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Dolphins vs. Patriots: Dolphins Hang On In a Nail-Biter

The Dolphins, led by Ryan Tannehill and some backup defensive backs held on to beat the New Patriots for the first time since 2009.

To beat the Patriots, you have to score TDs.  That's just what Mike Wallace did this week!
To beat the Patriots, you have to score TDs. That's just what Mike Wallace did this week!
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

If Stephen Ross wanted to make some more money, he should invest in heart medication.  The Dolphins have played in close games all season, but none as important as this.  The Dolphins need to win at least 2 of the last 3 games to remain in playoff contention.  The big bad Patriots rolled into town looking to end those dreams while also looking to clinch the division and take the lead in the race for home field advantage.

The game started slow with both teams struggling to score points.  The Patriots had a 15 play opening drive after a Miami stalled drive, but only netted a field goal from it.  The Patriots did not score again until just after the two minute warning where Brady hit backup tight end Hoomanawanui in the back of the end zone.  The tight end made a great one handed catch.  The Dolphins answered with an 8 play drive featuring a big 3rd down catch by Rishard Matthews and a 39 yard TD to Mike Wallace who broke a tackle and outran everyone into the end zone.

The Pats got the ball back to start the second half, but came up short after kicker Gostkowski missed a field goal left.  Miami tied the game on the next drive with a field goal.  The Dolphins stopped the Patriots on the next drive with a huge sack of Brady by Cameron Wake.  The Dolphins drove down the field and scored a touchdown on a short pass to Daniel Thomas to start the fourth quarter.

The Patriots had another long drive, but only came up with a field goal.  The Dolphins went three and out and turned the ball back to Brady with 6:43 left to go.  The Patriots went down the field and scored on a touchdown that featured some hideous tackling by the Dolphins.

It looked as if the game, season, and hope was gone with that score.  But Ryan Tannehill had other ideas.  He led a touchdown scoring drive that featured a huge play by Charles Clay on 4th and 5 to get a first down.  Tannehill hit Thigpen on a short pass to the left who scurried into the end zone.

However, the Pats had 1:15 left, 3 timeouts, and Tom Brady.  Brady led the offense down the field and with 0:07 left on the clock, had 4th and 5.  Brady drops back and finds... Michael Thomas, the newly acquired safety off the 49ers practice squad for the Dolphins.  The INT sealed the win for the Dolphins who are now firmly in the playoff race.  Ryan Tannehill was 'the man' like Phil Simms said earlier this week, finishing 25-37, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and a passer rating of 120.6.  He was forced to stay away from favorite targets Hartline and Clay early in the game, and found secondary targets like Michael Egnew (2-25), Rishard Matthews (5-64), and Marcus Thigpen (2-23).  Wallace was targeted early and often and it paid off, finishing with 6 receptions, 105 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.  Hartline finally got going and had 5 catches for 70 yards, including some big 1st down pickups.  Big Play Charles Clay was quiet as the Patriots focused on taking him away.  He only had the 1 catch for 6 yards, but it was the biggest play of the game.  He made some people miss and got 6 when the Dolphins needed 5.

The running game was effective, but not great finishing with 89 yards on 23 carries.  Miller had 15 carries for 61 yards, Thomas was 5 for 16, and Wallace picked up 13 yards on a reverse.

The defense lost Grimes and Carroll for much of the second half and Brady picked on the backups.  He finished  34-55, 364 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 85.7.  His biggest targets were Julian Edelman (13-139-1) and Danny Amendola (10-131).  They ran the ball ok, with 96 yards on 22 carries.  LeGarrette Blount got the bulk of the carries with 11 for 47 yards.  Shane Vereen, whom everyone thought would be a big factor, was very quiet as the Dolphins took him away.  He had 21 total yards on offense.

The Dolphins offensive line was ok today.  Tannehill was sacked 4 times, but those were more or less coverage sacks and failed protections with the RBs.  He was sacked 3 times in the first half, but only once in the second.  Overall, the line gave Tannehill time to dissect the Patriots secondary.

Thanks to this win, the Dolphins cannot finish with a losing record for the first time since 2008.  They have a great chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.  They have to navigate the rest of the AFC East the final two games, including a road game against the Bills.  But right now, the confidence is high after a huge, potentially franchise-altering win over the Patriots.  Enjoy this one Dolphins fans... this was a huge win!