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PATS on the Back: Patriots-Dolphins, Week 4

Patrick Chung (Photo via Jim Davis, Boston Globe staff)

Well… how fun was that?

The Pats scored every which way possible in their Monday night rout of the Dolphins, 41-14 in Miami, a location that hasn’t always been too friendly for New England. Entering this game, Bill Belichick had just a 4-6 record in Miami, and Tom Brady was 3-5 on South Beach.

But, who really saw that kind of win coming Monday night? Before the game, many were picking against the Pats, pointing to their weak defense and their inability to perform at a high level on the road. The first half went by and the New England offense was sputtering, trailing at the half in a low-scoring nail-biter, 7-6.

Then the flood gates opened.

Thirty-five second half points, which for a team that has struggled after halftime, really did come out of nowhere. And the points came from every direction. The Pats were the first team in NFL history to score a rushing TD, passing TD, a kickoff return TD, a TD off a blocked field goal, and a “pick-six,” all in the same game.

Some weeks, this “PATS on the Back” article is a chore to write… other weeks, I have a plethora of top performances to pick from. This week, it’s easy. I could give nods to about a dozen different players for their contributions to the big win, but I’ll keep the accolades limited to just three. Honorable mentions though, have to go out to players like Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Kyle Arrington, among others. But beyond those gents, here are three that in mind, rose to the top.

Patrick Chung, S

I’m not sure anyone has, or will ever again, put up the stat line that Chung accumulated in the win over Miami. Five tackles doesn’t exactly impress anyone, but his 51-yard interception return for a touchdown, along with a blocked punt and blocked field goal, which was also returned for a touchdown by teammate Kyle Arrington, will be hard for any single player to duplicate. Chung has risen to the top of the depth chart at safety, leap-frogging former Pro Bowler Brandon Meriweather, and with big play after big play, there’s no doubt Chung is there to stay. In just his second year, the Miami game acts as his first breakout performance of his young career, with hopefully many more on the way.

Rob Ninkovich, LB

Another no-brainer, the former Dolphin was a ball hawking machine on defense Monday night. Ninkovich came up with two big interceptions on Chad Henne passes, stalling prolonged Miami drives and leaving the ‘Fins with nothing to show for it. When Henne made mistakes, it was Ninkovich that always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He also added four tackles and a sack on the night. The Pats linebacking crew has been pieced together this season with a batch of young, unproven players. With nights like Ninkovich had Monday night, you can take that “unproven” label off sooner rather than later.

Stephen Gostkowski, K

Usually I only give the team’s kicker a “POTB” nod when there’s a lack of better options out there… often after a Pats stinker of a loss. But I felt like with Gostkowski struggling through the first three games of the year, the job he did against Miami warranted the third “POTB” nod of the week. Sure, his two first half field goals were relative chip shots, of 23 and 30 yards respectively. But what I liked most was the distance he was able to put behind his kickoffs, backing the Dolphins up in their own end to start seemingly every drive they had. Five touchbacks on the night for Gostkowski, which turned into 80-yard fields for Miami’s offense to navigate to reach paydirt. Good kickers are often taken for granted, but the Pats have been fortunate to have some of the best in the game now for over a decade. Hopefully after Monday night’s big game, Gostkowski is off the schnide and is back on track going forward.

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