MIAMI -- The much-maligned Patriots defense appears to be coming together at the right time and is seemingly bringing more pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- from different spots -- than ever before.
One of the most notable examples from Sunday's 23-16 victory over the Dolphins came midway through the fourth quarter. The Dolphins faced third-and-4 from the New England 7-yard line, and linebacker Jerod Mayo executed a delayed blitz to register a crucial quarterback sack of Ryan Tannehill.
Mayo said after the game that it's a play he runs all the time in practice. In games? Not so much.
"If we get the right look, we'll call it," he relayed. "It was just a call by the coaching staff and it came at the right time."
Mayo's sack, his third of the season, forced the Dolphins to kick a field goal that sliced the Patriots' lead to 20-13.
That's when the Patriots' offense put together its impressive 16-play drive to make it a two-possession game again.
The defense was on its game for most of the afternoon, opening with two three-and-outs and producing a second-quarter strip sack by end Trevor Scott that resulted in a field goal. At halftime, the Dolphins were 1-of-6 on third down, and finished the game 3-of-13.
Pressure was part of the plan, as cornerback Kyle Arrington also blitzed effectively in the second half.
The Patriots needed everything the defense had because their No. 1-ranked offense was held to 23 points, tying for the second-lowest total of the season (18, vs. Arizona on Sept. 16).
"Especially when the offense struggles, it's a chance for us to showcase how special we are on the defensive end," said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who recovered a fumble and brought it to his wife Bianca in the stands.
"[The] offense is OK to have a bad game here and there. They've done so much for us and one thing we always want to do around here is play as a team."