Special teams (4.5 out of 5)
Phenomenal play by Niko Koutouvides on the 4-yard kickoff return to start the second half. After two average weeks, Zoltan Mesko seriously outpunted Brandon Fields, who was vying for a Pro Bowl spot, with three downed inside the 15. Great kickoffs by Stephen Gostkowski in tough conditions. Martin had a legit block-in-the-back penalty.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The situation: The game was scoreless with 7:23 left in the first quarter when the Dolphins faced third and 8 at their 25-yard line.
What happened: On the previous play, the Patriots played man coverage underneath two deep safeties and rushed only three. They showed two deep with man coverage again, as Derrick Martin ran with receiver Armon Binns in motion across the formation, but brought pressure with linebackers Dont’a Hightower (54) and Jerod Mayo (51). Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) had to rush as the play clock expired at the snap, which played into the Patriots’ hands. Hightower drew blocking from the back, both Vince Wilfork (75) and Justin Francis (94) slanted left to occupy the center and right side of the line, and Mayo showed enough faux pressure that the guard picked him up. That left a wide-open lane for Rob Ninkovich (50) to stunt through and not allow Tannehill to step into his throw. Cornerback Kyle Arrington (24) re-routed receiver Rishard Matthews (86) at the snap and stayed in his back pocket. Deep safety Steve Gregory (28) recognized the play quickly, and jumped in front of the pass for an interception that would set up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
ON HIS GAME
Wes Welker, receiver
Except for some outlet passes to Danny Woodhead, Welker was the Patriots’ passing offense with eight catches on 12 targets for 94 yards. And when Tom Brady needed a play, he went to Welker, who was targeted on six third or fourth downs and caught five of those passes.
OFF HIS GAME
Michael Hoomanawanui, tight end
Had his best game of the season last week against the Jaguars with two big catches, but really struggled blocking as he gave up the lone sack, and had part in four of the Patriots’ nine runs that went for 1 yard or less outside of short yardage.