So the Dolphins didn't turn the corner Sunday, but that doesn't mean they're not still heading in the right direction.
Miami stood toe to toe with the perennial AFC East champion a but fell apart in the fourth quarter, losing the game 48-28 and their composure at the same time.
The game had six lead changes and Miami was trailing 31-28 before a 29-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss sealed the deal, his third of the day.
Following Stephen Gostkowski's 30-yard field goal for the final score, linebacker Channing Crowder and Patriots tackle Matt Light got into a brawl, with Light taking several swings at Crowder's helmet-less head. Both were ejected.
In the waning moments, tempestuous linebacker Joey Porter waved off coach Tony Sparano's directions to come off the field and proceeded to get flagged for two personal fouls in the Patriots' final series.
"We were among the least penalized teams in the league because we play smart, disciplined football," defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. "That went out the window. ... We unraveled as a team today and now we've got to re-group, rally our troops and understand we still have a lot of opportunities."
Their first opportunity comes Sunday against the hapless St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, their third two-win team in the past four games. The 2-9 Rams may be without quarterback Marc Bulger, who left early in Sunday's 27-3 home loss to the Bears with a concussion Sunday.
Miami might get to see old friend Trent Green at quarterback, who won't have Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace to guard his noggin, and probably will have to be without stud running back Steven Jackson again. Green played for the Dolphins last season, starting the first four games before suffering a season-ending concussion against the Texans. He was 0-5 as a starter for the Dolphins with just five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Rams have lost five in a row and have been outscored 123-13 in the last four.
The Dolphins are 8-2 against the Rams, including a 31-14 win in the last meeting back on Oct. 24, 2004 at Dolphin Stadium. They haven't played in St. Louis since 2001, when the Rams won 42-10.
The Dolphins committed a season-high eight penalties for 60 yards, and gave up a season-high 530 yards and a season-high 41 points. On the bright side, they took advantage of two first-half turnovers by the Patriots, a deflected interception by free safety Renaldo Hill and a fumble recovery by cornerback Andre' Goodman, and turned them into touchdowns. Entering the game, the Patriots had only allowed 13 points on 13 turnovers.
While the Dolphins are 6-5 and tied with Buffalo for last, while looking up at the 8-3 Jets and 7-4 Patriots, they play three patsies in the next four games including the Rams, Raiders and Chiefs, with a road game against the Bills in Toronto.
"We went into this game talking about being a new season," Sparano said. "There's good teams with (five) games left that will play good football down the stretch. ... I tell them they could still be there at the end of this thing."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They just showed us that (Matt) Cassel isn't the backup quarterback that everybody was saying. ... We have to move on. We can't carry this on our sleeve. We definitely didn't show our class in this game. They didn't show theirs either." -- NT Jason Ferguson, on Cassel and the chippiness of the game.
TRENDING: The Dolphins were two of 31 on third-and-10 or more yards before Sunday's loss to the Patriots, but were three of six against New England. ... The Dolphins amassed 392 yards of total offense Sunday, the ninth straight week they've toppled the 340-yard mark.