michael Wright, but the ex-Cowboy did go the distance.
DOLPHINS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Chad Henne passed for 302 yards and two touchdowns. That was the good part. The bad were the three interceptions Henne threw, including two to Patriots OLB Rob Ninkovich. He also had a fourth-quarter pick returned 51 yards for a touchdown by S Patrick Chung, but that was as much Brandon Marshall's fault for cutting off his route.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Ricky Williams didn't fumble. That was good. He also averaged 7.0 yards on his eight carries and had a much better burst than he'd shown so far this year. However, Ronnie Brown was limited to 27 yards on 11 carries (2.5-yard average) and the Wildcat lost two yards the only time it was employed all game (on third-and-6, strangely enough).
PASS DEFENSE: C -- Tom Brady managed to throw his 29th career TD pass against the Dolphins. Only his Patriots predecessor, Drew Bledsoe, has thrown more all-time (30). But the Dolphins managed to hold Randy Moss without a catch for the first time since 2006. The Cameron Wake-led pass rush produced three sacks, and Brady finished with just 153 yards passing.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Patriots were missing veteran RBs Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor, but they still managed to pile up 119 yards on the ground behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4.8-yard average and a touchdown) and little Danny Woodhead. Patriots first downs were balanced equally between the pass and the run (nine apiece), and when's the last time you saw that?
SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- How bad were the Dolphins' special teams? Bad enough to get their coordinator fired. John Bonamego clearly got outmaneuvered by his Patriots counterpart, Scott O'Brien, a former Dolphins assistant under Nick Saban. At least rookie Reshad Jones earned praise from Dolphins coach Tony Sparano for his coverage work, but the return game (Davone Bess on punts and Nolan Carroll on kickoffs) isn't scaring anybody.
COACHING: D -- This was the Dolphins' worst loss in 37 games under Sparano. The previous low point had been a 31-10 defeat at Arizona in Week 2 of 2008. After that one, the Dolphins implemented the Wildcat. What will they come up with this time?
This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange
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