As hard as it is to believe, the Patriots actually made a little bit of progress on Sunday during their 27-17 win over the Dolphins.

While it may have taken them a little while to get things going, their offense was actually a little better this week.  Yes, they were 2-of-10 on 3rd down again, one week removed from finishing 1-of-12.  Yes, they managed just three points in the first half, but looking at the final totals it’s interesting to note some of the things they were able to do overall in this one.


Logan Ryan came up big against the Dolphins on Sunday for the Patriots defense.
(USA TODAY Images)

One of the key things was the fact they were able to do a better job of staying out of long-yardage situations, something that has plagued them in recent weeks.  That’s primarily because Brady wasn’t sacked at all on first down Sunday, which was an issue against the Jets in New York last week after the Jets brought him down three times.   On second down Brady threw the ball fairly well (7-of-9 for 82 yards) and the Patriots also ran the ball relatively well, led by Stevan Ridley who carried six times for 37 yards (6.2 avg) including three first downs and a touchdown.

One way to get over not being able to convert on third down is not to face them at all.  New England converted eight times on second down, and on two of their three touchdown drives never even faced a third down.  Although one of those started from Miami’s 13-yard line thanks to a third quarter strip sack by Logan Ryan that gave the Patriots the football.  It took them just three plays to punch it in, with Brandon Bolden taking it in from two yards out which tied the game up at 17-17.  Those 17 points were the most the Patriots have put up in the third quarter all season, having come into Sunday’s contest being outscored 44-9 in that period.

On their final touchdown drive they faced just one third down, which was a third-and-five from the Dolphins 35-yard line.  On the play Bolden picked up just a yard, which lead to a 4th-and-4 attempt from the Dolphins 34.  Surprisingly it would be Brady who would end up running for a first down after picking up eight yards and moving the chains.  Special teams captain Matthew Slater later joked about seeing Brady take off down the field, saying in an interview with Sports Final’s Levan Reid that Brady was like a “gazelle” as he ran and picked up the first down.

They also picked up more first downs running the football than throwing it for the first time this season, which is a surprising stat considering that when you look back at each week it’s been fairly lopsided.

Here’s a week-by-week look at the number of first downs they produced both running and throwing the football:

Week 1 at Bills: Rushing 7, Passing 18
Week 2 vs Jets: Rushing 1, Passing 7
Week 3 vs Buccaneers: Rushing 7, Passing 12
Week 4 at Falcons: Rushing 5, Passing 14
Week 5 at Bengals: Rushing 3, Passing 9
Week 6 vs Saints: Rushing 8, Passing 15
Week 7 at Jets: Rushing 6, Passing 12
Week 8 vs Dolphins: Rushing 9, Passing 6

It still was far from perfect, but one thing that they did do well was they were effective in the red zone, converting 3-of-4 attempts, including 2-of-2 with goal-to-go. It was a nice change for an offense who when they got a scoring opportunity, they at least took advantage of it.

That’s why they’re 6-2, something that Brady emphasized repeatedly during his post game press conference. Fans were booing at the half as the Patriots walked off the field trailing 17-3,  although Brady didn’t sound like he wanted to give anyone the satisfaction of admitting he heard them.  However, the message seemed to be pretty clear that they need to be a little more patient, especially since the Patriots are continuing to win.

“I didn’t hear much,” said Brady. “Truthfully, I just go off the field and it’s a long game.  I know sometimes it doesn’t go well in the first quarter, the second quarter, the third quarter, but ultimately you’ve got to wait until it all plays out.  I wish we were doing a better job for sixty minutes but we’re not, and we’ve still got to find a way to win.  We’re 6-2 and we’ve had two chances in the games we’ve lost.  The expectations are high, they’re high for us, I’m sure they’re high for our fans.”

Brady later added that obviously they’d love to be undefeated, but nevertheless, they’re still in good shape as they continue to work out the kinks.

“I mean, would we love to be 8-0?  Sure, so would every other team in the NFL,” said Brady.  ”But [we're] 6-2, we’re fighting through it.  We’ve got another big one this week and then we get a bye week after that.  So, [we've] got to put everything we can into this week and try to get to 7-2.”

Meanwhile defensively, the Patriots looked like a completely different group in the second half of Sunday’s game, sacking Ryan Tannehill a staggering six times over the final two quarters.  Two of those came from rookie Logan Ryan, who also forced a fumble by Tannehill which helped lead to the game tying touchdown by the Patriots.  It also extended New England’s consecutive game forcing a turnover to 35 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Overall Miami converted 8-of-17 on third down, but after finishing 6-of-10 in the first half, they were just 2-of-7 in the second half, with New England’s defense also picking off Tannehill twice.  It was an impressive effort and one that will hopefully provide them with a little momentum leading into next Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.  After the game Belichick was asked if his defense showed him something after bouncing back the way they did after a rough start.

“Yeah, they sure did,” said Belichick.  ”Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, you know, look, things weren’t going well in the first half, I mean, that’s obvious. Getting booed at halftime and all that, I mean, we could see the way it was going.  So they came back out there, we made a couple stops, missed the field goal, that helped us, then we get the strip sack which gave our offense great field position, they took advantage of it and we were able to get right back in the game.

“We made the plays we needed to make and just trying to take it one play at a time and they did a good job of that so I’m proud of what they did.  But it was a good team effort.  I mean we got plays from the secondary, from the linebackers, from the front, from veterans, from rookies, from guys that have been here for a long time and from guys who haven’t been here very long.  This was a good team effort.”

NFL: JETS GOT AWAY WITH PENALTY TOO:

After a week of “Push Gate” the NFL acknowledged yesterday that the Jets were also guilty of the same “pushing” penalty that the Patriots were called for last week.  Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that after reviewing tape that New York was guilty of the same thing New England was called for, which more or less squashes Rex Ryan’s theory that he was aware of the tactic and had pointed it out to the officials before it happened in overtime.  That was ridiculous anyway, and thankfully this more or less kills that notion.

NEW SECURITY AT GILLETTE LEAVES A CROWD OUTSIDE BEFORE KICKOFF SUNDAY:

Watching Twitter before Sunday’s game it was interesting to see this photo of a massive number of people who were still waiting to get into the stadium just three minutes prior to kickoff.  Despite the new rule with required clear bags, it’s pretty surprising that halfway through the season the security to get in hasn’t improved enough to allow fans to get into the stadium more efficiently.  Hopefully it improves, but there were quite a few people who were there that tweeted that this remains a big problem for a team and league that is looking to improve the game day experience.

SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:

1) As mentioned previously, Logan Ryan’s strip sack helped extend their consecutive game forcing a turnover to 35 games, which is the longest current active streak in the NFL.

2) Brady’s 14 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson in the third quarter on Sunday was his 343rd career touchdown pass, moving him ahead of Fran Tarkenton for 4th in NFL history.

3) Brady’s 5 yard completion to Dobson later that quarter was his 6,252nd career pass attempt, moving him ahead of Kerry Collins for 10th in NFL history.  He now has 6,265 after yesterday’s game.

4) New England’s 4th-and-4 conversion was their fourth of  the season and the 2nd conversion from that distance.  Overall they’re 4-for-9 on the season (44.4%).

5) Yesterday’s six sack performance moved them into 6th place in the NFL for total sacks this season with 24, trailing just the Ravens, Jets, Browns, Bills, and Chiefs.

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON HERALD:

Patriots’ defense makes a stand – Adam Kurkjian – Kurkjian has an article this morning on the defense, which after getting run over in the first half came out in the second half and shut Miami down.

Stevan Ridley, Logan Ryan shine off bench – Mark Daniels – Daniels has an article on both Ridley and Ryan, neither of which started the game but both were big parts in the Patriots win on Sunday.

Play of the game: Logan Ryan’s strip tips the scales - Adam Kurkjian – Kurkjian writes that Logan Ryan’s strip sack which lead to the Patriots tying touchdown was the play that tipped the game in New England’s favor.

Tom Brady shows grit in leading comeback – Karen Guregian – Guregian writes that if Brady’s worst-ever season wasn’t bad enough, it was headed toward rock bottom by halftime yesterday before Bradyhelped bail them out.

Patriots second-half turnaround wipes out poor start, Dolphins – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that the Patriots went fly fishing Sunday and recovered “on the fly” with a brilliant effort.

Sebastian Vollmer latest casualty - Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning and writes that Vollmer becomes the latest casualty in the Patriots list of significant injuries.

Best & Worst from Patriots-Dolphins game - Karen Guregian – Guregian has her “Best & Worst” from Sunday, including some interesting categories including “Best Pickpocket”.

BOSTON GLOBE:

Dolphins’ infraction helped turn the tide – Stephen Sellner – Sellner has an article on the fact that the NFL rule book this time flipped in the Patriots favor, after the “batting the ball” penalty on Miami helped seal the win for New England.

Stevan Ridley, Logan Ryan made most of their time – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer has an article on Ridley and Ryan, who he writes played leading roles in the Patriots 27-17 comeback win on Sunday.

Patriots’ Sebastian Vollmer suffers broken leg – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off on Vollmer’s injury.  As expected, Vollmer suffered a broken leg in his lower right leg and according to Whitmer his season is likely over.

Devin McCourty, Marquice Cole cement Patriots win – Peter Cappiello – Cappiello writes that McCourty’s top to Marquice Cole for the interception in the fourth quarter was a great play and a big part of their victory.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Dolphins game - Zuri Berry – Berry has five takeaways from Sunday, including naming Logan Ryan the player of the day.

Seven plays in the second half spurred the Patriots along to victory – Zuri Berry – Berry has seven plays that were key in the Patriots win over Miami.

Patriots erupt in third quarter, beat Dolphins – Shalise Manza Young – Manza Young files her game story, which she writes if ever there was a day to turn around their third quarter issues, Sunday was it after they scored 17 against the Dolphins.

NESN:

Chris Jones, Logan Ryan, Patriots Rookies Step Up, Come Up Big  - Doug Keyed – Keyed has a good read on the Patriots rookies on defense, who were crucial in Sunday’s win.

Stevan Ridley Makes Patriots Considerably Better – Doug Kyed – Kyed writes that the Patriots were definitely a better team with Ridley in the line-up.

ESPN BOSTON:

Brady won’t blame inconsistency on hand – Mike Reiss – Reiss has a column looking at Brady’s performance on Sunday, with the quarterback downplaying his hand injury.

Snaps: Andre Carter steps in - Mike Reiss – Reiss has yesterday’s defensive snap total, with Carter making his return to the Patriots defense.

Snaps: Exploring Ridley’s decline – Mike Reiss- Reiss looks at the offense’s snap counts and ponders why Ridley saw fewer snaps on Sunday.

WEEI:

Checking in on Patriots rookies halfway through their first season – Christopher Price – Price has an article looking at New England’s rookies, with a good summary on each.

What we learned: With passing game struggling, Patriots should ground and pound – Christopher Price – Price has his weekly “what we learned” and writes that good things happen when the Patriots run the football.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Patriots’ Chandler Jones blocks field-goal try – Jennifer Toland – Toland writes that Chandler Jones’ field goal block is something he’s been working on all season.

Patriots hear halftime boos, then make them stop – Jennifer Toland – Toland writes that Bill Belichick heard the boos before the half, but his football team quieted them in the second half.

Patriots’ Tom Brady says his hand just fine – Rich Garven – Garven files his notebook this morning, which leads off with comments from Brady during his press conference on Sunday where he said his hand is “perfect”.

THE REPUBLICAN:

Despite multiple injuries, New England Patriots defense continues to deliver – Nick Underhill – Underhill writes that it’s starting to seem like the New England Patriots defense is impervious to ailments that would cripple most units after Sunday’s performance.

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:

3rd quarter a charm – Mark Farinella – Farinella looks at what was the Patriots best third quarter of the season on Sunday.

Patriots’ defensive backs spark comeback victory – Peter Gobis – Gobis has an article on the Patriots defensive backs, who were key during their win on Sunday.

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL:

Bill Reynolds: For one more day, Brady somehow finds a way – Bill Reynolds – Reynolds files his column this morning and writes that fans should put on hold all those Tom Brady is in a downward slide conversations.