Foxboro, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - In a tale of two halves, New England completely dominated the second to claim a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins in an AFC East clash at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots managed a mere 59 yards in the first 30 minutes and trailed by 14, then scored 24 unanswered points -- highlighted by a pair of touchdowns in a span of less than two minutes that tied the game.
"We dug a big hole for ourselves at halftime. We really haven't played good in the third quarter all year but we did today," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We got it from all three phases of the game. We had contributions from everyone in the second half."
Tom Brady struggled through his worst first half in 10 years and finished with just 116 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-22 passing. Stevan Ridley ran for 79 yards with a score and Brandon Bolden added a rushing touchdown for New England (6-2), which bounced back from last week's overtime loss to the New York Jets and beat Miami for the seventh straight time.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 192 yards with a pair of touchdowns and a pair of interceptions for the Dolphins (3-4), who have followed a promising 3-0 start with four consecutive losses.
A trio of turnovers and two missed field goals -- one that hit an upright and another that was blocked -- in the second half led to disaster for Miami, which has a quick turnaround with a Thursday night home game against Cincinnati.
"They clearly deserved to win the game, they played better than we did," said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. "We didn't play well in the second half. We didn't make stops, we turned the ball over."
The Dolphins dominated the first half with a 17-3 lead and were threatening for more with their first possession of the third quarter. A sack on 3rd-and-2 from the 19 lost nine yards and forced a 46-yard field goal try from Caleb Sturgis, but the kick hit the right upright and swung momentum the other way.
Brady had thrown for just 25 yards in the first half and went only backward on New England's initial series of the third quarter, but he connected on both of his throws after the Miami missed kick.
After a 23-yard run by Ridley ignited the series, Brady threw a 23-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski and finished the quick set with a 14-yard TD strike to Aaron Dobson just before absorbing a shot on a Miami blitz.
Tannehill fumbled while being sacked on the second play after the kickoff and Rob Ninkovich's recovery at the Miami 13 set up Bolden's 2-yard scoring run to tie the game.
After a series of punts, the Patriots went in front for the first time with eight seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 48-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
A highlight-reel interception ended Miami's next drive at the New England 18, as Devin McCourty tipped a pass near the sideline and teammate Marquice Cole came down just inbounds with the pick.
The Patriots followed with an 82-yard drive for a touchdown, aided by a fourth-down scramble by Brady and a call against Miami that turned a sack and fumble into a New England first down.
"We had some really big momentum plays," Brady said.
Brady, who ran for eight yards to convert 4th-and-4, lost the ball on a sack two plays later and the Patriots recovered at their own 45. It would have set up 3rd-and-29, but it was instead ruled that Miami's Olivier Vernon illegally swatted the ball backward and the 10-yard penalty not only negated the play, but set up a first down for the Patriots at the Miami 13.
Four plays later, Ridley scored from three yards out to give New England a 27-17 edge with 7:14 to play.
Miami, needing two scores, threatened once again with a march to the New England 15. But another sack on third down forced a 39-yard field goal try that was blocked by Chandler Jones with 2:42 remaining to virtually seal the contest.
Tannehill, who was sacked six times in the second half, was then picked off in the final minute.
The Dolphins went three-and-out to start the game, but the Miami defense came up with the first big play when Dimitri Patterson intercepted Brady's first pass on New England's second offensive play. Tannehill took full advantage, converting a trio of third downs and finishing the 11-play, 40-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown toss to Brandon Gibson.
New England's offense continued to sputter and picked up just one first down in the first quarter and the fourth Miami offensive series produced another touchdown, as Tannehill found running back Daniel Thomas in the end zone from five yards away for a 14-0 lead just over five minutes into the second quarter.
New England followed with its first sustained drive, which was kept alive by a questionable pass interference penalty on a third-down incomplete pass. The Miami defense stiffened after the 21-yard penalty and forced a 34-yard field goal from Gostkowski, but the Dolphins still had more than three minutes on the clock and countered with a 52-yard Sturgis field goal for a 17-3 advantage heading to the break.
Brady now has 343 career touchdown passes, surpassing Fran Tarkenton (342) for fourth on the all-time list. He hadn't thrown for as few as 25 yards in a half since Oct. 12, 2003 against the New York Giants ... New England hadn't scored a third-quarter touchdown in its first seven games this season before reaching the end zone twice Sunday ... The Patriots improved to 4-0 at home this season and host Pittsburgh next Sunday before their bye week ... Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer was carted off the field midway through the second quarter after his leg was placed in an air cast ... Gibson left in the first half for Miami with a knee injury ... The Dolphins rushed for a season-high 156 yards, led by 89 from Lamar Miller.