Patriots Live Blog: Defense Stands Tall as Patriots Pull Out Ugly Win in Miami

Daniel Thomas Jerod MayoFinals, Patriots 23-16: The Patriots definitely didn’t play their best game, but a win is a win and they’re all not going to be pretty.

Tom Brady’s interception-less streak ended after 202 consecutive passes and the offensive line, after 10 quarters without a sack, relented and Brady saw more of the turf than he would’ve liked.

But the defense came through time after time, even amidst the secondary issues creeping up again, and held the Dolphins to a trio of field goals on the day.

Stevan Ridley, who struggled early in the game, came through in a big way late in the day and ended up with 71 yards and a touchdown in the win. But even bigger was Ridley’s achievement of a 1,000-yard season, becoming just the third running back in the past eight seasons to do so.

It was a gritty and ugly win, but with a long week ahead and two tough opponents heading to Gillette Stadium in the next two weeks, this could be a good motivator for the Patriots to figure out their problems.

Fourth Quarter, 0:36, Patriots 23-16: Dan Carpenter just made his third field goal of the day, and it’s a show of the Dolphins’ inadequacies that Tannehill hasn’t been able to punch them into the end zone more than once.

Clearly this offense is having trouble in the red zone, and in the big picture Miami has just beaten themselves today, because they’ve had enough opportunities to win.

Fourth Quarter, 1:16, Patriots 23-13: Gostkowski’s miss early on the day made it three of four misses for the usually reliable kicker. Since, though, he’s been on point, booting 43, 32 and 20 yard field goals to give the Patriots a comfortable 23-13 lead.

Maybe those misses have reinvigorated him and are making him more motivated to get back on track.

Fourth Quarter, 2:06, Patriots 20-13: Stevan Ridley has been a pleasant surprise for the Patriots this season. And he just achieved something only two other Patriots running backs have since 2004.

Ridley went over 1,000 yards on the season during that drive. His emergence has been a terrific addition to the Patriots’ offensive attack. Without the running game, New England likely wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it has been.

You’ve got to give it up for the 23-year-old, he’s obviously taken the leading role in the offense and really usurped BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ role as the starting tailback. Kudos.

Fourth Quarter, 7:26, Patriots 20-13: Just when the defense looks to be breaking once again, the leaders step up in a big way.

Jerod Mayo wouldn’t talk about his place in the Pro Bowl voting earlier this week, but he just continues to establish himself as the best middle linebacker in the AFC.

Not only does he lead the NFL in tackles, but he always seems to come up with huge plays at the biggest moments.

A sack of Tannehill to force the field goal, and suddenly this lead isn’t so much in jeopardy.

Fourth Quarter, 14:26, Patriots 20-10: The running game is finally finding some legs — yes, pun intended — and that’s been a huge part of the Patriots finally finding offensive success again.

Stevan Ridley and Woodhead are making things difficult for the Dolphins, but without some of the biggest pieces along the offensive line Brady has been on the ground a lot.

After 10 quarters of sack-less football, Brady has been taken down four times today, and with little time to find receivers it’s no wonder the Patriots can’t establish a rhythm on offense.

End Third Quarter, Patriots 17-10: An eventful game in the first half has now turned extremely uneventful at least to start the second.

Tom Brady started hot on the afternoon, but has seemed to struggle since throwing an interception. He’s just 20 of 35 on the day, and the ground game has found a difficult time establishing anything consistent.

With Danny Woodhead having an impact, maybe the Patriots can finally develop a drive on the ground and add onto their lead with another touchdown to make things comfortable.

3:13 p.m.: With so much emotion on the field with the Chiefs’ players in Kansas City, you can’t help but enjoy what is turning into a dominant performance in front of the home crowd.

A little more than 24 hours after Jovan Belcher took his own life in the parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs are up 24-14 and look as though they are on their way to earning their second win of the season.

You’ve just got to feel for these players.

Third Quarter, 6:45, Patriots 17-10: Vince Wilfork already has a fumble recovery in his homecoming to Miami, but he’s been beasting on the Dolphins’ offensive line all afternoon.

Wilfork has the defensive line starting to look more like the stingy unit that’s been dominating opposing quarterbacks all season, instead of the soft group that let Tannehill march downfield earlier in the game.

New England really needs more guys to step up like Wilfork so Brady and the offense can do work.

Third Quarter, 12:45, Patriots 17-10: The offensive line health just continues to suffer.

Dan Connolly left the game early in the first half and he still isn’t back on the field, which is forcing Marcus Cannon into extended work at right guard.

With Mankins and now Connolly out, the Patriots are in some dire straits along the line. No wonder the running game is essentially non-existent against the Dolphins today.

Halftime, Patriots 17-10: Some streaks came to an end during that first half, and the Patriots’ offensive dominance doesn’t seem to be extending into Miami.

Brady threw a pick, his first in over 200 passes, and he was sacked for the first time in over 10 quarters of play. The stingy Dolphins defense has locked down Brady and the offensive attack, and Tannehill has exploited the Patriots’ struggling secondary to pull Miami within a score.

The running game has struggled, gaining just 10 yards on eight carries, but Wes Welker has continued his dominance over the Dolphins with 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown already.

If the Patriots hope to extend their lead and lock down the AFC East crown, they’ll need to establish a more consistent running game and keep pumping Welker the ball. The defense needs to stand up and make some plays, too, otherwise this game could get a little too close for comfort — as if it’s not already.

Second Quarter, 0:28, Patriots 17-10: The bend but don’t break is starting to break a little too much.

Tannehill is beating the Patriots on the ground and through the air, but his receivers are also doing a good job of exploiting the Patriots’ secondary.

The defensive line ended up relenting, too, as Tannehill took advantage of a play-fake on the ground and suddenly it’s just a 17-10 lead for the Pats.

Second Quarter, 6:58, Patriots 17-3: With so many questions about Jermaine Cunningham’s absence, I’m pretty sure the concerns are being quelled.

Trevor Scott, Vince Wilfork and the rest of the defensive line have stepped up big, even forcing a big fumble in a strip-sack of Tannehill.

The Patriots need to continue taking advantage of the good field position on offense, though.

Three points from Gostkowski on a 43-yard field goal will help, but it’s still only a 14-point lead.

Second Quarter, 9:21, Patriots 14-3: Wes Welker has a history of crushing the Dolphins, and the dominance just continues.

Welker now has nine catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. It’s like they just can’t stop him.

With so many questions surrounding Welker’s long-term future in New England earlier this season, I’m pretty sure we can settle that he’s continually earning himself a place in this offense for years to come.

Second Quarter, 12:01, Patriots 7-3: You don’t mess with the Zoltan, coming soon to theaters near you!

The refs may have called roughing the kicker, but I’m pretty sure Mesko was the one doing the roughing on that hit. Yikes.

End First Quarter, Patriots 7-3: A botched punt seemed to set the Patriots up for a big day offensively, but the Dolphins aren’t going quietly into the sunset.

Brady led a touchdown drive deep in the Miami zone, and Ridley put the Patriots up 7-0. But more kicking issues from Gostkowski kept New England from taking an early 10-0 lead.

Instead the Dolphins intercepted Brady, breaking his 202 consecutive passes with a pick streak, and turned the turnover into three points to cut into the Patriots lead.

The four-point lead isn’t that concerning. But with the Patriots struggling to cope with injuries, this could get interesting.

First Quarter, 1:23, Patriots 7-0: There goes the streak.

Brady had thrown 202 consecutive passes without an interception, but that pick by Rashard Jones just broke that up.

The throw was a bit of a force, trying to thread the needle to Hernandez. The streak was of interest, seeing that Brady set the record with 309 straight passes without a pick in 2010. Then again, these things aren’t meant to last forever.

First Quarter, 4:03, Patriots 7-0: Aqib Talib has been credited with a lot of the improvements in the Patriots’ secondary. But some luck may be on his side in Miami.

Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline just burned Talib badly, but was overthrown by Ryan Tannehill and Talib didn’t have to get berated quite so badly on the sidelines.

Still, Talib is clearly not solid in his breaks and needs to focus more on his man and less in the backfield.

First Quarter, 6:53, Patriots 7-0: Special teams has been a high point for the Patriots so far this season, but the kicking game is keeping them down.

After that miss, Stephen Gostkowski has now missed three of his past four field goal attempts. And all those free agents that the Patriots worked out a few weeks ago could be making an appearance on the roster if things continue this way.

Gostkowski has been fairly consistent his entire career in New England, but this season seems to be putting his future in doubt.

First Quarter, 11:53, Patriots 7-0: The special teams has been truly “special” over the past few weeks. But sometimes you just get lucky.

A botched punt by the Dolphins led to great field position for the Patriots early in the first quarter, and Stevan Ridley pounded it in for the two-yard touchdown to get things going quickly.

1:02 p.m.: The Patriots have a chance to clinch the AFC East with a win in Miami, but can they pull off the feat with so many questions lingering around the team.

Let’s take a look at our weekly Three and Out with the three biggest questions heading into the Sunshine Showdown.

1. Trouble in Miami – The Patriots have had their fair share of trouble in Miami over the years, going just 14-33 lifetime in the Sunshine state. But Brady has had his own trouble over the years, going just 5-5. With two consecutive wins in Miami, can the Patriots continue their streak?

2. Replacing Gronk – Visanthe Shiancoe is out for Sunday’s game, so a lot of the pressure to replace Gronk’s production will lie on Hernandez and Fells, as well as Wes Welker, who tends to do pretty well against the Dolphins.

3. Secondary issues — Aqib Talib has brought a spark to the Patriots’ defense over the past few weeks, but can the turnover trend continue in Miami? It will be huge in establishing early dominance for the Patriots.

12:48 p.m.: Wes Welker just dominates the Miami Dolphins.

In just nine games against the division rivals, Welker has caught 75 passes for 985 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yard score last season.

But the outrageous performances aren’t more than a coincidence, at least according to Welker.

Welker said over the weekend, that his big performances against the Dolphins are completely “random.”

12:28 p.m.: With Logan Mankins out for yet another week and Sebastian Vollmer struggling with a lingering back issue, the Patriots could use all the offensive line help they could get.

But for all you hoping for Brian Waters to make a triumphant return, I’m sorry to burst your bubble.

Waters, who was placed on the “did not report” list during training camp, is officially not an option for the Patriots any longer this season. There was reportedly a deal in the works for the Pro Bowl guard to return, but the window for his return has now closed.

So, Tom Brady’s left with the makeshift line in front of him the rest of the way, which is worrisome but hasn’t been a cause for too much concern yet this year.

12:08 p.m.: November may technically be over, meaning the end of sweet mustaches and interesting facial hair decisions. But Wes Welker apparently isn’t quite ready to let go just yet.

Welker, who is currently third in the NFL with 80 receptions, rocked a solid mustache throughout “Movember” and has now turned that stache into a Fu Manchu.

I’m not sure if Welker will have his best day down in Miami, although past history would indicate he’ll hold his own. But at least we know he’s having the best mustache of anyone on the field.

Check out the Fu Manchu below.

Wes Welker

11:35 a.m.: The sunshine showdown is getting closer and closer to kickoff, and the Patriots will yet again be without a few of their big stars.

Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins and Chandler Jones are all set to miss another week of action, as has been the expectation.

But with a need for the Patriots to fill those holes down in Miami, Bill Belichick had to make some decisions on today’s inactives.

Visanthe Shiancoe was the unfortunate casualty of the situation, getting a seat on the afternoon to give Daniel Fells, Aaron Hernandez and other the chance to fill the void at tight end.

Patriots:
TE Visanthe Shianoce,
G Mitch Petrus,
FB James Develin
DB Derrick Martin
DE Chandler Jones,
G Logan Mankins
TE Rob Gronkowski

Dolphins:
QB Pat Develin,
S Jonathan Amaya
LB Josh Kaddu
OT Will Yeatman
TE Michael Egnew
TE Kyle Miller
DT Kheeston Randall

8 a.m. ET: The Patriots are on the verge of clinching the AFC East for the fourth straight year and the 10th time in the last 12 seasons. But a trip to Miami — which, mind you, is no easy feat — still stands in their way.

After a Thanksgiving night feast at the Meadowlands — a 49-19 rout of the rival Jets — Tom Brady and the Patriots are primed for another meal in Miami. The Patriots have averaged nearly 44 points per game during their five-game win streak and appear to be ready to eat up more yards and opponents. But taking the AFC East crown won’t come without a challenge.

The Dolphins’ defense, led by pass-rushing powerhouse Cameron Wake, has been one of the best in football all season, and it should offer Brady and company another big test on Sunday. Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been inconsistent on the whole this season, but a 21-point fourth quarter comeback against Seattle last week is reason to have faith in him.

Tannehill has the skills and arm strength necessary to take advantage of New England’s fickle defensive play. But with Aqib Talib’s addition and the return of Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung, the Patriots’ secondary looks to have new life and could be a problem for Miami.

There will be lots to watch out for in Miami, considering Brady is just 5-5 there as a starter, and the Patriots’ offense should provide plenty of fireworks.

The game is set for 1 p.m., but we’ll have all the action right here for you throughout the day. So, keep it locked here for all the news, notes and analysis on your New England Patriots.

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