Secondary (2 out of 5):
Arrington had his third straight standout game playing in the slot position, and he’s obviously more comfortable in that role. The Talib trade has definitely helped there. Talib himself really struggled (two 20-yard passes, pass interference), and a better quarterback would have burned him a handful of times. He’s just very undisciplined. He’ll have a great play where you marvel at his skills, and then he’ll get lazy and/or peek into the backfield on the next three. The Patriots really need to zero him in down the stretch. Steve Gregory either got the wrong call or simply bit hard on play-action in the first quarter when Tannehill missed a wide-open Hartline for a touchdown. That was not Talib’s error. Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard, who was otherwise solid, each gave up 20-yard pass plays.
Special teams (4 out of 5):
Matthew Slater, who had two phenomenal tackles, including the muffed punt, should add this to his Pro Bowl reel. Stephen Gostkowski was booming his kickoffs again, but another field goal miss raises eyebrows. Punter Zoltan Mesko, who was solid, appeared as if he did not like his hold on the missed field goal.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Situation: Trailing, 2010, with 8:53 remaining, the Dolphins had third and 4 at the New England 7-yard line. (Video breakdown of the play.)
What happened: The Patriots showed two-man coverage — Cover 2 with two deep safeties and man coverage underneath. Linebacker Jerod Mayo (51) had running back Daniel Thomas (33) in man coverage. Mayo often has the option of rushing the quarterback if the running back stays in to block, which is commonly called a “green dog.” The Patriots refer to it as a “hug blitz” — hug coverage and then go. Depending on the situation, Mayo varies his aggressiveness. This time, he was very aggressive. At the snap, he hopped to the outside to make Thomas, who has the option of helping inside if he feels Mayo will rush, think he was in coverage, but it also hid Mayo a bit behind left tackle Jonathan Martin (71). Patriots right end Trevor Scott (99) helped by running to Thomas, who fell for it and chipped Scott. That left Mayo to shoot himself out of a cannon for the sack on Ryan Tannehill (17), which took just 2.2 seconds.
ON HIS GAME
Jerod Mayo, linebacker
The top standout in a terrific front seven, Mayo was sensational: sack, two knockdowns, two half run stuffs, forced fumble, great openfield tackle, and standout pass coverage. An All-Pro performance.
OFF HIS GAME
Sebastian Vollmer, right tackle
Hopefully, this was just a case of Vollmer being outmatched by Cameron Wake and not an injury, because the Patriots need better than a sack, two half-sacks, three hurries, and a knockdown allowed from their Pro Bowler.