Here are some of the things that I heard all week on the national media outlets:
"New England should run away with this game"
"The Patriots are playing the lowly Dolphins who look horrible this season"
Even the odds makers favored the Patriots by 9.5 points.
If these experts knew anything about these two teams, they would have known that they ALWAYS play each other with heart and passion. They leave everything out on the field pulling no punches in an all-important AFC East battle.
You could have taken all of the records and lack luster performances by the Dolphins offensively so far this season and thrown them out the window. It was going to be a game of field position and takeaways.
The Miami defense, like usual, is very much an underrated unit. The last three weeks they have held their opponents to 17, 10 and 16 points respectively while losing two of those three games because their offensive side of the team has been flat. Today's game, even though the Miami defense gave up 20 points was no different than the norm. With the threat of Jason Taylor on the outside corner bull-rushing number 12, he was creating havoc all day, at one point in the game causing a fumble that Tom Brady luckily was able to fall on top of.
Fans of both teams know for sure that you have to take the stats and records of the season and push them aside when these two old time rivals play each other. I heard all week the chants of "Squish the Fish" and very confident football fans and experts thinking that the hometown heroes were going to "mop the floor" with the Dolphins. Well, this was not the case with this game, far from it actually.
During the game, you saw momentum shift each way but I think this was a case of two very good defenses playing each other and letting the game be decided by the somewhat "corralled" offenses.
You can tell the defensive units on both sides were performing at the top of their game by looking at the total yards rushing given up. These teams were not letting the big running game go for either team. Ronny Brown couldn't get it going and the "dynamic Duo" of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney only gained 78 yards combined for the day. While the Patriots look at 79 yards total rushing as a bad day, the New England defensive unit only gave up 62 yards on the day. This defensive line is becoming more and more dominant as time progresses. If they remain healthy throughout the season, they are going to be a very tough opponent to run on.
The secondary gave us that typical "bend but don't break" mentality. They gave up over 200 yards in the air but never giving up the big play downfield. Since being burned by Javon Walker and the Denver Broncos, this secondary looks to be gelling a little more making plays and actually completing tackles.
Now on the offensive side of the ball it was the case of taking what the defense would give to you. With Tom Brady only throwing for a lack luster percentage of 55.5% completing only 16 out of 29 passes, but he made passes count when needed. Isn't this always the case with New England's golden boy? He might not flash it out there with glitz and glamour but when you need him to get it done, he does.
On the other side of the ball, Harrington threw for a better percentage at 63.4% but here is the biggest difference. Brady threw for 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and Harrington did just the opposite with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
I don't think, as a fan, I can reiterate how special of a quarterback this team has here in Foxboro. Brady is a clutch performer who spreads the wealth and makes good decisions whenever called on to do so.
I always like to emphasize one player that stood out for me and like last week, this player was Troy Brown. This Marshall alum has come through for this team time and time again. Last week it was on the defensive side of the field with Eugene Wilson and Ellis Hobbs being out and this week with Chad Jackson still hobbled by injury, he came through with 5 big catches including a touchdown.
Another "game ball" has to go out to Stephen Gostkowski. The young kicker was able to set all of the blocked kicks this season aside and booted some pretty solid kicks through the uprights from 35 and 31 yards away on a very sloppy Gillette field.
I think on the national scale, this might have been a surprisingly close game but for the Patriots fans and media outlets out there, this was exactly what we expected. This was a close game with the overall better defensive units coming through.
This game was not going to really be decided by offense.
Overall a win is a win but more importantly this was another AFC East victory, which may pay off at the end of the season.
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.