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Dolphins-Patriots: What we learned

The SportsXchange

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots woke up just in time on Sunday.

"The second half, it felt good to come back, regroup and play a better second half of football," Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said after his team scored 24 straight points in the second half to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 on Sunday.

Down 17-3 in the third quarter after a dreadful first half, New England (6-2) rebounded to send the Dolphins (3-4) to their fourth straight loss.

"The second half was great," said quarterback Tom Brady, noting that the first half was not very good.

How deep was the New England slumber? The Patriots gained 59 yards and had five first downs in the first half. Miami running back Lamar Miller ran for 63 yards on his own.

But it turned around, keeping Miami from moving to within a half-game of first place in the AFC East.

It was the Patriots' seventh straight win over the Dolphins, who haven't won at Gillette Stadium since 2006. New England is 10-1 in the last 11 games of the division-rival series. The Patriots also have 14 straight home wins within the division.

Brady, who owned a 30.6 quarterback rating through the first possession in the second half, finished strong to get the needed win. New England had lost two of its previous three games.

Asked about his hand, Brady said, "My hand is perfect" and added "for the eighth week (of the season) I feel awesome."

The Patriots got the benefit of two big penalty calls, one in each half, one in the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to New England after Brady fumbled -- Olivier Vernon called for batting the ball ahead during the scramble.

But the Patriots also came up with huge plays on defense. Rookie Logan Ryan had two sacks, one resulting in a fumble (recovered by Ninkovich) that led to the tying touchdown. The Patriots also pulled off an acrobatic two-man interception in the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty doing a volleyball set to Marquice Cole as McCourty was falling out of bounds.

Brady, whose first pass of the day was picked off by Dimitri Patterson, finished 13-for-22 for 116 yards (one interception, a 69.5 rating). Miami's Ryan Tannahill, who made some key mistakes, was 22-for-42 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (one on a heave at the end of the game).

The Dolphins, second in the league in red zone offense coming into the game, built their halftime lead on a 4-yard pass to Brandon Gibson, a 5-yard TD pass to Daniel Thomas and a 52-yard Sturgis field goal.

What the Dolphins said

"We still have a lot of room for improvement. I just want to win. My carries and yards don't really matter. I just want to win. I want to help this team win. We just have to find a way to win. We have to finish stronger." -- Running back Lamar Miller after his team's fourth straight loss.

What the Patriots said

"I feel like it was obviously a good win for the team, but we can still get better and we're excited about that." -- Wide receiver Danny Amendola after Sunday's win.

What we learned about the Dolphins

1. This team is not quite ready for primetime. After winning their first three games of the season, the Dolphins have dropped four straight. They had a 17-3 third-quarter lead Sunday before folding up their tents and going home. There is talent on the roster, but not yet enough to become serious contenders.

2. Mike Wallace really hasn't been the difference-maker that goes along with his big contract. He caught three passes Sunday, but also had some balls he should have caught and didn't. For the season, he has 30 catches in eight games, hardly big money-type numbers.

What we learned about the Patriots

1. This team can win with Tom Brady not at his best. Brady played with an injured right hand Sunday and threw for just 116 yards, after his first pass of the day was picked off. But the running game and big plays on the defense and special teams allowed the Patriots to win the game. "We're 6-2, we're in a decent place in our division (first place)," Brady said. "Would we love to be 8-0? Sure, so would every team in the NFL. We're 6-2, we're fighting through it."

2. The Patriots continue to lose key players for the year. First, it was Aaron Hernandez getting arrested for murder. Then, Vince Wilfork was lost on the defensive front, while linebacker Jerod Mayo also went down for the year with an injury. Then, Sunday, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer suffered what looked like a serious leg injury and had to be carted off the field.
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