On a day when the Dolphins lost players to injuries and an ejection, a fake punt set the stage for a frustrating day at Gillette Stadium.
Quarterback Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, and running back Rex Burkhead and tight end Rob Gronkowski each scored two touchdowns as the New England Patriots handed the Dolphins a 35-17 defeat.
The Dolphins lost running back Senorise Perry on the second-half kickoff after he was taken out to be evaluated for a concussion. Damien Williams left the game later in that third quarter when he sustained a shoulder injury while being tackled after an 11-yard run.
Cornerback Bobby McCain was ejected in the third quarter after officials ruled a threw a punch at New England wide receiver Danny Amendola after the two became tangled on a Patriots running play.
Safety Reshad Jones and Kenyan Drake, the only running back available after Perry and Williams left the game, scored the Dolphins touchdowns. Bobby McCain kicked a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Jones scored when he returned a fumble 14 yards in the second quarter. The fumble came when backup center Ted Karras snapped the ball in shotgun formation when Brady wasn't looking at him.
It was Jones' second touchdown of the season and the fifth of his career.
Drake scored on a screen pass in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins trailed 28-10.
While the fake punt, New England's first such play in 13 years, turned New England's first drive from a three-and-out to a touchdown drive, the game really swung between the end of the first half and the start of the second.
Trailing 21-10, the Dolphins got the ball back late in the first half when McCain made a sliding interception of a Brady pass.
The Dolphins drove the New England 15-yard line in the final seconds before Matt Moore, starting in place of the injured Jay Cutler, lofted a high pass to the left corner of the end zone intended for DeVante Parker. But Parker looked back late and cornerback Stephon Gilmore made the easy interception.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Dolphins opted to punt on fourth-and-inches from their own 33-yard line and they came close to recovering Amendola's fumble on the punt. Instead, New England began its drive at its 23 and helped by two 15-yard penalties, including the one that accompanied McCain's ejection, drove 77 yards for a touchdown that made it 28-10.
Brady missed two of his first three attempts to set up a fourth-and-8 from the Patriots 27-yard line on the opening drive. Up-back Nate Ebner then took a direct snap and ran for 14 yards around the right end to keep the drive alive. After a 36-yard pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett, Burkhead scored on a 2-yard run to open the scoring.
After the Dolphins went three-and-out on their first drive, the Patriots drove 89 yards to increase their lead to 14-0. The drive featured consecutive completions to Gronkowski for 21 and 20 yards before Brady and Gronkowski hooked up again for a 4-yard touchdown.
After Jones' touchdown cut the Dolphins' deficit to 14-7, New England responded with a 78-yard touchdown drive that was kept alive by a defensive holding penalty on cornerback Alterraun Verner, featured a 38-yard pass to Brandin Cooks and ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Burkhead.
Parkey's field goal made it 21-10, though it was a disappointing end to a drive that featured a first-and-goal from the New England 10-yard line after a 34-yard pass interference penalty on Malcolm Butler off a flea-flicker.
New England's final touchdown came on a shovel pass to Brandin Cooks with 6:31 left after the Dolphins were stopped on a fourth-and-11 from their own 38-yard line.
The Dolphins (4-7) return to action next Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium when they will face the Denver Broncos.