“that sweet light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train comin’ your way” Metallica – No Leaf Clover
The Patriots and Tom Brady were well prepared for Dan-tallica and the Miami Dolphins last night in Foxboro and continued their dominance over division rivals at home with a crushing 36-7 victory.
The Dolphins came in sky-high after two blowouts over Tennessee and Houston. Miami coach Dan Campbell, nicknamed Dan-tallica because of his preference to Metallica’s music at practice, thought he had the players ready to challenge New England. Using a fearsome pass rush against a patchwork offensive line and a running game that had gained over 300 yards in the past two weeks, Miami was possibly ready to re-establish itself as a playoff contender. Not so fast…
It was the Patriots who, in a short week dominated Miami with a fantastic performance at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. Lamar Miller, the Dolphins talented running back had gained 175 yards in just the first half against the Texans the week before but he never found any room to move and was held to just 15 yards on 9 carries. And it was the Patriots pass rush that harassed Ryan Tannehill all night long, sacking him five times and holding Miami to a single scoring drive.
Brady was once again brilliant completing 26 of 38 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He was using all of his weapons and the Patriots offense was led by Gronkowski with 6 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, Dion Lewis had six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown and Julian Edelman who had 7 catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots offense started quickly where Brady was 7-7 for 73 yards on the opening drive. The two big plays were a 17-yard screen pass to Dion Lewis on a third down and sixteen to keep the drive going and then a 47-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. One of the highlights of the game was a juke that Lewis put on Miami linebacker Koa Misi where the Dolphin defender had the inside angle but Lewis put a spin move on him and left holding air enroute to a big gain.
Brady then hit Gronk on a pass across the deep middle of the field where he broke a tackle by safety Rashad Jones and scampered to the left sideline, picking up a devastating block by Brandon LaFell at 20 yard line and rumbled in for the score.
The Dolphins defense played well in the first half holding the Patriots to just 12 points until late in the half. But they were buoyed by two missed pass interference calls on the part of the officials that could have broke this game wide open much earlier. Brady had Gronkowski deep down the right sideline and Jones, beaten again got away with an armbar that allowed Gronkowski to only attempt to catch the pass one-handed and it fell incomplete.
Later Brady slid up in the pocket to beat the pass rush and under-threw a wide open Brandon LaFell. As LaFell put the brakes on to corral the pass, the defender, in trying to swat the ball away, hit him in the face and made contact before the ball arrived. No flags were thrown on either play. Both plays ended drives that could have put the Patriots in blowout category early.
With just under two minutes to go in the half, Brady engineered another solid drive that had the Patriots knocking on the door with less than a minute to play. Again targeting the soft middle of the Dolphins defense, he hit Lewis for a 14-yard touchdown pass that made the score 19-0. Things were flipped on Campbell’s crew, the week before they went into halftime against Houston 41-0. Now they were staring at a three touchdown deficit with an offense that hadn’t done anything to that point.
After Miami showed some life with a quick touchdown drive to start the second half to make it a game again, briefly at 19-7, Brady quickly put those thoughts to bed, leading the Patriots on a long scoring drive that put them back up comfortably at 22-7.
The fourth quarter was all New England; Brady led the Patriots on two more scoring drives with both ending up with Julian Edelman touchdown catches. The Dolphins found they still aren’t ready to challenge New England for the division just yet. In our pregame analysis we thought Brady would target the middle of the field, specifically the Dolphins linebackers in coverage and that is just what they did. For the season, Brady continues to amaze even at age 38 he’s completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 2410 yards and has averaged 8.3 yards per pass. He’s thrown 20 touchdowns against one interception and has a passer rating of 115.8.
The Patriots running game after being ignored against the Jets was much more of a factor this week. LaGarrette Blount gained 71 yards on 17 carries and Dion Lewis gained another 19 on five carries. While the 95 yards they gained wasn’t great, it didn’t have to be with Brady throwing for more than 350 through the air.
The Patriots defense deserves big time kudos again. They were facing another team that came in running the football well and completely shut them down. The Jets on Sunday were averaging 146 yards per game, and the Dolphins had rushed for over 300 yards in the previous two games. Miami’s 15 yards rushing was among the franchise’s lowest outputs ever. The Pats front seven held the Jets running backs to just a 2.5 yard average and just four days later, Lamar Miller was an afterthought by the second half and he and Jonas Gray were averaging less than two yards per carry.
The Pats secondary picked off two passes, the first by Logan Ryan was a terrible decision by Tannehill as Ryan was in great position and easily jumped the route for a pick along the right sideline. The second by Duron Harmon was a fantastic play where the Pats safety dove and made a great catch of a pass that sailed high on Tannehill while he was under pressure.
Chandler Jones notched two of the Patriots five sacks and now has 8.5 on the year which leads the NFL. He and Rob Ninkovich were outstanding against the Dolphins tackles; they set the edge in the running game and were consistently bringing pressure on Tannehill. For the second straight game the team was without Jabaal Sheard but Jones and Ninkovich were up to the task.
The Patriots went 3-0 on the first time through the division; they now have a 2+ game lead over the Jets due to the tiebreaker and the Dolphins and Bills are far back with four losses each. Sitting pretty at 7-0, the team has 10 days to rest and prepare for the Washington Redskins.
Milestones: The Pats entered the game with a 77 game winning streak when leading at halftime at home; that now stands at 78.
Stephen Gostkowski has now made 26 straight field goals breaking Adam Vinatieri’s record of 25 from the 1996-97 seasons. Gostkowski’s NFL record of PATs has now reached 439.
The Patriots have now won 29 straight games when scoring 23+ points in a game and their record under Bill Belichick when scoring 23+ has run to a ridiculously impressive 167-12.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Bill Belichick Brandon LaFell Chandler Jones Dan Campbell Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Gillette Stadium Jabaal Sheard Jarvis Landry Julian Edelman Koa Misi LaGarrette Blount Lamar Miller Ndamukong Suh New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rashard Jones Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Ryan Tannehill Tom Brady