|Linebacker Rob Ninkovich strikes a pose with Tully Banta-Cain after recording his second interception of the game. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Chung’s handiwork paid off big
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Patrick Chung’s night didn’t get off to a good start, as he was beaten in coverage on Davone Bess’s 19-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. But Chung didn’t let a bad start ruin his night. Instead, he ruined the Dolphins’ evening.
The Patriots’ second-year safety held his own block party at Sun Life Stadium, stuffing a punt and a field goal attempt, with both plays leading to touchdowns. He also scored his first career touchdown on a fourth-quarter interception return covering 51 yards. All told, Chung was a factor in three of the Patriots’ five second-half touchdowns, as they turned a 7-6 halftime deficit into a 41-14 rout.
Early in the third quarter, Chung blocked a Brandon Fields punt, giving the Patriots the ball at the Miami 15. Two plays later, BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed in from 12 yards to give the Patriots a 20-7 lead.
With 14:16 left in the game and the Patriots ahead, 27-14, Chung broke through the Dolphins’ line and smothered a 53-yard field goal attempt by Dan Carpenter. The loose ball was scooped up by Kyle Arrington and returned 35 yards for a touchdown that put the Patriots up 20. It was the Patriots’ first blocked field goal returned for a TD in the regular season since Oct. 18, 1987 against the Oilers; Chung wasn’t yet two months old.
“Oh yeah, man, Patrick Chung gets my vote for special teams player of the week, two blocked kicks and a pick-six,’’ said Arrington.
The Patriots defense is looking for playmakers, and this was the second game in a row that Chung came up with a big interception. The excitable safety stepped in front of a Chad Henne pass intended for Brandon Marshall at the Patriots’ 49 and returned it for his first NFL touchdown with 6:30 left.
“He threw it to me,’’ said Chung. “I was shocked at first, and then you have to be at the right spot at the right time. When opportunity comes it’s too late to prepare, so opportunity came so I took it.’’
Making plays on special teams is nothing new for Chung. He was a two-time special teams player of the year at Oregon, blocking a pair of punts in 2007. But he said the credit last night goes to his teammates and special teams coach Scott O’Brien, who diagnosed the Dolphins’ weaknesses in the kicking game.
“It was something Coach saw,’’ said Chung. “We practiced everything that happened in that game, all those blocks and people doing their job around me making the play. I give it all to them. If they’re not doing their job, nothing happens. We executed. Coach drew it up, and it happened just like it did.’’
“I’ve played on a great team for my entire career; same organization that’s committed to winning,’’ Brady said. “I’m privileged to be a quarterback for this team. I hope I’m here forever.’’
Brady is now 100-31 (.763) as a starter and 114-35 (.765) overall. He is the 11th quarterback to reach 100 regular-season wins.
The kicker couldn’t pinpoint the problem, but he said he feels like his approach in practice since then has been helpful.
Gostkowski converted a field goal from 43 yards at the end of the second quarter of the victory against Buffalo. Last night he accounted for the only points in the first half, hitting field goals from 23 and 30 yards.
“Practice and stuff has been fine,’’ he said. “I approach it the same way whether I’m doing good or bad. Nothing feels different, just the results didn’t come, and that was the most frustrating thing. You just got to lean on what you’ve done before and what you know how to do, and if you’re doing it consistently in practice week to week, which I feel like I have been, then the results will show up.
“You just can’t panic and look too far ahead.’’
Punter/holder Zoltan Mesko and long snapper Jake Ingram have been taking the same approach. Mesko is a rookie, learning the intricate parts of holding for the first time, and they all are trying to develop chemistry.
“It’s definitely getting better,’’ Gostkowski said. “It’s something that we worked for. Sometimes it takes a couple of mishaps for you to really put the pressure on, but we’re all working on it and we’re all trying to help each other and make each other look good. We all need to be on the same page when it comes to field goals and we’re definitely working toward that.’’
Last night, for the second time this season, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. And his 103-yard runback to start the second half gave the Patriots a lead they didn’t relinquish.
Tate added four catches for 39 yards.
“It was a big play for us and we kept going from there,’’ Tate said. “I give credit to everybody else out there who freed me up.’’
Shalise Manza Young of the Globe staff contributed to this report.