DOLPHINS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Joey Harrington managed the game efficiently as he refrained from throwing his weekly interception and instead opted to throw several passes out of bounds when his receivers were covered. He finished a respectable 18 of 30 for 190 yards with one well-timed 32-yard touchdown toss to WR Marty Booker (eight catches for 103 yards). Pro Bowl WR Chris Chambers continues to deteriorate into the team's third receiver behind Booker and Wes Welker. TE Randy McMichael was solid with four receptions for 31 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- While most of RB Sammy Morris' career-high 123 yards came in the fourth quarter when the Patriots had basically given up, he still ran hard against the league's third-ranked rushing defense. His 44-yard burst late in the game boosted his yards-per-carry to an excellent 4.9. His 3-yard leap into the end zone for his first touchdown since the 2005 season opener was impressive and sealed the victory in the fourth quarter. Only four of the Dolphins' 19 first downs came on runs.
PASSING DEFENSE: A-plus -- Credit the frisky defensive linemen, especially future Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor (one sack, one forced fumble and one hurry), for their harassment of Patriots QB Tom Brady into one of his all-time stinkers (12 of 25 for a season-low 78 yards). The improving secondary, which has jelled since Yeremiah Bell was made a starter six games ago, dominated a weak corps of Patriots receivers. The Dolphins had five sacks, three hurries and a flurry of knockdowns of a rattled Brady, with young DE Matt Roth notching 1.5 sacks to lead the way. Bell pulled a Taylor with a sack, strip and recovery of a Brady fumble in the fourth quarter.
RUSHING DEFENSE: C-plus -- With rookie RB Laurence Maroney unable to play because of injury, RB Corey Dillon got 16 carries for New England and gained 79 yards for a 4.9 average, but nothing longer than 16 yards. LBs Zach Thomas (seven tackles) and Channing Crowder (four tackles and a forced fumble) were all over the field, as was Bell in run support (team-leading nine tackles).
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- P Donnie Jones might've had the best game of his career, as he pinned the Patriots inside their 5-yard line three times to give the Dolphins a huge field-position edge. Slumping K Olindo Mare made both of his field-goal attempts, from 35 and 33 yards. Returner Wes Welker averaged 9.0 yards on four punts, including a solid 14-yard return. Travis Minor led the way on special teams with a piece of three tackles.
COACHING: A -- Defensive chief Dom Capers laid out his best game plan of the season, as his variety of blitzes completely rattled Brady into one of the worst games of his stellar career. Coach Nick Saban did an excellent job in maintaining his players' focus and interest despite being out of playoff contention. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey gets credit for calling for the right balance of passes and rushes, and for thankfully keeping his gadget plays in his pocket.
PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- This was one of Tom Brady's worst games as a pro. He completed just 12 passes for 78 yards. He was sacked four times and didn't have a completion of more than 21 yards. The New England receivers shouldn't have bothered to board the plane. They combined for 37 yards on just four receptions. As bad as Brady and the receivers played, the offensive line was even worse. Jason Taylor and the Dolphins front abused the New England offensive line all game long. Matt Light has had trouble with Taylor in the past, but this was one of the worst performances he's had in a long time. Overall, Brady played poorly, the offensive line didn't block anyone, the receivers didn't show up and Matt Cassel saw the field in the fourth quarter. Other than that, it was a good day for the Patriots passing game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- With Laurence Maroney missing the game because of a bad back, Corey Dillon had a solid afternoon. The veteran ran the ball 16 times for 79 yards. He averaged almost 5 yards a carry as New England ran for 123 yards. The Patriots moved the ball well on the ground, although they didn't run it consistently, something that's been a concern over the past month. The Patriots aren't producing any big plays in the running game. That allows defenses to tee off on Brady, as the Dolphins did Sunday. The rushing attack is going to have to step it up in the coming weeks if the team wants be successful in the postseason.
PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- Joey Harrington only threw for 190 yards but was sacked just once and most important, he didn't turn the ball over. Harrington hit Marty Booker for a 32-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter to give Miami a 13-0 lead. Booker killed the Patriots once again by catching eight passes for 103 yards. New England continues to have problems covering receivers over the middle. Did the linebackers even play in this game? Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel were exploited badly in coverage, while Rosevelt Colvin's name wasn't called all day. Things have gotten so bad for Ellis Hobbs that he was on the bench in favor of Ray Mickens, who was signed earlier in the week.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Filling in for the injured Ronnie Brown, Sammy Morris rumbled for 123 yards on 25 carries. He did have a 44-yard run late in the game to skew the stats a bit, but the Dolphins got more than they could have hoped for out of their ground game with Brown on the shelf. Vince Wilfork was injured in the third quarter, and without his big body taking up space, Morris found more room to run in the middle of the Patriots defensive line.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Dolphins' special teams really helped them pull out a win. Donnie Jones dropped three punts inside the 5-yard line, giving the Patriots awful field position for most of the game. On the other side, Ken Walter only netted 29 yards per punt and allowed Wes Welker to catch a couple of kicks on the run to set the Dolphins up in Patriots territory. Hobbs and Kevin Faulk did a good job filling in for the injured Maroney. The duo combined to average 32.8 yards on four kickoff returns. However, kicking was the difference, considering how the two punters played a big part in deciding field position.
COACHING: D-minus -- This was one of the worst losses in the Belichick era. The team was outplayed and outcoached in every phase of the game. The offensive coaches did nothing to adjust to the Dolphins' pressure. As the Jets did, Miami started off by sending just four pass rushers but started blitzing in the second half. There was nothing done to slow the rushers. No draws, screens, nothing. The Patriots hung in as long as they could on defense, but they have been reluctant to blitz early on in games even when they aren't pressuring the quarterback successfully. Harrington was sacked only once. The Patriots opened in a 4-3 alignment and Nick Saban said he was expecting it, so the switch didn't surprise anyone. Overall, one of the worst performances you'll see by both the Patriots' players and coaching staff.