Week 10 Game Recap: New England Patriots 23, Miami Dolphins 16
What you need to know
The Patriots gritted this one out behind the veteran leadership of Tom Brady, and maintained their lead atop the AFC East. Brady led two come from behind drives, both which ended with touchdown passes to tight end Ben Watson to put the Patriots back on top. Brady finished with 21 completions on 36 attempts for 275 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Deion Branch led all New England receivers with 82 yards on five catches. With David Givens inactive, Branch was complimented by Tim Dwight, who finished with three catches for 70 yards and Troy Brown, who caught three balls for 36 yards. Bethel Johnson rounded out the wide receiving corps with two catches for nine yards. Ben Watson had a big day from the tight end position with Daniel Graham out, catching three balls for 37 yards, two of which went for touchdowns. Seeing increased playing time, Christian Fauria pulled in two balls for 23 yards. The running backs were not targeted much in the passing game, though Heath Evans caught three passes for 18 yards.
Corey Dillon opened the game in the Patriots’ starting lineup, but left after just one play, citing that he had reinjured his leg. The Patriots didn’t elaborate on his injury, but announced his return as probable, but he did not return to the game. With Patrick Pass out, the Patriots had just two healthy running backs, both who had been signed in recent weeks. The initial nod went to fullback Heath Evans, released from the Miami Dolphins just three weeks ago, and he took the job with a head of steam. Evans finished the day with 84 yards on 17 carries. His counterpart, Mike Cloud, was not as successful, gaining just eight yards on seven carries.
The Dolphins led throughout much of the game, and had the opportunity to tie the game back up in the final minute when they drove the ball down to the New England five yard line with two timeouts left, but could not convert on four straight passes. Despite this, Gus Frerotte led all passers in week ten with 360 yards on 25 completions in 47 attempts. Frerotte threw two touchdowns, and just one interception, but the efforts were not enough. The primary beneficiary of Frerotte’s targets was Chris Chambers, who pulled in six receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns, though he had a third go through his hands on the Dolphins’ final opportunity in the red zone. Marty Booker topped the century mark with 102 yards on 5 catches, giving Frerotte an alternate target against the Patriots’ depleted secondary. Wes Welker made his biggest catch with a 47 yarder on the Dolphins’ final drive, and finished with 61 yards on two catches. Randy McMichael was targeted often in this game, and came down with seven catches and 81 yards. Frerotte looked often to his backs coming out of the backfield, allowing Ronnie Brown to catch four balls for 28 yards and Ricky Williams to pick up a nineteen yard catch.
The Dolphins seemed intent on trying to beat the Patriots through the air, especially when the defense was able to shut down Ricky Williams, who picked up just thirteen yards on eleven carries. Ronnie Brown had more success, averaging four yards per carry on sixteen carries for a total of 64 yards on the ground. Neither running back was able to break runs into the secondary with any regularity and pick up first downs.
What you ought to know
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 21 - 36 - 275 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0|
Brady’s stats were less than spectacular until he hooked up with Ben Watson for a pair of touchdown passes, but it was his gritty play that helped lift the Patriots to victory on the road against the Dolphins, where Brady was just 1-3 in his career entering this game. Brady completed 58.3% of his passes, with an average of 7.6 yards per passing attempt en route to a passer rating of 77.9 in this game. His leadership was most evident when the Patriots fell behind 16-15 with less than three minutes, and with two quick strikes (to Tim Dwight and Ben Watson), he had put the Patriots back on top.
|RB Heath Evans, Rush: 17 - 84 - 0, Rec: 3 - 18 - 0 (4 targets)|
Released three weeks ago by the Miami Dolphins, the fullback Evans took out his frustration on his opponent by eclipsing his previous season high over his four-year career in this game. Evans ran with good power, and showed unexpected quickness for a fullback six feet in height and weighing 250 pounds. Evans went to school at Auburn, where he closed out his college career primarily as a blocker for Rudi Johnson, and has not seen a spotlight role in many years. His future role with the team may be dependent upon the status of Corey Dillon, or if the Patriots would like to return him to his natural fullback position.
Cloud was not very effective in short yardage in this game, and got off to a poor start while Heath Evans was taking the reigns and running with them. In relief appearances with the Patriots last season, Cloud was very effective, and the Patriots will likely look for him to contribute should Dillon’s absence be extended.
Dillon opened the game in the starting lineup, but left after just one play. The television announcers received word from the Patriots’ sideline that it was a calf injury, and Dillon was probable to return, but did not. The tight lipped Patriots camp will probably have little to say about this during the course of the week, though the most telling sign may be if they sign yet another running back this week to provide depth for their depleted stable.
Playing without David Givens, Branch was clearly Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on this day despite receiving extra coverage from the Miami secondary. Branch responded with a solid game, and drew enough attention to allow for Brady to utilize Ben Watson from the tight end position, and to look to Tim Dwight and Bethel Johnson on the deep ball occasionally.
Dwight made perhaps the biggest catch of the day, when he wrestled the ball away from the defender on the Patriots’ winning drive for a 59 yard reception. He provided great speed on deep balls and remains important in the special teams game as well.
Brown was used on a number of crossing routes, and deep outs, however he and Brady did not appear to be as in sync as usual, which led to one of Brady’s two interceptions on the day.
In addition to his kick return duties, Johnson was in the starting lineup opposite of Deion Branch. Bethel Johnson had to leave briefly with an undisclosed injury, but returned to catch two passes.
Watson was the primary target in the red zone, and as a result, caught two touchdown passes. Watson had the opportunity to shine in the absence of Daniel Graham, who was inactive for this game. Watson showed very good footwork in staying in bounds on the first touchdown reception.
Seeing increased playing time with the absence of Daniel Graham, Fauria provided a familiar option for the Patriots’ receiving game.
Vinatieri connected on field goals of 32, 33 and 35 yards, but with the flow of the game, did not attempt an extra point on either Patriots’ touchdown in this game.
The Patriots were able to shut down Ricky Williams, and kept Ronnie Brown from gaining large chunks of yardage, forcing the Dolphins to try to beat them through the air by holding the Dolphins to 3.1 yards per rushing attempt.
The Patriots gave up 360 yards through the air, and did not record a sack, but did force two turnovers, and came up with a big stop in the final moment of the game on four passes starting from their five, though the final pass should have been caught by Chambers to tie up the game, assuming a successful extra point.
Frerotte completed 53.2% of his passes, with an average of 7.7 yards per passing attempt for a passer rating of 83.6. This bested his counterpart Tom Brady, but was not enough to win the game, as he could not pull off the same heroics Brady had just minutes earlier, despite his valiant attempt to do so. In the end, it was his favorite receiver, Chris Chambers, who let the ball go through his hands in the end zone for what would have been a good catch that ended his day, and kept the Dolphins out of the win column.
|RB Ronnie Brown, Rush: 14 - 64 - 0, Rec: 4 - 28 - 0 (7 targets)|
Brown ran well when given the opportunities, but was not able to pick up first downs or penetrate beyond the linebackers with any regularity. Brown’s role in this game was defined more in his blocking for Gus Frerotte, and his ability to roll out and catch a screen pass, though the Patriots sniffed this out and kept him from padding his stats this way.
Williams did not have a very good day, and was virtually shut down by the Patriots’ line, except for one series early in the second quarter. As a result, Nick Saban stuck with Ronnie Brown throughout much of this game.
Chambers had the opportunity to be the hero of this game by pulling in his third touchdown of the game on fourth and goal in the closing minute of the game, but instead, dropped his third pass of the game. It wasn’t an easy catch, but this was a ball Chambers should have, and usually would catch, but was unable to come up with in this situation. He had a very good day going prior to that, highlighted by his second touchdown on the afternoon when he slipped behind the defender on a botched snap that Frerotte had picked back up and improvised well upon.
Booker did not garner the same attention of the Patriots’ secondary or the television crew as did Chris Chambers, but one catch at a time topped the century mark. The Patriots focus was primarily on stopping the run, followed by trying to shut down Chambers and McMichael, and Booker was able to take advantage of this situation.
Welker picked up 125 yards in the return game, but almost had his biggest play come on the final drive when picked up a 47 yard reception to move the Dolphins into Patriots territory. Welker continues to be an explosive threat in all aspects of the game.
As the linebackers were up at the line trying to stop the run, McMichael was able to find openings in the underneath zone in catching seven balls on the afternoon. However, a key fumble at the New England eight yard line at the end of the first half kept the Dolphins from building upon their 7-3 lead at the time, and perhaps going into the locker room with a bit more momentum and killer instinct.
Mare connected from 36 yards out, but missed earlier in the game from 31 yards, as the ball sailed wide right.
Not having to face Corey Dillon, and going up against a pair of backs signed only within the past few weeks, one would not have expected much of an effort by the Patriots to run the ball, though they ground out 91 yards on 25 attempts, the majority coming from fullback Heath Evans. The defense did a solid job of shutting down Mike Cloud, and slowing down the rushing game as the game wore on, but had to show enough respect that they could not focus completely on shutting down Tom Brady and the passing game.
The Dolphins picked Tom Brady off twice, and sacked him twice as well, but also gave up two touchdowns through the air, and could not slow down the Patriots’ passing attack when they most needed to in the final three minutes of the game, when Brady beat the defense on two plays for the go ahead score.