By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
December 29, 2002

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FOXBORO, MA – With five minutes left in the game the Patriots rallied from 11-points down and went on to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 in overtime in Foxboro on Sunday.

The win improved the Patriots to 9-7 on the season and gave them the opportunity to move on to the postseason if Green Bay could beat the New York Jets at the Meadowlands. Unfortunately the Jets took care of Brett Favre and the Packers 42-17, giving the AFC East title to New York and ending New England’s season.

The Patriots defense struggled again on Sunday, allowing runningback Ricky Williams to run wild and carry the ball 31-times for 185-yards and two touchdowns. When Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare kicked a 28-yard field goal with 4:59 remaining in the game to put Miami up 24-13, it appeared again that it would be the same old story. The offense couldn’t score points and the defense couldn’t stop the run.

Instead, New England fought back and drove down the field on the ensuing drive for a touchdown, and then converted the two-point conversion to pull within a field goal at 24-21. With 2:46 left in the game the Patriots found themselves suddenly right back in the game trailing by just three points.

They then faked an onside kick and pinned the Dolphins inside their own 5-yard line when the ball bounced inside the endzone and came back out, and Travis Minor picked it up and was brought down by Je'Rod Cherry and Mike Vrabel at the 4-yard line. Then instead of running Ricky Williams to try and run time off the clock, the Dolphins ran two straight pass plays and after stopping a Fiedler rush on third down the Patriots forced Miami to punt.

The problem for the Dolphins was it didn’t go very far, just 23-yards. New England then had the ball at the Miami 34-yard line where Adam Vinatieri later came out to kick a 43-yard field goal to tie the score at 24-24 with 1:09 left in the game, which sent the Foxboro Faithful into euphoria.

Then in overtime the Patriots won the toss and started their drive at their own 40-yard line after Mare kicked the ball out of bounds on the kickoff. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis then had Brady throw the ball to David Patten who stepped back and attempted to throw to Troy Brown but it was incomplete.

Runningback Faulk then took the direct snap and gained 15-yards to the Miami 45-yard line, and on the next play Brady connected with Faulk for a 20-yard pass where Faulk made a great leaping grab and pulled the ball away from the Dolphins defender. Four plays later Vinatieri came out and kicked a 35-yard field goal to seal the victory.

He is the best kicker in the league,” Belichick told reporters after the game when asked about Vinatieri. “If you want anybody kicking that kick, it's him.”

Vinatieri finished the afternoon 4-of-4, connecting on field goals of 41, 36, 43, and 35-yards.

“Miami is a good team,” said Belichick. “They gave us some problems, no question about it. But the effort, the toughness, the hanging in there, the just fighting to the bitter end, that is what I respect about these players. And they certainly did it today.”

Miami got on the board first on a 45-yard run by Chris Chambers on a reverse followed by an 11-yard run by Ricky Willaims which gave the Dolphins 1st-and-goal at the Patriots 8-yard line. One play later Williams took the ball in for a touchdown, giving Miami a quick 7-0 lead.

Williams then scored again, this time from 14-yards out on the Dolphins’ next possession, capping a 9-play 87-yard drive and putting Miami up 14-0 with 8:52 remaining in the first half.

But New England later cut the lead in half when a 23-yard pass to Kevin Faulk helped set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Antowain Smith to pull New England within a touchdown at 14-7.

However Miami would answer, with Williams breaking off a 30-yard run, and Fieldler connecting with James McNight for a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the Dolphins back up by 14 with 1:06 left in the half.

Brady then marched his team to the Dolphins 23-yard line where Vinatieri connected on a 41-yard field goal as time expired to cut the lead to 21-10.

New England went three-and-out to start the second half and then let Miami drive down to the Patriots 29-yard line where it appeared that Mare would come out to kick a 47-yard field goal.

But the kick was short, and the Patriots then took over and marched 45-yards the other way, with Vinatieri kicking a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-13 with 3:37 left in the third quarter.

Mare later appeared to have sealed the victory for the Dolphins after Brady was picked off at the Patriots 27-yard line. The turnover set up a 28-yard field goal to put Miami up 24-13, and also sent many of the fans who were on hand toward the exits.

Unfortunately for those that left, they missed an exciting ending.

“They never give up,” said Belichick about the way his team played. “They never stop fighting. But we also executed some things real well, made some key stops, managed the clock, [we made] the two-point play. I mean we just did a lot of things right at the end and it was good.”

GAME NOTES: Runningback Kevin Faulk led the team with 9-receptions for 70-yards, and finished just two-yards behind Antowain Smith on 11 fewer carries…..Tom Brady took a shot toward the end of the game and appeared to be favoring his right throwing shoulder, wincing after several throws. He downplayed the injury after the game……..Inactives for the game were LB Tedy Bruschi, WR Deion Branch, T Matt Knutson, T Greg Randall, OL Tom Ashworth, G Russ Hochstein, and TE Cam Cleeland. Rohan Davey was the team’s third quarterback.


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