Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots
October, 27, 2013
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts from the New England Patriots' 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium:
What it means: The Patriots improve to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in AFC East play, putting them in prime position even though they haven't played their best football.
How it unfolded: After playing a horrific first half and hearing boos from the home crowd after kneeling on the ball at the end of the second quarter, the Patriots turned a 17-3 halftime defcit into a 27-17 victory. The turning point of the game came in the third quarter, when Ryan Tannehill was sacked on third down, Caleb Sturgis' 46-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright, and the Patriots answered with their first touchdown of the day.
Brady's hand swells: One week after quarterback Tom Brady had his right throwing hand crunched on a third-quarter sack, and was later seen looking down at his fingers on the sideline, CBS cameras had multiple close-ups of Brady's hand during the game. Brady threw an interception on his first pass of the game, and had long stretches in which he struggled. On this day, he gutted it out. No style points in this one.
Rookie Ryan provides spark: What changed for the Patriots' defense in the second half? Several things, but it was a personnel switch that mostly caught our attention as rookie cornerback Logan Ryan was inserted into the game in nickel packages after not playing in the first half. Ryan's blindside strip sack of Tannehill set up the game-tying touchdown. Ryan later showed up with a pass breakup and quarterback sack. Ryan has been a playmaker for the team, as last week he had a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Stock watch -- Stephen Gostkowski: On a day when the Dolphins struggled on field goals, it further highlights the strong work the Patriots are getting from Gostkowski (field goals of 34 and 48 yards, excellent kickoffs).
Where's Ridley? One of the puzzling aspects of the game for the Patriots was the lack of usage of running back Stevan Ridley (six snaps in first half, not including kneel-down). Once Ridley got more involved early in the second half, the offense seemed to find its groove.
Field goal block: One week after being called for the NFL's first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pushing on a field goal attempt, the Patriots blocked a late fourth-quarter field goal (credited to Chandler Jones) that kept it a two-score game. What a difference a week makes. The Patriots' last blocked field goal was Oct. 4, 2010, against Miami.
Injuries to monitor: Patriots starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was carted off in the second quarter with a right leg injury that looked serious. Also, No. 2/3 cornerback Kyle Arrington left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return.
What's next: The Patriots host the Steelers next Sunday, followed by their off weekend.