MIAMI GARDENS – Five-year veteran Rob Ninkovich was a surprise contributor to the Patriots’ 41-14 victory over the Dolphins with two interceptions and a quarterback sack.
Making the performance that much sweeter was that it came against one of his former teams.
Ninkovich was with the Miami Dolphins practice squad for most of the 2007 season, when the club had just one win. He had two other stints with the Miami practice squad in 2008, but never broke through with a permanent spot on the 53-man roster.
The Dolphins had him at inside linebacker, but now in his second season with the Patriots, he has emerged as a starter at outside linebacker the 3-4 alignment.
The two interceptions were big plays in the game – one in the first quarter, one in the second quarter – as they rescued a defense that was struggling to create resistance against the Dolphins’ offensive attack.
“Those were two good catches,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He really had to extend, reach out and catch the ball. Both of them were outstanding plays. They bailed us out.”
The first interception came with Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne looking for receiver Brandon Marshall. The second was intended for running back Patrick Cobbs.
A perfectionist, Ninkovich was still kicking himself after the game for first-quarter struggles setting the edge in the running game.
“There are always some plays I would like to have back, especially on that first drive,” he said.
Yet in the end, he allowed himself to enjoy the victory.
“I was here as a practice squad guy," he said. "Now, playing against them, it feels good.”