Quick-hit thoughts after 3rd quarter

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
9:37
PM ET


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Quick-hit thoughts after the third quarter, with the Patriots leading 28-17:

1. Tom Brady's first regular-season interception in 358 pass attempts was one of the big plays of the quarter, the tipped ball returned by defensive lineman Jared Odrick to set up a touchdown two plays later. That tied things at 14.

2. The Patriots are having success playing quickly, to the point that the Dolphins are having trouble getting set on defense. The fast tempo, and usage of a two-receiver/two-tight end set, has been their best matchup tonight. The Dolphins are trying to match it with a nickel defense in this quarter but Tom Brady, with time to throw, is picking them apart. We hear a lot about pressure defenses, but this is a pressure offense.

3. Big defensive stand for the Patriots after the Dolphins advanced the ball inside the 2, forcing the Dolphins to settle for a field goal. It could have been a bigger stop had cornerback Devin McCourty been able to come up with a pass defended in which he came underneath Brandon Marshall and almost had the pick.

4. The Patriots' tight ends are dictating the subsitution patterns by the Dolphins, and at one point forced them to burn a timeout. BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 13-yard run came out of a three-tight end look in which the Dolphins had their nickel personnel on the field. The Patriots should win that matchup in the running game and they did. On the next play, the Dolphins tried to change personnel, but when the Patriots altered their own personnel, it forced the Dolphins to burn the timeout. That was a good example of how the Patriots' offense puts pressure on a defense, and the tight ends are a big part of that.

5. So much for those worries about Deion Branch not catching a pass in the preseason. He's been great.

6. I thought the Dolphins' defense was better than this.

7. Linebacker Dane Fletcher lined up as a short-yardage fullback on Aaron Hernandez' 1-yard touchdown catch. Fletcher had worked at fullback in practice last week.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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