By: Bob George/BosSports.net
November 13, 2005

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MIAMI -- Forgot what this all feels like?

Tom Brady has to rally his team, and takes only 2 plays to cover 64 yards. The newest folk hero in New England, Heath Evans (and no, don't call him Dewey), plows in a two-point conversion. And with 41 seconds left and the Miami Dolphins down to their last play, Asante Samuel successfully defends an underthrown ball to Chris Chambers in the end zone to preserve a 23-16 Patriot win at Dolphins Stadium on Sunday.

But that was just the last two and a half minutes. The rest of the game, or at least that part which will remain in the conscious of Patriot Nation, will be resplendent with some of the good ol' Patriot championship stuff, especially on defense. Yes, the defense did bend on occasion, but in the end it made the plays it had to, albeit against a substandard Dolphin team. With Richard Seymour back in the lineup, with Tedy Bruschi flying all over the place like a crazed maniac, and with Ellis Hobbs playing his best game as a Patriot overall, the Patriots were able to tough out a win in a venue where they generally don't win, especially in daytime games.

Part of what helped the Patriots win was brought upon by the Dolphins themselves. Three straight possessions in the second quarter found the Fish in the red area, but they came away with only seven points and missed a great chance to bury the Patriots early. A 34-yard dump pass to Marty Booker went for 34 yards along the left sideline which took the Dolphins down to the Patriot 12. But three plays later, Olindo Mare pushed a 31-yard field goal wide right. After scoring on the next drive (Gus Frerotte hit Chambers on a fade route from three yards out), Chambers hauled in a 27-yard toss and rumbled to the Patriot 9 on the next drive. But Rosevelt Colvin knocked the ball out of Chambers' hands, and Hobbs picked up the loose ball. The Patriots then closed out the first half with a drive that led to a 35-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri just before intermission.

This run of three drives which produced only 7 points helped galvanize the Patriots in the locker room, and the Patriots went out and won the second half. The defense shut down Miami on four straight drives, three of which were three-and-outs, giving the offense enough time to overcome a Travares Tillman interception (Brady tried to hit Troy Brown in double coverage at the Miami 16) and score on three straight drives to build a 15-7 lead.

A questionable pass interference call on Travis Daniels guarding Andre Davis on a deep pass went for 49 yards, setting up a Vinatieri field goal from 32 yards out. A bad punt by Donnie Jones set up the Patriots on their 48, and Brady led the Patriots on their first touchdown drive of the game, eventually finding Benjamin Watson in the left corner of the end zone from 16 yards out on the final play of the third quarter. The Patriots went for two, but Brown dropped the pass and it was 12-7 Patriots going into the final period.

An interception by Hobbs deep in Miami territory set up a Vinatieri field goal from 33 yards out, making it 15-7 Patriots. From this point on the Patriots and their suspect defense went into a cruise control mode, trying to prevent touchdowns but stiffening up in the red area. On the next drive, Frerotte found Chambers in the right flat for 15 yards, Ricky Williams on a screen pass for 19 yards and Wes Welker for 14 yards, setting up Mare for a 36-yard field goal. But Brady threw another interception on the next drive, as Yeremiah Bell stepped in front of Watson in the right flat at the Miami 44-yard line.

Frerotte found Marty Booker on a quick left slant pass, and he scampered 28 yards to the Patriot 23. Three plays later, Frerotte lined up in shotgun, but center Seth McKinney snapped the ball too early. Frerotte dropped the snap, picked it up, then discovered that no Patriot reacted to the play. Chambers walked into the end zone uncovered and caught a 15-yard gimme toss to put Miami back on top, 16-15. In what would turn out to be one of the key plays of the game, Ronnie Brown was stopped on the two-point conversion try and the Patriots remained one point behind.

Brady had 2:59 left and two timeouts, and 76 yards to cover to try and get the Patriots into field goal range. Instead of taking his time and denying the Dolphins the chance to get the ball back, Brady covered the 76 yards in two plays. Brady found Tim Dwight in a zone seam, and he took off on a 59-yard pass reception. Brady then hit Watson from 17 yards out for a touchdown on the next play, and the Patriots then sent Evans up the gut for a two-point conversion and a 23-16 lead.

Needing now to only keep the Dolphins out of the end zone, the Patriot defense again allowed Miami to get a good scoring chance. Perched at their own 15 after a holding call and looking at first and 20, Frerotte found Welker on a quick left slant uncovered, and he raced 47 yards down the left sideline to the Patriot 38. Passes of 12 yards to Brown and 10 yards to McMichael put the Dolphins at the Patriot 6.

On the first two plays, Frerotte decided to pick on Hobbs on left fade routes. On the first one, he knocked the ball away from Booker. On the second, Frerotte overthrew Chambers. Brown took a right screen toss on third down but was nailed for a four-yard loss by Hank Poteat. And on fourth down, Frerotte underthrew Chambers on a right slant into the end zone, with Samuel breathing down his neck.

This game basically came down to Miami getting the upper hand in the first half but not being able to put New England away. The Patriots were thus able to regroup a bit on defense, and in the end were able to make enough plays to allow the offense to do what they had to do.

If there was any intensity lacking in previous games on defense, it was there on Sunday. Bruschi seemed to be at the center of the intensity upswing, playing a spirited game and looking more like his usual self. Samuel had the hit of the game, laying a stick on Williams which knocked him silly. Hobbs, in addition to his interception and fumble recovery, showed some good cover skills at times.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came in the form of Evans, the castoff Dolphin fullback who gouged his former team for 84 yards on 17 carries. He got things off on the right foot for the Patriots with 30 yards on his first three carries during the opening drive of the game, only to have Mike Cloud ruin the drive by being stopped for a one-yard loss on third and one at the Miami 35 and forcing a punt. He ran tough and cut well until running out of gas in the fourth quarter, denying him a chance for an unlikely 100 yards rushing.

The Patriots are now 2-0 in the AFC East, and they survived perhaps their toughest division test on paper in a stadium where they usually come up short in. The Patriots can draw a ton of positives from this win, as their schedule now veers into the easier portion.

And as always, any win is a good win. This was perhaps more than just a good win for the Patriots, if these magical moments are back to stay.


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