Sunday, December 6, 2009
Halftime observations from Pats-Fins
By Tim Graham
MIAMI -- Is it possible an unsuccessful fourth-down decision could cost the New England Patriots another game?
They appeared to be in command of Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins in Land Shark Stadium, scoring touchdowns on each of their first two drives and marching for another score late in the second quarter.
Rather than kick the field goal for a 17-7 lead, Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Dolphins' 6-yard line. Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter stuffed running back Sammy Morris for no gain -- and no points.
The Dolphins responded with an 11-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a Dan Carpenter field goal to trim the Patriots' lead to four points at intermission.
The Patriots haven't lost two games in a row since November of 2006. But if the Dolphins can surprise them in the second half and win, then the Patriots will have not only lost two in a row, but also three out of their past four.
And the Patriots still would be looking for their first true road victory of the year with two left, at Buffalo in two weeks and at Houston in the regular-season finale.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has looked sharp despite the injured finger that caused a stir before the game. Brady has one incompletion in 14 attempts, 196 yards and a touchdown. He connected with Randy Moss for 58 yards on a fake reverse to open scoring and hit Wes Welker for 58 yards up the seam during the possession that ended in the failed fourth-down play.
On the long ball to Welker, Dolphins outside linebacker Jason Taylor suffered a right shoulder injury. His return has been categorized as "questionable," but he appeared to be in agony when he went back to the Dolphins' locker room.
Chad Henne has been testing the Patriots' secondary. Ricky Williams went into Sunday with three straight 100-yard rushing games, but the Dolphins seem intent on winning through the air after seeing what Drew Brees did Monday night.
Williams has rushed seven times for 33 yards, but Henne has thrown 25 times, completing 18 for 186 yards and a touchdown. He threw an interception when he didn't notice Brandon Meriweather playing deep center field and laid out a pass for Davone Bess.