The 2007 New England Patriots had absolutely no trouble in disposing of the current edition of the Miami Dolphins. Put a checkmark alongside the 1984 Dolphins as well. The 1972 Dolphins are still in their sights.
The 2007 New England Patriots had absolutely no trouble in disposing of the current edition of the Miami Dolphins.
Put a checkmark alongside the 1984 Dolphins as well.
The 1972 Dolphins are still in their sights.
Scoring 28 unanswered points in the first half, the Patriots became the first NFL team to win its first 15 regular-season games as they handily defeated the dismal Dolphins, 28-7, at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The first perfect season since the '72 Dolphins won Super Bowl VII with a record of 17-0 (back in the days of the 14-game regular season) is still very much within reach.
Along the way, the first 16-0 regular-season finish in NFL history could be less than a week away.
It will be there for the taking when the Patriots travel to play the 10-5 New York Giants at Giants Stadium on Saturday night.
“We’re all human,” defensive lineman Jarvis Green said. “We think about it here and there, but I know we’ve got to concentrate and (continue to) get better because we’ve still got things we’ve got to work on.”
Improving on a second half that was nothing short of dreadful might be a nice place to start.
“That’s something we cannot continue to do going forward,” said cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who surrendered the Miami touchdown with 1:13 to play in the third quarter when wide receiver Greg Camarillo beat him cleanly in the end zone and hauled in a 21-yard pass from Cleo Lemon.
By that time, however, the good times had already rolled (once again) in Foxboro.
With wide receiver Jabar Gaffney’s 48-yard reception from quarterback Tom Brady with 3:33 to play in the second quarter, the Patriots pushed their lead to 28 points and their touchdown total this season to 71, exceeding the 70 the Dolphins put on the scoreboard 23 years ago.
With that, the Patriots were well on their way to their 15th win, a total that includes a pair over their AFC East rivals from Miami by a cumulative score of 77-35. The Patriots squished the Fish, 70-7, in the first half of those two games.
“I thought we played real well in the first half (on Sunday),” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “We did a lot of good things.”
The good things included three TD passes by Brady, upping his season total to 48, one shy of the league-record 49 Peyton Manning put in the books with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.
The good things included a couple of TD receptions by wide receiver Randy Moss, upping his season total to 21, one away from the league-record 22 Jerry Rice put in the books with the San Francisco 49ers in 1987.
Moss, Gaffney and Wes Welker each had five receptions in the game, the latter’s total pushing his season output to 101, tying the franchise record Troy Brown (who made his season debut in the game) set in 2001.
The good things also included a rather honest day’s work by the Patriots’ defense, which, while unable to create a turnover, limited the 1-14 Dolphins to 241 yards in total offense and sacked Lemon seven times.
“I think this week was one of those games to see if the defense could do their job,” said Green, who had one of the sacks, “and I think we did OK.”
After forcing the Dolphins into a quick three-and-out at the game’s outset, the Patriots struck on their initial possession of the game, driving 70 yards for a score with 8:47 to play in the opening quarter.
Spreading the ball out to five different players (wide receivers Welker, Donte’ Stallworth, Gaffney and Moss and running back Kevin Faulk), Brady went 7-for-8 for 63 yards on the drive, scrambled for a 10-yard gain and was sacked for a 3-yard loss (yes, all 10 plays were designed passes). The scoring play was an 11-yard toss to Moss in the back of the end zone.
Moss’ second TD haul, the 123rd of his career (tying him with the Colts’ Marvin Harrison for 10th all-time in NFL history), would come on the Patriots’ third possession of the game, a five-play, 79-yard drive that took 2:10, stretching from late in the first quarter into the early portion of the second.
Feeding off a 51-yard jaunt by Laurence Maroney (14 carries for a career-high 156 yards) and benefiting from a pass interference call against Dolphins cornerback Will Allen in the end zone, the Patriots scored on a 1-yard flip from Brady to Moss, who’d earned the score after escorting Maroney on his run and drawing the 13-yard penalty on Allen.
What was Maroney’s career-long run stood for roughly five minutes as he used a self-off block from fullback Heath Evans to break free through the left side of his offensive line (tackle Matt Light also helped spring him) for a 59-yard touchdown that pushed it to 21-0 4:56 into the second quarter.
Still, the Patriots’ first-half work wasn’t complete.
With 3:33 to go, Brady located Gaffney for his third TD pass, a 48-yarder that slipped through the mitts of safety Lance Schulters, who appeared to have an interception along the left sideline all lined up only to come away empty-handed.
“I don’t think so,” Belichick answered when he asked if his team let up after the Dolphins were down by 28 points. “I don’t think we, offensively especially, executed as well as we could have, but I give the Dolphins credit for that, too. They’ve got good players and they made some plays.”