AFC East: Patriots-Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. -- There was a day of reckoning at the Miami Dolphins headquarters Wednesday.
|AP Photo/Alan Diaz|
|Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, right, was mum Wednesday on his fight with Patriots lineman Matt Light which earned them both a $15,000 fine.|
With barely three minutes left in the game, Porter was flagged on consecutive plays for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct and continued to yap at the Patriots. Sparano sent Charlie Anderson into the game for Porter, who refused to leave the field and sent Anderson back to the sideline.
Porter on Wednesday afternoon sat on a stool in front of his locker and addressed reporters, who were instructed by Dolphins senior vice president of relations Harvey Greene not to ask any questions.
"I'd just like to apologize for not respecting coach Sparano's order to come off the field," Porter said. "I wasn't looking at it that way. I was just kind of still playing football. I wasn't trying to make it as being disrespectful to the team or not obeying his order. We have a great relationship.
"It's crazy how you all got ahold of this and just tried to make it seem as if me and him were not good. I listen to all of his orders. I wasn't looking at the situation that way. I was just standing on the field, playing football. That's just my nature. If I'm not hurt I don't like to come off the field.
"So I think it got blown out of proportion, but I definitely apologize to coach, the staff, and that's pretty much it."
Porter then stood up and walked out of the locker room.
Earlier in the day, Dolphins inside linebacker Channing Crowder was fined $15,000 for his altercation with Patriots left tackle Matt Light, who grabbed a helmetless Crowder by the hair and punched him in the back of the head. Both were ejected.
Crowder spoke to reporters with the caveat he would only speak about the St. Louis Rams and wouldn't address the fine or the incident with Light.
"The league's going to do what the league's going to do," was all Crowder would tell me about the situation.
DAVIE, Fla. -- New England Patriots fans can exhale now. Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light wasn't suspended for his role in an embarrassing altercation with Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder on Sunday.
Each player was fined $15,000. A suspension would have been significantly more painful for the Patriots. While Crowder is a starter and a top tackler, the Dolphins will play the St. Louis Rams this week in a game they should win.
Mark LeVoir, who has two career NFL starts in his three season, likely would have replaced Light. LeVoir finished Sunday's game at left tackle. His starts came in Weeks 7 and 8 after right tackle Nick Kaczur injured an ankle.
Light spoke to reporters Wednesday morning for the first time since he grabbed a helmetless Crowder by the braided hair and repeatedly delivered punches to the back of his head after a fourth-quarter field goal. Both were ejected.
"You know what, honestly, I think that matter is kind of a closed deal now," Light said, according to Boston Globe reporter Mike Reiss. "It was what it was. Obviously, I'm not happy with what my actions were and I don't think that was the way to go.
"In my mind, it's a closed deal now. They've made a decision on it and we're going to move forward and get ready to play a good Steelers team. I think that's where everybody's concentration should be right now, and that's definitely where mine is at this point."
I'll try to get Crowder's reaction after the Dolphins open their locker room to the media at 2 p.m.
As ludicrous as the notion might sound to anyone outside of Miami Dolphins headquarters, not making the playoffs could be viewed as a failure for a team that went 1-15 last year.
The Dolphins don't want to use the term "rebuilding," which is the adjective we all applied to a franchise that staggered through one of the worst seasons in NFL history.
But the expectations in Davie, Fla., were different. What has happened so far is nothing short of amazing. The Dolphins are 6-5, a winning record in late November.
They were two games over .500 and one game out of first place after winning four straight games and six out of their past eight. Then they were humbled at home by the New England Patriots, 48-28, on Sunday.
The Dolphins still could make the playoffs, but based on what the New York Jets did to the Tennessee Titans and the Patriots' emphatic statement, the Dolphins probably will be watching football on their couches in January.
That will be considered an unsuccessful season by anyone employed by the Dolphins.
What do you think?
The Dolphins on Monday announced leading receiver Greg Camarillo will be out for the season with a knee injury just days after they signed him to a well-deserved extension.
He limped off the field in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 48-28 loss to the New England Patriots. The injury occurred after Chad Pennington threw an interception, and Camarillo tried to defend on the return. Camarillo finished the game with a team-high six catches, 75 yards and a touchdown.
Camarillo is among the NFL's most inspiring stories. He was a walk-on punter at Stanford who harangued coach Ty Willingham into letting him do receiver drills, eventually earning a scholarship.
Camarillo wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine. He was making the league-minimum, but he has been Miami's most consistent target all season with 55 catches for 613 yards and two touchdowns. He earned a three-year, $6 million extension last week.
Wilford, conversely, has been left to rot. The former fourth-round draft pick and one-time prospect signed a four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million in guarantees.
For that, Wilford has one catch for 15 yards. Unable to crack a starting receiving corps that features one drafted player, Wilford has been a healthy scratch the past eight games because he can't be used on special teams.
Now the Dolphins seem forced to play Wilford.
But do they? The Dolphins, dissatisfied with their receivers all year, have been working out free agents over the past couple weeks but haven't found any they've liked.
We already know they don't like Wilford. But since they're paying him, they might as well use him.
MIAMI -- When you accumulate a lot of numbers, there are several ways to break them down.
Over his past two games, New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel has been prolific. He threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns to Randy Moss in Sunday's 48-28 victory over the Miami Dolphins, giving him consecutive weeks with at least 400 yards.
"I think Matt is getting in a comfort zone, and at the same time he's getting in his, we're getting in ours," Moss said. "What I mean by that he has to not just feel out his receivers and running backs, but the offensive line out, too. I think the other team is getting a feel for how Matt is playing.
"He's playing some hellified ball and stepping up, and we're behind him."
Doug Kern of ESPN Stats & Analysis did a hellified job of dissecting Cassel's afternoon in about every way imaginable.
Here's some of what Kern learned:
- Cassel mostly threw short and let his receivers do some work. All but 14 of his passes were less than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He completed 72.4 percent of those passes for 245 yards, but 182 yards came after the catch.
- He completed 9 of 14 passes of 10 yards or longer. Those throws went for 170 yards in the air and just 24 after the catch.
- Cassel was blistering on second down. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 239 yards (14.1 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. His lone interception also came on second down, but it was a tipped ball, not his fault.
- Cassel threw all but 11 of his passes outside the numbers. He was 23 of 32 for 348 yards and 14 first downs to the outside. He was 7 of 11 for 67 yards in the middle of the field.
- He went to the right quite often, completing 15 of 19 for 180 yards.
- Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington threw for a career-high 341 yards. The 756 combined passing yards are the second-most in the NFL this year, five behind the distance Brett Favre and Kurt Warner traveled in Week 4.
- In the third quarter and the first two drives of the fourth quarter, Cassel and Pennington combined to go 24 of 32 for 391 yards, four touchdowns, 18 first downs and zero interceptions.
- Cassel's incompletion breakdown included two drops, four overthrows, six defended and one throwaway.
To glance at the box score, Brett Favre didn't have one of the greatest games of his legendary NFL career. This one ranks somewhere around No. 67 on his list.
Favre had a tidy stat line to be sure. He completed 25 of his 32 attempts for 224 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Jason Paradise of ESPN Stats & Analysis broke down the film and came up with interesting angles on Favre's satisfying afternoon:
- As has been the Jets' plan, Favre kept most of his throws short. He was 22 of 26 for 171 yards and two touchdowns on passes that went less than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. His passer rating was 119.7 on those throws.
- He threw 10 yards or longer only six times, completing three for 53 yards with an interception.
- When the Titans brought four or fewer pass rushers, Favre was 21 of 24 for 196 yards and both TDs. But he also threw his interception in this situation.
- When the Titans sent five pass rushers, Favre was 4-of-8 for 28 yards.
- Jets receivers didn't drop any passes. The Titans, conversely, dropped four in the first half.
- Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller each had at least six catches. Favre targeted Coles a game-high 10 times, completing seven attempts.
- Favre was best between the numbers, where he was 8-of-9 for 76 yards and both TDs.
- No surprise that Favre's interception came outside the numbers. Of his 13 interceptions this year, only two of them were caught in the middle of the field.
MIAMI -- The New England Patriots are the NFL's least-penalized team.
The Patriots went into the AFC East rematch with 38 penalties called against them and only 31 accepted.
They were flagged eight times Sunday, with six of the penalties counting for 38 yards. Two of the penalties -- a personal foul and an ejection -- were offsetting. The distance also is misleading because one was a half-the-distance unnecessary roughness.
Here is the rundown of flags thrown by Alberto Riveron's crew:
- Guard Stephen Neal, holding (10 yards).
- Neal, personal foul (offsetting with Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell).
- Linebacker Tedy Bruschi, unnecessary roughness (4 yards, half the distance).
- Neal, false start (5 yards).
- Tackle Nick Kaczur, false start (5 yards).
- Center Dan Koppen, holding (9 yards, half the distance).
- Tackle Matt Light, disqualification (offsetting with Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder).
- Defensive end Richard Seymour, encroachment (5 yards)
The game deteriorated in the fourth quarter after Light and Crowder were ejected. Light likely will face additional disciplinary action for grabbing the helmetless Crowder by the hair and throwing three punches at the back of his head.
"We hate to see that," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "That's not what we want to be a part of. We want to make a statement on the field with the way we're playing, and we'll do our talking on Sundays."
Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter was flagged twice in a three-play span for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct on the Patriots' final drive.
Perhaps to make a point, the Patriots on a fourth-and-goal play handed the ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 1-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "I mean, at the end of the day, we'll see what happens. They won one. We won one.
"Looks like we have a little rivalry."
MIAMI -- The New England Patriots would not be fooled again.
The Patriots suffered a shameful 38-13 home loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. The Dolphins lifted the curtain on t
heir exotic Wildcat offense in that game and used it to gash the Patriots all afternoon, scoring four touchdowns.
Sunday was the rematch. The Patriots made sure to neuter the Wildcat and won 48-28.
The Dolphins ran eight Wildcat plays, which are unbalanced line formation with a direct shotgun snap to running back Ronnie Brown, for 25 yards and zero touchdowns.
Brown ran six times for 26 yards. He twice handed off to Ricky Williams, who had minus-1 yard.
The Wildcat production was Miami's third-lowest of the season for total yards and average per play.
"I think our ability to have a chance to prepare for it and see some of the things they've run in other games," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, "At least when we go to the sidelines we could talk a lot more about it: 'This is what we expected. This is what they're doing. This is the adjustment we've got to make.'
"But it's still hard to stop. They have some good players in there. ... If you know what they're doing, it's still hard to take it away."
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|Patriots receiver Randy Moss had his best outing of the season (eight catches, 125 yards, three touchdowns) in a win against the Dolphins Sunday.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Bell didn't know what Moss expected from them.
The New England Patriots emptied their backfield, lined up extra receivers and operated out of the shotgun. There's only so much a pass defense can do.
"When they spread out five wide, you can't double anybody," Bell said. "How do you do that?"
The Dolphins clearly didn't have any answers. Moss had been marginalized so often, but on Sunday he enjoyed his finest game of the season and one of the best of his career to help the Patriots defeat the Dolphins 48-28, tying the season series.
"It's the kind of stuff you dream up on video games," Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson said of Moss' performance: eight receptions, 125 yards, three touchdowns.
It was the sort of afternoon Moss grew accustomed to last year, while the Patriots obliterated records with Tom Brady at the controls.
Those explosive games became less common after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. Moss has walked off the field with 26 or fewer yards four times. He was kept out of the end zone six times in his first nine games.
"Today we had a great day," Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel said, "and I'm happy to be able to go out there and have some production with [Moss]. We've got to keep doing that and keep going to him and let him do what he does best, which is make plays."
Moss, feeling slighted the Dolphins didn't think he was enough of a threat to double-team him, thrived against single coverage.
With Cassel maturing to the point the Patriots can pick up their 2007 user's manual, the Patriots' offense seemed a lot like the one that almost went unbeaten with Brady.
"Any time I feel disrespected I want to go out there and make it happen," said Moss, who passed Cris Carter for third on the all-time receiving touchdowns list with 132. "I think they disrespected me today by really playing single coverage and really letting me have fun and do what I love to do and get in that end zone."
Jason Allen, who has had trouble finding a regular position since being drafted 16th overall in 2006, was given the assignment of guarding Moss a majority of the game. The decision didn't work well.
"I'm always amazed at what Randy can do," Cassel said. "He's got amazing hands, [with] his body control and how's able to control the defender with his body and then go up and get the ball."
Moss scored two touchdowns against Allen -- a 25-yard catch and run in the second quarter and an 8-yard end-zone lob in the third, both to retake leads.
Moss' other touchdown was a 29-yard fly pattern up the left sideline against usual starting cornerback Andre Goodman early in the fourth quarter to put the Patriots ahead by 10 points.
I asked Moss if he was surprised Jason Allen and not Will Allen was lined up against him for most of the afternoon. Will Allen is Miami's best cornerback and playing at a Pro Bowl level.
"I don't really care who it is," replied Moss, speaking publicly for the first time in three weeks. "If I see single coverage, man-to-man, I feel that I can beat anybody in this league, any given day.
"I think today was one of those days where it's something I haven't seen in a while. I always preach any time I see single coverage that most of the time the safety is over the top. So single is what it looks like, but really it's double -- 'Double Moss.'
"Today was single coverage. The safety stayed in the middle. Our offense executed. We really came to play today."
Bell was disappointed with Miami's inability to shut down Moss. The Dolphins went into the game 19th in NFL pass defense.
"He's one guy," Bell said. "He's Randy Moss, but at the same time he's a human being. Ain't nothing special. You can't be scared of him. They just spread us out and got him in some good situations and he took advantage of it."
New England's offense is evolving with Cassel, who completed 30 of 43 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He also ran for a touchdown.
Cassel became only the fifth quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to throw for 400 yards in back-to-back games. His 415 yards is the fifth-most in Patriots' history, with Drew Bledsoe owning the top four performances.
Getting Moss involved helped the Patriots stockpile 530 total yards, the second-most real estate in franchise history behind the 597 yards they gained against the New York Jets in 1979.
"I mean, we blitzed them," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "We played man. We played zone. We played off. At the end of the day, the guy just kept finding people. That's what he's been doing pretty well. They caught and ran with the ball a little bit and made a bunch of plays."
For perspective, Moss caught four passes for 25 yards the last time he faced the Dolphins. That was Cassel's second career start, when the offensive strategy had more to do with keeping Cassel from situations in which he wouldn't make costly mistakes.
The Patriots don't have to play it so safe anymore. Cassel is growing up every week. He's reading defenses, finding his receivers, making the throws.
"Man, it's just a normal day at the office," Moss said with a smile as he left the podium.
Compared to what the Patriots' offense did last year, the plays sure are starting to look familiar.
MIAMI -- Matt Cassel has accomplished something only five other quarterbacks have done since the NFL-AFL merger 38 years ago.
Cassel has thrown for 400 yards in back-to-back games, joining Dan Fouts in 1982, Dan Marino in 1984, Phil Simms in 1985 and -- to add some levity to the list -- Billy Volek in 2004.
In addition to the 400-yard barrier, Cassel also has completed 30 passes and thrown for three touchdowns in consecutive games.
Cassel completed 30 of 41 attempts for 415 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's 48-28 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
He was 30 of 51 for 400 yards and three touchdowns in an overtime loss to the New York Jets the previous week.
For the record, Tom Brady has one career 400-yard game. He threw for 410 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in September 2002. The most he threw for in the Pats record-breaking 2007 campaign was 399 yards.
Nine weeks later, the Patriots flashed back with a high-powered passing attack in a 48-28 victory in Dolphin Stadium. The game featured six lead changes, but the Patriots outclassed their hosts.
Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel has been criticized for his inability to throw the long ball and for not being able to connect more with Randy Moss. On Sunday, they hooked up three times for touchdowns.
Cassel recorded his second straight 400-yard game, rolling up a career-high 415 passing yards. He also ran for a touchdown.
Moss had his best game of the year and looked like the receiver who could do whatever he wanted last season with Tom Brady running the offense. Moss finished with a season-high eight receptions for 125 yards.
The scene was wild enough suspensions might be warranted.
The altercation occurred after Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 41-28 fourth-quarter lead.
Crowder peeled away from his exchange with Light and jogged toward midfield with a smile on his face.
Crowder also was ejected.
MIAMI -- Miami Dolphins rookie left tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall draft pick and frontrunner among all AFC tackles in Pro Bowl voting, is out of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots because of a right lower-leg injury.
Long was assisted on the field and walked off gingerly late in the third quarter. He was examined on the trainers table behind the Dolphins' bench. His right shoe and sock were off. Then he was escorted into the locker room, presumably for X-rays.
No announcement has been made in the press box regarding the injury or whether Long will return, but it doesn't look like he will.
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|Randy Moss pulls in a one-handed catch over cornerback Jason Allen.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
The Patriots have taken a 24-21 lead in the third quarter at Dolphin Stadium on Moss' second touchdown reception, an 8-yard timing route in the back of the end zone with Allen defending.
It was the sixth lead change.
Two plays earlier, on a third-and-10 play, Matt Cassel absorbed a jarring hit before rifling a pass to Moss for a 15-yard gain even though Allen was flagged for defensive holding.
On Moss' first touchdown, he gave New England a 17-14 lead with 2:14 to go in the second quarter. Cassel threw a short pass to Moss, who made the catch, faked Allen to the ground and ran the rest of the way for a 25-yard score.
Moss has six receptions for 90 yards.Allen, the 16th-overall pick in 2006, has been used at both cornerback and safety this year. He entered Sunday with only one start.