Heading into the locker room at the half, the Patriots were coming off of having just allowed what could have been a game-turning play to the Dolphins after Miami scored a quick touchdown with eleven seconds left in the 2nd quarter.
After punting away the football with just twenty-five seconds to go in the first half, Miami made two key plays that got them back into the game. ¬†The first came after the Dolphins returned Ryan Allen’s punt 32-yards, which seemingly put them in field goal range with a chance to cut the Patriots lead to 14-9.
Looking back, that’s probably what the Patriots would have preferred. ¬†Instead, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill¬†hit a perfect throw to Mike Wallace over the outstretched arm of Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler in the corner of the end zone, with Wallace¬†making¬†an unbelievable one-handed grab where he¬†somehow managed to stay in bounds as he came down with the football. ¬†After initially being ruled incomplete, the play was reviewed¬†and¬†overturned, with the officials ruling it as a touchdown.
Tom Brady arguably made the play of the game thanks to his 17-yard run that helped begin their 24 point third quarter.
(USA TODAY Images)
Just like that it was a one-point game as the Patriots clung to a¬†14-13 edge heading into the half, which likely had Miami feeling pretty good about their chances heading into the second half.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady admitted after the game that inside the locker room at halftime there was a lot of frustration about how they had played, and he didn’t have the best half of football himself. ¬†He finished 8-of-15 for 82 yards along with an interception, while Tannehill and the Dolphins had put up nearly 200-yards passing as well as 74-yards rushing to that point. ¬†
The only solace for New England was the fact that despite their struggles offensively, the Patriots’ defense had kept them in the game. Now it was up to Brady and the offense to get something going after being frustrated by a Dolphins’ defense that only yielded only one offensive touchdown in the first half.
That frustration boiled over for New England when they got the ball to start the third quarter and Brady had seemingly had enough. ¬†He looked like a different player as they started the drive, firing¬†a strike on their first play from scrimmage to Rob Gronkowski that picked up 34-yards, and then a couple of plays later he hit another one for 14-yards to Brandon LaFell that got them deep into Dolphins’ territory at Miami’s 19-yard line.
On first down Jonas Gray was caught for a one-yard loss, and on 2nd-and-11¬†he fired a perfect strike to Julian Edelman, who was all alone on the right side of the field at the first-down marker, but the ball went right through his hands and off his chest before falling to the ground for the incompletion.
On the play, Brady took a good shot from linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, knocking him to the ground. ¬†At that point facing a 3rd-and-11 and in need of a spark, the veteran took matters into his own hands.
On the snap Brady dropped back and after seeing the Dolphins drop into coverage, he looked to the right and found a massive opening and began to take off downfield. ¬†With Shane Vereen five yards in front, Brady faked a throw to Vereen which spun around linebacker Philip Wheeler, and Brady darted past him for the first down.
But he wasn’t done.
After getting the first down, Brady could have slid. ¬†He could have given himself up and went out of bounds. ¬†Instead, the veteran was looking for a little contact and opted to drop a shoulder and take on defensive back Walt Aikens. ¬†The two collided pretty hard and Aikens got the better of the exchange, knocking Brady down but not before he had gotten the ball down to the 3-yard line after the 17-yard gain. A fired up Brady got up and exchanged some words with Aikens before heading back to the huddle, and the crowd on hand at Gillette Stadium erupted after the collision as well as Brady’s intensity.
Brady admitted afterward that he was riled up coming out at the half, and that was the reason he was looking to hit somebody.
“I think it was a play we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time,” said Brady. “I was going to slide, but I was pretty pissed off at that time, so I figured I wouldn‚Äôt slide and wish I wouldn‚Äôt have gotten knocked down, but that‚Äôs the way it goes.‚ÄĚ
One play later LeGarrette Blount was in the end zone and the Patriots were up by eight points, leading 21-13. ¬†They wouldn’t look back from there after scoring a total of 27 unanswered points, 24 of which came in that third quarter.
However, that run seemed to be what got everything started, and despite the shot he took Brady has no regrets. ¬†Although the quarterback said that had he not gotten into the secondary and had been taking on a bigger guy, he might have thought differently.
‚ÄúNo, I could have slid. [Laughs] But I wasn‚Äôt in the best of moods at that time,” said Brady. ¬†“I think if it was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary ‚Ä¶ things happen pretty quick for me out there, I‚Äôm not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.‚ÄĚ
Fortunately it ended up being the play that got everything started, and as a result the Patriots walked away with their sixth straight AFC East title while improving to 11-3 on the season. ¬†This is obviously just the beginning as the team has loftier goals, but it’s not one that Brady said they’ll take lightly.
“Every year is a different year for us and every year we have a great opportunity to try to accomplish something,” said Brady. ¬†“It doesn‚Äôt start this morning, it started back in March. There‚Äôs a lot of hard work that goes into it and I don‚Äôt think you ever take winning for granted, I certainly don‚Äôt because I know how hard it is to win. I think we appreciate it.”
With two games to go they’re right where they want to be. ¬†The road has been a tough one and this team has faced a lot of adversity over the course of the season, but as usual they appear to be peaking at the right time. ¬†The good news is they were able to get a little redemption against the team that was part of their rocky start. ¬†Now they just have to finish the job over these final two games.
“We had a great opportunity to go out there and play a lot better than we did the last time,” said Brady. “It‚Äôs great to win, it‚Äôs a great feeling.”