First off, let the record show that this game was far closer than the final score would lead you to believe.
With that said, it was sure tough to watch those final 8 or 9 minutes. But the first 3 quarters were entertaining - and it felt good to be playing a big game this late in the season once again.
Onto some of the headlines:
TWO BIG TURNING POINTS
When I think back to the "ebb and flow" of the game, there are two key turning points that really stand out. The first one was towards the end of the 3rd quarter with the Pats leading 24-21. It's the drive in which Jake Long hurts his ankle and has to leave. The Dolphins had gotten down to New England's 27 yard line. But a holding penalty by Samson Satele and a sack by Richard Seymour (who was quiet most of the day when Jake Long was in) would put Miami back at NE's 41 and force them to punt rather than tack on 3 with a Dan Carpenter FG, which would have tied the game.
The other key turning point, the biggest of the game, came 3 drives later. With the score 31-28 Patriots, and with the crowd as loud as they've been in years, the Dolphins had New England in a 3rd & 10 situation at their own 42. A stop on that play would have forced NE to punt and would have kept momentum squarely on Miami's side. However, Jabar Gaffney caught a 23-yard pass in front of Jason Allen from Matt Cassel for a first down. Randy Moss scored his 3rd TD just 2 plays later and the Dolphins would never get back into this game. You know - if Jason Allen can't defend Jabar Gaffney on one of the most important plays of the season, then what good is he?
DEFENSIVE PLAY IS OFFENSIVE
I seriously am offended with how this Miami defense performed on Sunday. The Patriots drew up the perfect gameplan and executed it beautifully. The Dolphins had no answer.
Did anyone really expect the Pats to line up in the shotgun right from the beginning with 4 and 5 receivers? Is the "spread offense" something you thought Bill Belichick would use? Clearly, the Dolphins didn't think so. Both Jason Ferguson and Yeremiah Bell said after the game that they were surprised. But what worries me more is how the coaching staff failed to adjust to New England's offense at halftime.
This was the first time that I would say this coaching staff got out-coached.
And what was with the one-on-one coverage on Randy Moss? He's the game's best receiver. You don't cover him one-on-one? Sure, we can complain about how Jason Allen was put on Moss for much of the game. But when Andre Goodman lined up to cover him, the results weren't any better. The bottom line is that you need safety help over the top of Randy at all times. Moss even said that he felt "disrespected" by being matched up with a corner one-on-one. Disrespected. Well 125 yards and 3 touchdowns later, there's nothing left to say. The coaches blew this particular matchup - and it was costly.
Oh - and I'm not buying Yeremiah Bell's theory here. He said that doubling Moss would have created holes elsewhere because of NE's use of the spread. That's true. But you need to take away the opposing team's best player. Teams stack 8 in the box to stop Ronnie Brown against us. And we should have doubled Moss all day and took our chances elsewhere. Would the results have been different? Probably not because this entire secondary really played like crap. But I just hate getting beat by the one player that you can't let beat you.
I'm sure they'll be more info on Monday. But it seems like both Jake Long and Greg Camarillo avoided any devastating injuries. Long got his ankle rolled up but said he'll be all right. Camarillo said he has a "twisted knee" with an MRI to come on Monday. But he expects to be OK as well. If both of these guys are practicing on Wednesday, then I know even more I'll be thankful for on Thursday at dinner.
PORTER LOSES HIS COOL
It'll be interesting to see how Tony Sparano deals with Joey Porter this week following his mini temper-tantrum towards the end of Sunday's game. Porter was called for an "unnecessary roughness" penalty and an "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalty within a minute of each other late in the 4th quarter. Porter also refused to leave the field following these penalties when Charlie Anderson came out on the field to replace him. That kind of insubordination is really a direct shot at the head coach. It's Porter telling Sparano that he's not going to listen to Tony.
After the game, Porter didn't speak with reporters.
This will be Sparano's first test with one of the team's best players. How he handles the situation will be very telling.
-Chad Pennington is still the man. He had quite the day, throwing for 3 touchdowns and running for another. Of course, that interception in the 4th was killer. But he was just trying to make a play. Bottom line: he led an offense that accounted for 392 yards and 28 points, personally having a hand in all 4 of Miami's touchdowns. CP10 has nothing to be ashamed of. He was outstanding.
-Davone Bess made up for his two dropped passes from last week by making a couple of big plays. If Camarillo has to miss any time, it'll be interesting to see how Bess does filling in. Hopefully, though, that's not the case.
-Speaking of drops, I forgive Ted Ginn. Yes, he had 2 dropped balls. But those are very rare for him and I think it was a case of him looking to do too much and try and look upfield to make a big play before he looked the ball into his hands. His 5 catch, 88 yard performance was still a solid day and I think he's really on track to become a very, very good player.
-Samson Satele was dominated all game long by Vince Wilfork. I'm beginning to wonder just how good Satele really is. Was he just a player who looked better last year because of how bad everyone else was around him?
-Where the hell is the pass rush? The Dolphins got no pressure on Cassel, which allowed him to sit back and pick apart Miami's secondary.
-Just how bad was the defense? They forced 2 turnovers and held the Pats to 3/8 on 3rd down....and still surrendered 48 points.
-Why no Patrick Cobbs at all today?
-Ronnie Brown needs the ball more. (Why does it feel like I say this every week?)
-What a catch in the endzone by Ricky Williams!
-That whole Channing Crowder/Matt Light thing was ridiculous. Crowder didn't even do anything wrong. He was just trying to not get his hair ripped out. Seriously, who pulls another man's hair? If Channing gets suspended at all by the league, I'm going to flip out.
-Jason Allen isn't good. I know this will spark debate, but what the hell. I'm speaking my mind. Jason Allen is not a good player.
Yes, this loss hurt. But this team is still only one game out of the playoffs. And with a winnable game upcoming, all is not lost.
But even so, we should all be proud of this team. They've come such a long way from last year's disaster. This was just going to be a "rebuilding year" back in August. For this team to still be playing meaningful games this late into the season is something we should all just enjoy.