So much for not being able to score in the second half.
The Patriots went into the locker room down 7-6 at the halftime, but then went on to outscore the Dolphins 35-7 in the second half and stunned the Miami crowd with a 41-14 win Monday night.
This was likely one of those games that head coach Bill Belichick dreams of, after he got contributions in every phase of the game. As the television graphic pointed out, the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown, a passing touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown – all in the same game.
As a student of the game, Belichick sounded like he knew what his team had accomplished, and talked about it after it was over.
“I can’t imagine there’s too many of those in NFL history to be honest with you,” said Belichick after the game when asked about all the different contributions his team got. “Plus offensive and defensive touchdowns? It’s a good day for fantasy football.”
Coming off of last week’s game against the Bills, there was still plenty of doubt in the media about the Patriots chances this week down in Miami. The ESPN analysts were split before the game, with five of the eight picking the Patriots to beat the Dolphins. Back in New England there weren’t too many other media members who had given them much hope of coming away with a win, pointing out their past road struggles and difficulty scoring points in the second half. Many had simply expected the Dolphins to have their way with the Patriots young defense, and expected it to take 40+ for New England to win it.
Well they put up 41, except they also held the Dolphins to just one touchdown in each half of play.
Judging by his comments after this one Belichick sounded like he had heard the naysayers, and dropped some remarks to let everyone know that he believes in his football team.
“I wasn’t that surprised, but I guess everybody else is,” said Belichick when asked if he was surprised that his team put up 35 points in the second half. “Tonight was kind of our night. All of the credit goes to the players. Those guys played hard and they made plays all night.”
On defense, they got two key interceptions by linebacker Rob Ninkovich, both of which killed two Miami drives and lead to each of New England’s two field goals in the first half. They later got another one from safety Patrick Chung, who returned it 51-yards for a touchdown.
Chung had a great night on special teams, blocking a punt which helped set up a pivotal rushing touchdown by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, putting New England up 20-7 just four plays after Brandon Tate’s 103 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the third quarter.
Miami answered on their next possession, driving 80 yards on 8 plays which ended in a touchdown from Ricky Williams to cut the lead to 20-14, but that would be as close as the Dolphins would get.
New England turned around and drove 78-yards on 12 plays, punching it in on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead.
The Dolphins then drove from their own 20 all the way to New England’s 36 yard line, and as Miami attempted a 53-yard field goal, Chung broke through yet again and blocked it, with Kyle Arrington picking it up and taking off 35-yards for the touchdown. That play put New England up 34-14, and sent the Miami fans toward the exits.
And then the stadium emptied, quite quickly for that matter.
The remaining fans who were on hand appeared to be dressed in blue and red, and Chung gave them one final thing to cheer about two Miami possessions later when he picked off Henne and scored New England’s final touchdown. That play also ended Henne’s evening as Miami put their back-ups in from that point on. The play surprised Chung, but he took advantage and it helped seal the win for his team.
“I was shocked at first. You have to be at the right spot at the right time,” said Chung after the game. “Opportunity came, so I took it.”
For all the talk about their second half woes and their struggles on the road, they certainly did just fine tonight. Belichick had emphasized the fact they needed to play 60-minutes, and fans can definitely say they saw that after watching this one.
“It’s a big win for us,” said quarterback Tom Brady, who earned his 100th career victory with the win. “We’ve been talking about this all season – what we had to do to win on the road and play good four quarters of football and we did today. When we play well for four quarters, it’s a good outcome.”