FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, Wes Welker had a 12 receptions for 138 yards and the Patriots overcame a 17-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Dolphins, 27-24, at Gillette Stadium.
With one regular season game remaining, the Patriots (12-3) remain positioned as the top seed in the AFC and have secured a first-round bye.
After dismal first half — the Patriots had just 107 net yards of offense and Brady was 7 of 19 for 87 yards — the Patriots needed just nine minutes and 22 seconds in the second half to erase the entire 17-point deficit.
Stephen Gostkowki’s booted a 45-yard field goal at the 11:45 mark of the third quarter to cut Miami’s lead to 17-3. Three plays later, Vince Wilfork recovered a Matt Moore fumble at the Miami 38 in what proved the pivotal play of the game.
The Patriots offense finally took advantage, with Brady capping a seven-play, 38-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch.
Less than five minutes later, Brady plunged in from a yard out to tie the score at 17.
The Patriots took the lead for good on Gostkowski’s 42-yarder early in the fourth quarter, then built the lead to 10 on Brady’s second rushing touchdown, a 1-yarder at the 2:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
Davone Bess scored the final touchdown, a 15-yard reception with little more than a minute remaining.
Brady finished 27 for 46 for 304 yards, with the three total touchdowns.
Reggie Bush ran for 113 yards for Miami, while Brandon Marshall had seven catches for 156 yards.
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1:20: Brady. Welker. Six yards. First down.
1:35: Third and 5 for the Patriots from the 25 after Ridley runs for no gain. Miami uses it’s second timeout.
1:48: Or maybe not — the Dolphins kickoff and get the touchback. Patriots start at the 20.
1:48 fourth quarter, Patriots 27, Dolphins 24 Don’t put this one in the win column just yet. Moore finds Davone Bess for 15 yards and a score, and Carpenter’s extra point cuts it to three. Here comes the onside kick.
2:55 fourth quarter, Patriots 27, Dolphins 17: Brady plows in from a yard out, and this one’s under the tree after 27 unanswered second half points.
5:32: Brady hits Welker for nine yards on third and 9 to the 37, then finds him for 22 yards on the next play. Welker now has 11 receptions for 132 yards. First and 10 at the Miami 15.
7:42: Miami’s possession stalls out at their own 30 when Jerod Mayo sacks Moore. Patriots take over at their 41 after the punt.
8:55 fourth quarter, Patriots 20, Dolphins 17: Brady gets up muttering after he’s sacked by Randy Starks, but Gostkowski gives the Patriots their first lead of the game with a 42-yard field goal.
10:13: Cornerback Vontae Davis, who had a strong first half, is out with an elbow injury and his return is questionable. Patriots facing third and 10 at the Miami 14. Welker is now over 100 yards on the day.
12:48: The play stands, but the Patriots get what amounts to a punt a play later when McCourty picks off Moore’s pass from the NE 44 at the 2. The Patriots come out firing immediately, with Brady finding Gronkowski for 20 yards to the 22. Then after a 6-yard catch by Welker, Stevan Ridley rambles for 16 yards. A couple of plays later, Welker runs past Karlos Dansby and hauls in a 42-yarder before Tyrone Culver shoves him out at the 14.
12:48: Moore hits Hartline for a first down at the Patriots 44, but Belichick is challenging the spot.
13:04: Big play coming up — Miami faces a third and 9 at their 46. The Gillette Stadium crowd is rocking.
End of the third quarter, Patriots 17, Dolphins 17: The Patriots’ third quarter was as impressive as their first half was dismal, and after trailing 17-0 at the half, they’re tied heading into the final 15 minutes. Brady is now 19 of 35 for 184 yards, with one passing and one rushing TD. (He’s 16 for his last 21.) Reggie Bush is over 100 yards for the fourth straight game — he has 20 carries for 105 yards.
2:17 third quarter, Patriots 17, Dolphins 17: Well, that lead went fast. Brady slips in from a yard out after a tough 7-yard run from Ridley, and it took the Patriots exactly nine minutes and 22 seconds to erase a 17-point deficit.
3:58: Brady hits Welker three times in a row to get to the 23, then, operating out of the no-huddle, he finds Hernandez for 10 more yards and another first down. Gronk time?
5:45: Great defensive series for the Patriots, with Ninkovich sacking Moore on third down at the 10. (The ball came loose but was recovered by Miami.) Kevin Faulk returns the 33-yard punt seven yards to the Dolphin 41.
6:57: Patriots’ swarming kick coverage surrounds Gates at the 17, and on first down, Brandon Deaderick sacks Moore for a 10-yard loss. The momentum has shifted, but the Patriots’ defensive backs have a way of giving it back.
7:10 third quarter, Dolphins 17, Patriots 10: Call on the field stands, Gostkowski kicks the extra point, and Wilfork’s fumble recovery looms as large as No. 75 himself. Let’s see if the D can deliver again. By the way, Brady has now thrown a TD pass in 31 straight games, extending his team record.
7:10: Hold on for one moment — play is under review.
7:10 third quarter, Dolphins 17, Patriots 9: There’s that ol’ Brady-Branch chemistry, and the Patriots are back in it. Under instant pressure after taking the snap on third and goal from the 1, Brady steps left to elude the rush and finds Branch in the back of the end zone. Still don’t know how Brady avoided the sack, and Branch did a remarkable job finding a seam in the coverage after Brady was forced to scramble.
8:28: On third and 2, Brady hits Hernandez for nine yards at the Miami 5. Within striking distance for sure.
10:42: Should the Patriots come back, the following could stand as the pivotal play. Moore fumbled the snap, Vince Wilfork came out of the pile with the football, and the Patriots have possession at the Miami 38. Let’s see if the offense can do anything with the gift.
11:32: Gosktowski with the saving tackle on Clyde Gates’s 33-yard return. Dolphins start at their 38.
11:39 third quarter, Dolphins 17, Patriots 3: Well, the zero is gone. The Patriots’ promising drive ends with three points rather than seven, as Stephen Gostkowski moves into third place on the Patriots’ all-time scoring list with a 45-yard field goal. The Patriots looked to be headed for more, but Brady and Branch couldn’t connect on third and 5 at the Miami 28. The field goal completed an 11-play, 54-yard drive.
12:36: Brady sneak for 3 yards. First down.
12:49: Ridley just short of the first down on third and 1 at the Miami 34. They’re going for it, and they should.
15:00, third quarter: Brady hits Gronkowski for 22 yards to the NE 42 on the first play following the kickoff. One play later, Brady hits Chad Ochocinco for 15 yards. He’s throwing angry. (Vontae Davis nearly picks off his next throw, intende for Ochocinco, as we’re posting this.)
Halftime, Dolphins 17, Patriots 0: If there’s been a time during Tom Brady’s run as the Patriots quarterback when the offense has looked so discombobulated, we’d appreciate the reminder. As evidenced by the scoreboard, it was a truly dismal first half for the Patriots, who had just five first downs and 107 net yards in the half. Brady is 7 of 19 for 87 yards — and that’s after starting 3 of 14. He’s been sacked twice and hit relentlessly behind the makeshift offensive line, which is missing left tackle Matt Light (inactive) and lost Logan Mankins during the game. Danny Woodhead is the leading rusher … with 20 yards. Deion Branch is the top receiver with 31 yards on one catch. Wes Welker has been targeted seven times, but has just two catches for 20 yards.
Defensively, their issues in pass coverage remain — Brandon Marshall has 102 yards and a touchdown already — and Reggie Bush has been effective in the running game with 16 carries for 81 yards. Hard to imagine it could get any worse in the second half.
:08: Stephen Gostkowski is wide left on a 51-yarder, and the first half concludes as one giant lump of coal for the Patriots. I’ll be back with some halftime stats in a moment. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
:12: After a first down on a Welker catch at their 32, Brady finds Branch for 30 yards down the left sideline. Branch cuts inside and gets tackled rather than going out of bounds — there was a chance he could break it — but the Patriots have to use their last time out.
:39: Dolphins go three-and-out. After the punt, Patriots start at their 19, and they will try to get into field goal range.
3:13: Brady is getting pounded, the receivers can’t shake the coverage, and Cameron Wake’s sack on third down brings on some louder boos. Brady is 3 of 14 for 37 yards.
4:08: Dolphins go three-and-out from their 19, with Moore’s third-and-4 pass missing Hartline. Edelman’s return of Brandon Field’s 61-yard punt takes him to the NE 28.
6:06: Incomplete to a covered Deion Branch, Stevan Ridley for two yards, Brady off-target to Welker along the left sideline. Commence booing. Brady, Branch and Welker all chirping at the refs. The Dolphins are being physical in coverage, and it’s working brilliantly.
6:24: Patriots start with excellent field position after Danny Woodhead’s 37-yard kick return to the 39. Let’s see if the line — currently Solder, Thomas, Connolly, Waters, Cannon — can give Brady enough time to do something with it.
6:31 second quarter, Dolphins 17, Patriots 0: Too easy. Moore hits fullback Charles Clay on a crossing pattern for a 1-yard touchdown, finishing up Miami’s 11-play, 89-yard drive. What can you say? The Patriots defense has been atrocious, with two terrible pass interference plays on third down. And the offense for once hasn’t been able to cover for them.
7:22: Here’s a new one — Rob Ninkovich is called for pass interference on the quarterback. Moore handed to Bush, then ran free down the left sideline. Bush stopped and threw a balloon in his direction, and Ninkovich whacked him before the pass arrived. First and goal, Miami, at the 3, and even Matt Moore is a deep threat against this pass defense.
8:22: Moore to Marshall, 26 yards. Marshall has three catches for 92 yards already. Moore attempts to go to him on the next play from the New England 27, but McCourty busts it up in the end zone.
10:44: Bush shows off an impressive vertical, hurdling Arrington on a 6-yard run, then fakes out James Ihedigbo twice while picking up the first down on a third-down reception. Sure looks like the Southern Cal version of himself today.
11:04: Just a horrible day for McCourty so far. He’s hit with a pass interference penalty on third and 12, giving Miami a first down at their 27.
11:33: Mesko has been the one bright spot for the Patriots so far, which is probably something you never want to say when you’re talking about the punter. He crushes a 55-yarder, pinning the Dolphins at their own 9.
12:38: And it ends on their 34 when Brady’s third-and-1 pass intended for Welker is broken up by Sean Smith. The three-and-out is greeted by a smattering of boos. Can’t call them Grinches based on the Patriots’ sluggish performance so far.
13:49: Jake Long, the Dolphins huge left tackle, has left with an arm injury. His return is questionable. Patriots begin their possession at their 35.
13:45, second quarter, Dolphins 10, Patriots 0: One play later, Moore finds Marshall again for a 19-yard score — Kyle Arrington stumbled in coverage — which caps a five-play, 82-yard drive that was way too easy. By the way, McCourty has been beaten for two plays that each account for more yardage than the entire Patriots offense has compiled today.
Second quarter, 14:51: Moore surpasses the Patriots’ total offense with one throw, hitting Brandon Marshall for a 47-yarder down to the New England 21. McCourty was lost in coverage.
End of the first quarter, Dolphins 3, Patriots 0: The first quarter couldn’t have been uglier for the Patriots offense — Brady has two completions, one to Welker and one to Hernandez — and Danny Woodhead is the leading rusher with 20 yards. For Miami, which wasn’t much more impressive, Reggie Bush has been their best weapon with 41 yards on seven carries. Matt Moore is 3 of 8 for 62 yards.
:50: Mesko booms a career-best-tying 65-yard punt. Bess fumbles, then returns it to their 18.
1:06: Another stalled drive, this time at the NE 29 when Brady’s pass for Welker over the middle falls incomplete. Brady is 2 of 9 for 31 yards so far, and the Patriots have 48 total yards of offense. Worse, Mankins is on the bench getting his leg wrapped.
1:32: Brady hits Aaron Hernandez for 15 yards and a first down at their 25. Brady now has 31 passing yards.
2:09: Dolphins go three-and-out, and the Patriots take over at the 10 after Julian Edelman juggles and then recovers the punt.
2:53: Patriots trainers are looking at Mankins’s leg after it appeared to get rolled up on the last offensive play. Any chance Bruce Armstrong is in the building?
3:17: Brady’s pass on third and 10 to Welker arrives a little early, and the Patriots’ second possession goes nowhere. Mesko’s 55-yard punt ends with the Dolphins starting at their 37 after a 13-yard return by Bess.
3:50: Jason Taylor with the sack of Brady for a 4-yard loss. This is probably an appropriate time to note that Matt Light has had a very good year.
4:47: Bush picks up 12 on third down. The Dolphins needed 17. After the punt, the Patriots will begin at the 21.
5:24: McCourty with the pass breakup on second and 17. Straight out of last year’s highlight reel.
6:20: Bush bounces outside for eight yards, putting him over 1,000 for the season, and for the first time in his six-year career. Kim Kardashian jokes inevitably ensue.
7:44: The Patriots’ seemingly methodical first drive — they converted a pair of third downs, including a 16-yard Brady-to-Wes Welker connection on third and 5 from their own 30 — suddenly stalls when Brady is sacked by blitzing Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell on third and 5 near midfield, with Danny Woodhead barely a speedbump in blitz pickup. Zoltan Mesko boots a 42-yarder on fourth and 14 from the NE 42, and the Dolphins take possession at their own 16.
10:54, first quarter, Dolphins 3, Patriots 0: … and it’s good, capping a nine-play, 50-yard drive. Miami has to be pleased to come away with points on their first drive even though they did have first and 10 at the New England 30 at one point before sputtering.
11:04: Reversed. Point, Ernie Adams. Carpenter to attempt a 47-yard field goal . . .
12:32: Brian Hartline gets past the Patriots D for 39-yard catch — Devin McCourty finally made the tackles. Miami picks up six more yards on three plays to get to the New England 24, but the Patriots challenge the call of a 6-yard completion to Devone Best as Dan Carpenter was lining up for a 42-yard field goal. Bill Belichick must be pretty certain it was incomplete to challenge it at this point in the game, though perhaps he feels 42 yards is in Carpenter’s range while 48 yards is not.
13:16: Shaun Ellis with the sack. That’s something we thought we’d write more often this season — it’s just his first of the season, actually.
13:57, first quarter: Reggie Bush picks up 10 yards on his first two carries. He’s 28 shy of his Week 1 total after two carries, and 17 away from 1,000 on the year.
We’re about to get underway here at Gillette Stadium. Stay right here for all your in-game updates. The Dolphins will get the ball first. Quick question: With the NFL’s 29th- and 32d-ranked pass defenses on the field today, how many passing yards will Tom Brady and Matt Moore pile up? Brady and then-Dolphins QB Chad Henne combined for 933 in Week 1, a 38-24 Patriots win. Let’s set the over/under at 750.