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Defense Held Its Own Against New England

Posted Dec 3, 2012

Solid effort in secondary impacted Patriots’ QB Brady.

Holding an offensive juggernaut like the New England Patriots to 14 points and more than 100 yards below their season average is something the Miami Dolphins defense expected to yesterday – only that unit also expected to be on the positive side of the final score.

Safety Reshad Jones led the way for a secondary that frustrated Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and came up with just the fourth interception of Brady on the season as well as a key sack. This is Jones’ third season in Miami and he has gotten progressively better with each game, but his stat line Sunday was something to behold and helped energize the entire defense all afternoon until that final clock-killing drive by Brady.

“There are no moral victories, we lost the game,” said Jones, who finished with 10 tackles (all solo), the sack and interception, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed. “I mean we played well on defense, but at the end of the day it is still a loss. We’ve got to get back and watch the film and correct the things we did make mistakes on.”

Most of the damage on New England’s final scoring drive came on the ground as running back Stevan Ridley discovered holes that were not there through the first three quarters. He rolled up 46 of his 64 rushing yards on that drive on 10 carries to help eat up 7:17 off the clock.

Granted, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez combined to catch 20 of Brady’s 24 completions for 200 yards and one touchdown, but after reeling in 10 passes for 89 yards and the touchdown in the first half. He was kept relatively quiet in the second half, while Hernandez caught five passes for 56 yards over the final two quarters, but three of the four sacks on Brady came in the second half.

“I thought we got good pressure on Brady,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said in his day-after press conference. “Obviously, if you take an opposing quarterback down four times that’s a pretty good afternoon’s work. There was a sudden change where I thought we did an excellent job. They got the ball on the 25 and gained zero yards and we held them to a field goal there. I thought that was excellent but we didn’t play well enough defensively in the fourth quarter.”

Early in the fourth quarter, after Brady methodically moved the Patriots from their own 20 all the way to the Miami 2, Jones and the defense rose up to keep him out of the end zone as he blitzed off the edge on first down and sacked Brady for a 5-yard loss. Brady was hurried on the next play and had to throw a ball intended for Welker out of the back of the end zone to bring up third-and-goal.

Koa Misi kept pressing around the left edge and eventually sacked Brady back at the 14 for a 7-yard loss thanks to excellent coverage in the secondary. So instead of getting in the end zone to go up by two touchdowns, New England had to settle for Stephen Gostkowki’s 32-yard field goal that made it 20-10 with plenty of time remaining. Miami’s defensive backs were holding their own in al facets. Miami’s defensive backs were holding their own in all facets, especially Jones at the safety position.

“I’m seeing a young player that’s becoming one of the better players at his position in the league right now,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He’s making plays in the pass game. The interception he made was exceptional and the run back was terrific. … He’s consistently starting to put one game after another together and he’s got a very high ceiling. I think he’s going to be a very, very good player for us.”

Defensive end Cameron Wake sacked Brady in the third quarter to increase his season total to 10.5, giving him his second season with double-digit sacks (he had 14 in 2010). He also hit Brady twice as he threw and had a tackle for loss on the afternoon, feeding off of some of that tight coverage Philbin mentioned.

Being a part of a unit that forced New England to attempt four field goals and held Brady to his lowest passer rating of the season is something Wake was proud of, but his frustration with the outcome was very easy to pick up as well.

“It’s one of those games where we knew what we were getting ourselves into,” Wake said. “We had opportunities and we gave a couple plays away, yet even still, coming down to the end of the game we still had a chance and just didn’t capitalize. The defense always has a mindset, regardless o where you are, to keep them off the board. You have to draw that line in the dirt and make the plays.”

They’ll get another chance in six days at the San Francisco 49ers.