In a game that many expected to be a shoot-out, between the Patriots’ stellar offense and it’s equally less-than-stellar defense, it came down to the often overlooked aspect of the game: special teams. The Patriots’ special teams accounted for a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, and a kick return for a touchdown in the team’s 41-14 victory, its first significant road win since 2008 in the very same stadium. At the start of the second half, WR Brandon Tate ran back the opening kick-off 103 yards for a touchdown, his second of the season. On the Dolphins’ ensuing possession, S Patrick Chung blocked a punt, setting up a BenJarvus Green-Ellis 12-yard touchdown run. In the 4th quarter, Chung blocked a field goal attempt, which was subsequently picked up and returned for a TD by Kyle Arrington. That’s a 21-point swing in the game, either scored by or set-up by stellar special teams play.
Chung had a quite a night for himself. Aside from his special teams plays, he also had a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown. Miami’s QB Chad Henne had a poor night overall. While he was extremely effective early on, he ended the night throwing 3 picks, the one previously mentioned, and two to OLB Rob Ninkovich. The INT to Chung looked like Brandon Marshall’s fault as he stopped short on a route, but the two to Ninkovich were just poor throws. Henne’s performance was so poor, the Dolphins benched him with about 6 minutes left in the game for Tyler Thigpen.
The defense at times looked its vulnerable self, but also was able to make some key stops. Aside from the three turnovers, it forced the long field goal that was blocked, a 3-and-out that eventually led to a blocked punt, and a 4th-and-short stop that really took the wind out of the Dolphins’ sails. Jerod Mayo was all over the field, totaling an incredible 16 tackles. The defense was also able to pressure Henne at times, forcing quick throws and at times bad throws. Ninkovich added a sack to go along with his 2 picks. S Jarrad Page, a player the Pats traded for with the Chiefs at the end of the preseason, added a 4th pick off a Thigpen-to-Hartline tipped ball.
The offense struggled in the first half scoring touchdowns but was able to put together a couple of long field goal drives. They got the running game going with a BJGE-Danny Woodhead combination. The running game was really key in this game, keeping the defense off the field and eventually wearing down the Dolphins and putting the game away in the second half. Green-Ellis ran for 76 yards on 16 carries (4.8 YPC) and a touchdown while Danny Woodhead ran for 36 yards on 8 carries (4.5 YPC) and added an 11-yard touchdown reception to his total. Brady was average but efficient, going 19/24 for 153 yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker led the team with 8 catches for 70 yards and Randy Moss amazingly did not catch a single pass, a first in his Patriot career. He had one thrown his way on a fake spike at the end of the first half, which he dropped.
Tom Brady is now the fastest QB to 100 wins. He did it in 131 starts, beating Joe Montana, who previously had the record at 139 starts. He was fired up when he came off the field for Brian Hoyer to execute the final kneel down, slapping hands and yelling at teammates. He definitely seems like a re-invigorated Brady, which is good news heading into the bye week and the rest of the season.