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The 2011 New England Patriots season kicks off with a trip to Sun Life Stadium to play the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The Patriots have played 10 games in Miami during the Tom Brady era (including the 2008 season in which Brady played just one game), so how could we not do a Top 10 as part of our pre-game festivities?
Here’s how the last 10 Patriots-Dolphins road games stack up against each other:
10. Dolphins 21, Patriots 0 – Dec. 10, 2006
The Patriots’ 2006 game in Miami was one of just two Patriots shutouts that Brady has ever played, and Brady went 12-for-25 for just 78 yards in this one. He threw no interceptions, but he fumbled the ball twice, one of which the Dolphins recovered. The Patriots fumbled away three possessions total. The offensive line also couldn’t stop the Dolphins’ elite pass-rush, allowing five sacks and keeping the Patriots offense from ever developing any rhythm. Future-Patriot Sammy Morris rushed for 123 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the Dolphins a three-possession lead with less than a quarter to play.
9. Dolphins 26, Patriots 13 – Oct. 6, 2002
Brady’s second game ever in Miami was one he probably wanted to forget as soon as it was over. His first possession ended in a sack and a punt. His second ended with Brady fumbling the ball, and the Dolphins went up 6-0 on a Jay Fiedler rushing touchdown. Brady’s third drive ended in an interception that set up the Dolphins’ second touchdown. Brady’s fourth ended with another sack, and on and on it went. Although Brady put 13 points on the board in the second half, the Patriots were never really in this game. Three sacks resulting in 32 lost yards, three turnovers and 100 more rushing yards by the Dolphins were just too much for a still-very-young Brady to overcome.
8. Dolphin 29, Patriots 28 – Dec. 20, 2004
The Patriots held an 11-point lead with four minutes left in the game, then Brady just fell apart. A touchdown by Morris made it a one-possession game, but still had the ball and the lead at the two-minute warning. Two plays later, however, the Dolphins’ pass-rushers forced Brady into throwing an interception, and the Dolphins took over in the Patriots’ red zone.
The Patriots defense almost saved the day, forcing the Dolphins into a fourth-and-10, but then A.J. Feeley hit Derrius Thompson for a 21-yard touchdown pass and the lead. On the Patriots’ ensuing possession, Brady took his second sack of the game and then threw a second interception to seal the loss. Though this game kept the Patriots from finishing the 2004 season with the best record, it proved immaterial: the Patriots still won the Super Bowl.
7. Dolphins 22, Patriots 21 – Dec. 6, 2009
The 2009 Patriots struggled with holding late-game leads, something which used to almost guarantee a win. This game was one of five 2009 losses in which the Patriots held a lead entering the second half (in four of which they held the lead entering the fourth quarter). The Patriots had three fourth-quarter chances to extend their lead before the Dolphins went up 22-21 on a field goal in the final minute. Those three drives ended with an interception and two three-and-outs. The Patriots had one more chance following the field goal, and that also ended in an interception.
Until the late comeback, Brady had been rolling hitting, Randy Moss with a 58-yard bomb in the first and Sam Aiken with an 81-yard bomb in the third. Wes Welker’s 167 receiving yards are still the second-most of his career.
6. Dolphins 30, Patriots 10 – Oct. 7, 2001
Brady’s first start in Miami was a blowout loss, but how much can we criticize a man making just his second NFL start ever? Brady went 12-for-24 for 86 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. The fault for this loss lies with the run defense, which allowed Lamar Smith to rush for 144 yards and a touchdown. Though Fiedler didn’t exactly kill the Patriots with his game (11-21, 87 yards, one touchdown and one interception), the Dolphins’ offensive line didn’t allow a single sack. This is another game that can fade into history: despite his inexperience, Brady in his rookie year still led the Patriots to the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
5. Patriots 19, Dolphins 13 – Oct. 19, 2003
Five Patriots rushers combined for just 59 yards, so the Patriots had to turn to Brady to deliver a victory. And deliver he did, completing over 70 percent of his passes for 283 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. His first touchdown – a 24-yarder to David Givens – tied the game late in the third quarter. Following a scoreless fourth and two missed Dolphins field goals, Brady’s second – an 82-yard bomb to Troy Brown – gave the Patriots an overtime victory, snapping a five-game losing streak in Miami. The Patriots defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions.
4. Patriots 23, Dolphins 16 – Nov. 13, 2005
This one came right down to the wire. The Dolphins took a one-point lead with three minutes left on a Gus Frerrotte 15-yard touchdown pass, but Brady remained unfazed, hitting Tim Dwight for a 59-yard bomb to open the ensuing possession, then hitting Ben Watson on the very next play for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Brady needed just 43 seconds and two plays to cover 76 yards. Still, the Dolphins had over two minutes and two timeouts to cover 75 yards and tie the game. Frerrotte drove his team all the way to a first down at the New England 5, but his next three passes combined for -5 yards. On fourth-and-goal from the 10, Frerrotte’s pass to Chris Chambers fell just short. This game was also Heath Evans’ first and best with Patriots, rushing for 84 yards and a key late-game two-point conversion and adding 18 yards receiving. It came less than three weeks after the Dolphins had released him.
3. Patriots 48, Dolphins 28 – Nov. 23, 2008
No Brady? No problem! Matt Cassel had his best game with the Patriots, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 415 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for a touchdown, an 8-yarder in the second quarter that gave the Patriots a brief lead. Cassel’s favorite receiver in the end zone was Moss, who played his best 2008 game in Miami. Cassel connected eight times with Moss, including three times in the end zone. Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis each rushed for touchdown as well.
2. Patriots 41, Dolphins 14 – Oct. 14, 2010
Brady may be the greatest quarterback in Patriot history, but this game was all about special teams. Specifically: Brandon Tate and Patrick Chung. Tate’s 103-yard kickoff-return touchdown to start the second half turned a 7-6 Patriots halftime deficit into a 13-7 lead just 14 seconds later. The return sparked a second-half rout in which the Patriots outscored the Dolphins 35-7, helped in large part by Chung.
First, Chung’s punt-block led to a Patriots rushing touchdown two plays later. Then, Chung’s field-goal-block was returned by Kyle Arrington for a touchdown. Finally, Chung picked off a Chad Henne pass (one of four Patriots interceptions) and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown of his own. It was such a complete victory that even Bill Belichick could be seen smiling and skipping down the sidelines.
1. Patriots 49, Dolphins 28 – Oct. 21, 2007
The 2007 Patriots were playing at their peak when they went to Miami for their seventh game, having averaged over 38 points in each of their first six. The Dolphins never stood a chance, helpless as they watched the Patriots build a 42-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Brady completed 84 percent of his passes, throwing for 354 yards and a whopping six passing touchdowns (one of two career six-TD/zero-interception games for Brady, tied for most in NFL history). The multiple-option offense that made the 2007 Patriots so transcendent was on full display: Brady’s two touchdown passes to Welker (nine receptions, 138 yards) were for 30 yards combined, whereas his two to Moss (four receptions, 122 yards) were longer than 30 yards each.