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The Difference: Patriots Know How To Win

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
Oct 11, 2004 at 3:00am ET

FOXBORO, MA -- It's a cliché that is used far too often, but unfortunately there really isn't any other way to say it.

Good teams find ways to win games, bad teams find ways to lose them.

That was evident on Sunday during the New England Patriots 24-10 win over the Miami Dolphins. Despite a day where their quarterback threw for just 76 yards and his offense converted just 4-of-14 third down attempts, the Patriots still managed a two touchdown victory over the hapless Dolphins.

To make matters worse for Miami they lost both of their starting quarterbacks in the final minutes of the game. According to reports out of Miami, starter Jay Fiedler suffered broken ribs from a hit by Rodney Harrison, while A.J. Feeley suffered a concussion. Both players' status is unknown heading into next week but another report said that third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels may get the nod for the Dolphins against the winless Bills next Sunday.

Despite the lopsided score, the Dolphins certainly had their chances to win the game. Their final three possessions of the game ended in three failed trips inside the red zone while New England punched it in every time they had an opportunity. They were 3-of-3 on the afternoon while the Dolphins scored just once in five trips.

Three of Miami's missed scoring opportunities came in the fourth quarter, and it happened on three consecutive possessions where the Dolphins turned the ball over on downs.

Try to remember a time where the Patriots failed to convert three straight fourth down attempts inside the red zone late in the game.

That's the difference between a team who has won two championships in recent years, while another is in complete and utter disarray and will likely have a new head coach next season.

"All the things they're doing, we're not doing," Miami defensive end Jason Taylor told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. "They haven't turned the ball over, and they've won games."

"We continue to not give ourselves a chance to win," coach Dave Wannstedt told the newspaper. "We don't make enough plays on offense. We just make too many negative plays. Turnovers, we give them a short field to operate on. It's frustrating for everybody."

As for New England, the game plan appeared simple yesterday. With wide receivers Deion Branch and Troy Brown sidelined with injuries, along with Bethel Johnson being held out due to a "coaches' decision", it left the Patriots with David Patten and David Givens as the two top receivers, followed by P.K. Sam and Kevin Kasper. That being said, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis instead favored the running game, with Patriots running backs carrying the ball on 34 plays yesterday while Brady had just 19 pass attempts.

With three of his best receivers sidelined on Sunday, it left Brady without a lot of options. The Patriots quarterback has never appeared to have any problems finding the open man, but was forced to hold on to the ball for much longer than fans are accustomed to seeing and as a result he took a beating. He was hit repeatedly on Sunday waiting for someone to come open and even had his chin cut open following one of those shots. He also threw the ball away far more frequently than usual.

Meanwhile with the passing game held in check, Corey Dillon led the Pats rushing attack with 18 carries for 94 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. However he later told reporters after the game that he could have returned but that Belichick held him out. In the final quarter of play Brady had just three pass attempts, while Patrick Pass filled in for Dillon and had 10 carries for 37 yards and helped tick time off the clock.

While New England's game plan worked against the Dolphins, it may not work quite as well when the Seattle Seahawks come to Foxboro next Sunday. The Seahawks are ranked 9th in the NFL in scoring, averaging 23 points per game. With the team depleted of its offensive weapons, the Patriots will likely need a big performance from their defense next Sunday if they hope to continue to win. After their 17-point collapse against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in a 33-27 overtime loss, the Seahawks will likely be focused against the defending world champs.

But for now the Patriots can be happy with their accomplishment. They came up big when they had to and found a way to win.

"I told our team after the game I was really proud of what they did," said Bill Belichick. "I did tell the team I thought they should be proud of what they accomplished, no other team in pro football has done. With that being said, that's not our ultimate goal. We're going to try to win more than that."

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