Tate’s 103-yard KO return to open 2nd half helps Patriots lead Dolphins 27-14 after 3 quarters

By Tim Reynolds, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Tate’s TD sparks Pats to 27-14 lead over Dolphins

MIAMI — Two special teams plays early in the second half got the New England Patriots rolling Monday night.

Brandon Tate had a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the half, a blocked punt by Patrick Chung set up another easy score moments later, and the rejuvenated Patriots ran out to a 27-14 lead over the Miami Dolphins after three quarters.

Down 7-6 at the half, the Patriots swung everything their way in the third quarter of the game with a share of first place in the AFC East at stake.

Tate’s kickoff return — his second TD of the season — was the first spark, and Chung’s block only added to the big momentum swing. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rumbled 12 yards up the middle and into the end zone one play after Chung knocked down Brandon Fields’ punt, and the Patriots quickly found themselves up 20-7.

Chad Henne’s second touchdown pass of the game, a 28-yarder to Ricky Williams, got Miami within six points with 8:56 left in the quarter. But Tom Brady coolly marched New England on its ensuing drive, a 12-play, 78-yarder capped by his 11-yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead with 4:02 remaining.

Monday night’s winner will be tied with the New York Jets atop the AFC East at 3-1. Both Miami and New England have byes next weekend.

The Dolphins outgained New England 321-241 through the first 45 minutes, averaging 7.3 yards per play, and still went into the final quarter facing a two-touchdown deficit.

Brady came into Monday night just 3-5 in his previous visits to Miami, and he got help from a most unlikely source — linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who spent parts of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Dolphins.

Ninkovich had the first two interceptions of his career, both in the first half. New England got field goals from Stephen Gostkowski out of both, a 23-yarder and then a 30-yarder to end the first half, getting the Patriots within 7-6. Henne threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Davone Bess on Miami’s second drive of the game.

Henne and Brady combined for 25 completions in the opening two quarters — and strangely, none went to the Dolphins’ Brandon Marshall or New England’s Randy Moss.

Marshall had four catches for 42 yards in the third quarter, while Moss remained silent.

The Patriots didn’t seem to need him, either.

Brady has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the Dolphins’ home field, yet has two more losses there than he does as a visitor to New England’s two other AFC East rivals, the Jets (7-2) and Buffalo (7-1), combined.

And the first series Monday night did nothing to suggest this trip would be easy for Brady, either.

The Patriots avoided a huge blunder with 10:56 left in the opening quarter, when Wes Welker called for a fair catch at the New England 11 and ended up muffing Fields’ punt. Welker recovered the ball amid a swarm of Dolphins, but the Patriots managed only six yards on the way to a three-and-out on their first possession.

Brady went 0 for 2 on the opening drive, getting hit hard on the third-down attempt toward Welker.

Brady had the Patriots moving after the Dolphins’ first touchdown, but what would have been a 36-yard gain to tight end Aaron Hernandez — to the Miami 26 — was erased by Matt Light’s holding penalty with just under 5 minutes left in the quarter, and the Pats ended up punting again.

will not be displayed