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Sunday, December 2, 2012
Third-quarter thoughts from Miami

By Field Yates

MIAMI -- Entering the final period of play, the Patriots lead the Dolphins 17-10. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter:

1. Running game struggling. The Dolphins boast an impressive front seven on defense, and it has shown up so far today, as the Patriots have been limited to just 54 yards on 18 carries. Running back Stevan Ridley got an early score coming off a butchered punt attempt by the Dolphins, but has been quieted since. The Patriots inserted Marcus Cannon at right guard to start the second half (replacing Nick McDonald, who had replaced injured Dan Connolly), perhaps in an effort to boost the blocking up front. McDonald returned to the right guard spot on the offense's second series.

2. Defense holding its ground. After surrendering a long drive for a touchdown to close out the first half, the Patriots defense answered the call in the third quarter, keeping the Dolphins off of the scoreboard. The defense has done a nice job generating pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the absence of top rusher Chandler Jones and fellow end Jermaine Cunningham. The result hasn't necessarily shown up in terms of sacks, but Tannehill has been uncomfortable throughout the day.

3. Lloyd still catchless. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has been held in check through three quarters, with no catches and no targets. The Patriots have relied most heavily on Wes Welker, who is up near 100 yards for the day, and tight end Aaron Hernandez also has been a factor with six catches.

4. Slater stands out in coverage. It's not uncommon for wide receiver Matthew Slater to stand out as a coverage player on special teams, but he's been especially sharp today, recording two tackles down the field in punt coverage. The Patriots have been one of the best teams in terms of covering kicks throughout the season, and Slater and other core special teamers have been a big reason why.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the third quarter: tight end Daniel Fells (holding).