Pretty much a dominating effort all the way around for a Patriots team that came out with a bit of anger.
Tom Brady's reaction as he made his way to the sideline prior to the final play shows you just how much this game meant to him and more importantly, to this team. Just a huge divisional win for this team.
Fourth quarter, 2:00, Patriots 41-14: The Patriots pick up a first down that brings it down to the two-minute warning. Bill Belichick is pacing up and down the sidelines congratulating his troops with what appears to be a smile on his face.
Fourth quarter, 4:36, Patriots 41-14: Jarrad Page has continued to earn a little more playing time week by week, and he just picked off his first pass as a Patriot, diving to collect a tipped ball just before it hit the ground. Bill Belichick has waxed poetic about Page's work ethic, and he was one of the team's practice players of the week last week. So there's a little bit of a reward.
Fourth quarter, 6:30, Patriots 41-14: Goodness gracious, this thing is getting ugly. Brandon Marshall cut off his route over the middle of the field, and Chad Henne's pass landed in Patrick Chung's gut. He raced wistfully down the field for a 51-yard touchdown. That gives him a punt block, a field goal block and a pick-six in this game.
Fourth quarter, 7:25, Patriots 34-14: There are a lot of things to like about this game aside from the special teams play. There was New England's game plan to throw the whole playbook at Brandon Marshall, and Rob Ninkovich's two interceptions and one sack, and the Patriots' commitment to the running game during the meat-and-potatoes portion of the night. The special teams stuff was just so reminiscent of how this team won games at the beginning of the decade when they needed to do it in different ways.
Fourth quarter, 10:00, Patriots 34-14: Patriots fans will remember the last time the team returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown. It came in the 2001 AFC Championship in Pittsburgh.
Fourth quarter, 12:36, Patriots 34-14: Darius Butler has replaced Kyle Arrington at right cornerback. And Brandon Meriweather is wearing a hat on the sideline. The Patriots are probably taking extra caution with Meriweather.
Fourth quarter, 14:05, Patriots 34-14: Holy cow, this has been an amazing special teams performance. Patrick Chung blocked a field goal, and Kyle Arrington recovered it and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown that has sent thousands to the parking lot. That was an interesting decision to kick the field goal from 53 yards out, as the lower trajectory is conducive to blocks. However, Chung broke right through the defense and probably would have blocked a kick of any height.
End of third quarter, Patriots 27-14: The Patriots got away with one on the last play of the quarter. Tully Banta-Cain was running off the field when the coaching staff yelled at him to get back on, and he looked lost when he got up to the line. Yet, Miami ran to the right and didn't exploit it. And with that, this is a massively important 15 minutes for the Patriots, who blew too many of these double-digit leads in 2009. Here is where they can prove they're a new, improved team.
Third quarter, 4:02, Patriots 27-14: Stephen Gostkowski booted another kickoff through the end zone, and two other things caught my eye on that play. First, Danny Woodhead was getting shoved around by two Dolphins after the whistle, so it's very clear he has gotten under their skin. Also, Kyle Arrington wasn't on the field in kickoff coverage, so Bill Belichick is trying to give him some extra rest, whereas last week Arrington didn't have that luxury.
Third quarter, 4:02, Patriots 27-14: Tom Brady hit Danny Woodhead over the middle, and the little guy scampered through the defense for an 11-yard touchdown on third-and-5. The Patriots benefited from a couple miscues from the officials. On the play before the touchdown, Matt Light clearly held Cameron Wake, but the flag was picked up — after the Patriots backed up 10 yards on their own, no less — and then Woodhead was down before reaching the goal line. Miami didn't challenge, though.
Third quarter, 8:49, Patriots 20-14: Brandon Meriweather has a knee injury, and his return is questionable. He is backpedaling on the sideline without much supervision from the medical staff, so it probably isn't anything serious.
Third quarter, 8:56, Patriots 20-14: Miami exploited the middle of the Patriots' defense, which couldn't hold up at the end of the drive. Chad Henne hit Ricky Williams with a screen pass over the middle, and Williams scored easily from 28 yards away. That scoring drive only took 3:48. And, now that high-scoring game everyone expected looks like it's underway.
Third quarter, 12:44, Patriots 20-7: Wow, that was quick. BenJarvus Green-Ellis burst through the middle and broke through two tackles to score a 12-yard touchdown, and the Patriots are playing some serious football right now. This is the second-half guile they've really been looking for, and it's been impressive. Yet, there is still a long way to go in this one.
Third quarter, 13:09, Patriots 13-7: This is like an old-school Patriots game with these momentum-seizing plays on special teams. Patrick Chung blocked a punt to set up the Pats at the Miami 15, and this thing has swung in a big way.
Third quarter, 14:46, Patriots 13-7: And just like that, the Patriots have seized their first lead of the game. Brandon Tate ran the second-half kickoff 103 yards for an electrifying touchdown. Sammy Morris launched the initial block, and Danny Woodhead made the key block on the right sideline to help spring Tate, who is the Patriots' best kick returner in at least 15 years and maybe even 30.
Halftime, Dolphins 7-6: The Patriots left some points on the board again. Tom Brady ran the Dan Marino Special — the fake spike — and then delivered a pass to the left side of the end zone that grazed off Randy Moss' fingertips, but Stephen Gostkowski added a 30-yard field goal as time expired. That fake spike is something the Patriots work on a ton, and you can tell Moss was aggravated that he couldn't capitalize.
Now that the teams have hit the locker room, there is a a maintenance crew working on the new sod on the field, which hasn't caused any glaring issues so far.
The Patriots have also done some different things to limit Brandon Marshall, who doesn't have any receptions so far. One strategy has been lining up Tully Banta-Cain over Marshall, jamming him at the line before a cornerback or safety picks him up in coverage and Banta-Cain goes to set the edge.
Wide receiver Davone Bess is the killer, though, registering six catches for 71 yards and one touchdown, and he has broken the hearts of many Patriots would-be tacklers.
Second quarter, 2:47, Dolphins 7-3: Rob Ninkovich is having himself a ball game, and the outside linebacker picked off his second pass in as many defensive series. Ninkovich dove in front of Patrick Cobbs to halt another good Dolphins drive, which was aided by a pass interference call on Devin McCourty. Ninkovich knows Henne pretty well from their brief time together with the Dolphins.
Second quarter, 7:13, Dolphins 7-3: The Patriots have to be kicking themselves after their 16-play drive only led to a field goal, but right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has gotten his lunch taken by Cameron Wake, who has torched Vollmer twice and nearly killed Tom Brady on first-and-goal. Also, nice job by Zoltan Mesko to snag a poor snap from Jake Ingram and put the ball down for Stephen Gostkowski, who nailed a 23-yarder.
Second quarter, 9:51, Dolphins 7-0: The Patriots have run the ball seven consecutive times and on nine of their 11 plays this drive. They've got a third-and-2 coming up after the timeout.
End of first quarter, Dolphins 7-0: In a clear effort to use up some clock, the Patriots went to BenJarvus Green-Ellis for their first two plays of the drive, and he gained 12 quick yards. By the way, that was Rob Ninkovich's first career pick.
First quarter, 1:19, Dolphins 7-0: Chad Henne forced a ball to Brandon Marshall, and Rob Ninkovich was in great position to record an interception. The Pats take over at their own 40. Earlier in the drive, Davone Bess made a few more Patriots miss a tackle on a third-and-11 conversion. Bess has been a real pest so far.
First quarter, 2:56, Dolphins 7-0: Left tackle Matt Light was bagged for a holding penalty that wiped away a 36-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez, who broke an ankle or two once he got into the third level of the defense. The Dolphins have the ball at their 33 after Zoltan Mesko's punt.
First quarter, 5:48, Dolphins 7-0: Chad Henne hit wide receiver Davone Bess for a 19-yard touchdown pass to put the Dolphins on the board. Bess caught the pass moving to the right sideline and flew past Patrick Chung, who originally appeared to be in good position. Bess had two catches for 40 yards on the drive, and he has made too many Patriots miss tackles already in this game.
First quarter, 7:25, 0-0: Chad Henne had to burn his first timeout after letting the play clock dwindle to one second, but the Dolphins are driving deep into New England territory. Davone Bess made a handful of would-be tacklers miss on a 21-yard pass to start the drive, and Ricky Williams has run three times since for 22 yards. Miami has a first-and-10 at the Pats' 21. The Patriots need to do a better job on the right edge in the running game. Left tackle Jake Long is killing guys.
First quarter, 9:50, 0-0: Tom Brady and the offense failed to pick up a first down on their opening possession, but the Dolphins got away with a clear facemask on third down. Either way, Zoltan Mesko's 60-yard punt will force the Dolphins to start their next drive on their own 36.
First quarter, 10:56, 0-0: That was a pretty sound defensive series for the Patriots, who got a sack from Mike Wright (thanks to a good rush from Tully Banta-Cain) and then stuffed Ronnie Brown on third down in the Wildcat formation. The Dolphins didn't bother to pick up Brandon Meriweather or Jermaine Cunningham, and the tandem for a loss of two yards.
Wes Welker, who had the second-best punt return average in the NFL last season, muffed the punt but recovered immediately at the New England 10.
First quarter, 13:45, 0-0: Vince Wilfork started the game at right end, and Mike Wright was on the nose. Kyle Arrington got the start at right cornerback.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: Stephen Gostkowski's opening kickoff cleared the end zone, and the Dolphins start this shindig at their own 20-yard line.
8:36 p.m.: The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to defer. The Dolphins will receive the opening kickoff.
8:29 p.m.: Well, that was unfortunate. The Patriots ran out of the tunnel, and the Dolphin mascot charged at them and had to be "held back" by four people. Awful on so many levels.
8:10 p.m.: The Miami faithful unleashed the biggest roar of the night when the video boards showed Dan Marino walking down by the field.
7:56 p.m.: The Patriots and Dolphins are on the field conducting their team stretch, and there's only about a half hour until kickoff.
7:20 p.m.: The Dolphins announced their inactives, and the list includes linebacker Channing Crowder and Jared Odrick. Also, Tyler Thigpen has been listed as Miami's third quarterback, so any talk of him lining up in the Wildcat can be put to rest for the night.
7:14 p.m.: Rookies Dane Fletcher and Brandon Deaderick will make their NFL debuts Monday night. The Patriots announced their inactive list, which includes running back Fred Taylor (toe), offensive lineman Nick Kaczur (back), cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot), running back Thomas Clayton, defensive lineman Kyle Love, wide receiver Taylor Price, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and linebacker Shawn Crable.
6:28 p.m.: Assistant strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash is helping outside linebacker Shawn Crable, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and defensive lineman Kyle Love get ready on the field. The extra attention is something worth monitoring.
6:16 p.m.: The grounds crew couldn't put this sod over the infield until Sunday. But in preparation for last week's Dolphins-Jets game, the crew installed the sod four full days in advance. With three extra days to settle, the field would have been in much better — not ideal, but definitely better — condition than it will be for Monday.
6:02 p.m.: Tight end Aaron Hernandez, wide receiver Julian Edelman, quarterback Brian Hoyer, running back Sammy Morris and running back Danny Woodhead have taken the field, and they're working out on the infield side, which kind of looks like crap.
5:52 p.m.: The Patriots are officially in the house, and like always, punter Zoltan Mesko is the first player on the field.
5:46 p.m.: There are about 100 people on the field setting up the biggest American flag I've ever seen. My deductive reasoning skills lead me to believe this is in anticipation of the national anthem.
4:34 p.m.: Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano just spent about an hour doing laps around the field. Sparano, who has lost about 70 pounds since last season, walked the length of the field and then jogged down the end lines. Since players don't typically start showing up to the stadium until about three hours prior to kickoff, Sparano was doing his workouts two hours before his players will even show up.
3:54 p.m.: It's pretty windy here, so that could cool things down a little bit on the field. But after practicing in some fairly cold weather over the last few days, the Patriots are definitely going to feel the heat in Miami. (It's about 30-40 degrees warmer in Miami than it has been in Foxboro in recent days.) This could impact them in the second half, when they've dealt with the brunt of their road issues since the start of 2009.
3:16 p.m.: Here's a view from the press box. If you're curious, home plate would be in the corner at the bottom of the photo.
3:12 p.m.: When you're watching on TV, you might be able to notice the baseball infield in the lower left corner of your screen. The new sod is a little darker than the rest of the grass, so it might stick out. And, as always in a case like this, injuries on the new turf will be something of a concern.
3:05 p.m.: NESN.com is on the scene at Sun Life Stadium, where crews are still working on the field, which was sodded yesterday to cover up the infield. It's a hot one here, too, with temperatures in the 90s, and that could be a big advantage for the Dolphins if it doesn't cool down Monday evening.
8 a.m.: The stakes are high in Miami, where the Patriots take on the Dolphins on Monday Night Football in a game that has huge AFC East implications, so keep up with NESN.com's live blog throughout the day.