FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots woke up just in time on Sunday.
“The second half, it felt good to come back, regroup and play a better second half of football,” Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said after his team scored 24 straight points in the second half to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 on Sunday.
Down 17-3 in the third quarter after a dreadful first half, New England (6-2) rebounded to send the Dolphins (3-4) to their fourth straight loss.
“The second half was great,” said quarterback Tom Brady, noting that the first half was not very good.
How deep was the New England slumber? The Patriots gained 59 yards and had five first downs in the first half. Miami running back Lamar Miller ran for 63 yards on his own.
But it turned around, keeping Miami from moving to within a half-game of first place in the AFC East.
“We’re 6-2, we’re in a decent place in our division (first place),” said Brady, who played with a swollen right hand. “Would we love to be 8-0? Sure, so would every team in the NFL.”
It was the Patriots’ seventh straight win over the Dolphins, who haven’t won at Gillette Stadium since 2006. New England is 10-1 in the last 11 games of the division-rival series. The Patriots also have 14 straight home wins within the division.
Brady, who owned a 30.6 quarterback rating through the first possession in the second half, finished strong to get the needed win. New England had lost two of its previous three games.
Asked about his hand, Brady said, “My hand is perfect” and added “for the eighth week (of the season) I feel awesome.”
The Patriots got the benefit of two big penalty calls, one in each half, one in the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to New England after Brady fumbled — Olivier Vernon called for batting the ball ahead during the scramble.
But the Patriots also came up with huge plays on defense. Rookie Logan Ryan had two sacks, one resulting in a fumble (recovered by Ninkovich) that led to the tying touchdown. The Patriots also pulled off an acrobatic two-man interception in the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty doing a volleyball set to Marquice Cole as McCourty was falling out of bounds.
On the other side, Miami wide receiver Brian Hartline said, “We stopped scoring points. Then they started scoring points. … To me, in order to beat New England, you have to score 30 points. We didn’t score 30 points so we didn’t win.”
Caleb Sturgis, who kicked a 52-yard field goal in the first half, hit the right upright with a third-quarter try that shifted the game’s momentum. He also had a 39-yarder blocked by Chandler Jones with 2:50 left in the game (New England’s first blocked field goal since 2010).
Rookie Aaron Dobson caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brady and running backs Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley (79 yards on 14 carries) scored on runs, while Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals of 34 and 48 yards.
Brady, whose first pass of the day was picked off by Dimitri Patterson, finished 13-for-22 for 116 yards (one interception, a 69.5 rating). Miami’s Ryan Tannahill, who made some key mistakes, was 22-for-42 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (one on a heave at the end of the game).
The Dolphins, second in the league in red zone offense coming into the game, built their halftime lead on a 4-yard pass to Brandon Gibson, a 5-yard TD pass to Daniel Thomas and a 52-yard Sturgis field goal.
Patriots fans booed when their team took a knee with the ball and 30 seconds left in the half — the booing brought up by coach Bill Belichick to his players at halftime. There were more boos when the Patriots went three-and-out, including the second Jared Odrick sack of the day to start the third quarter. That led to the field goal attempt that Sturgis clanged.
The 17-0 third-quarter run came after the Patriots came into the game having been outscored 44-9 in their first seven third quarters — and sent the Dolphins on their way to another loss.
“We had things going good for us but we didn’t execute like we should have in the second half,” Odrick said.