1. There were multiple elements of Marquice Cole's interception of Ryan Tannehill with 13:10 remaining that were impressive. Start with a strong rush from left end Rob Ninkovich, who got under right tackle Jonathan Martin to pressure Tannehill as he threw. Then consider Devin McCourty's range to get to the sideline on the long pass down the right side, then the vertical leap to go up and tip it. And finally, Cole’s presence to stay in bounds, corral the tip, all while keeping his feet in bounds. That’s about as good as it gets.
2. Right guards are often anonymous if they do their job well, and Dan Connolly falls into that category from Sunday. It was Connolly who played his technique well on the Patriots' impressive 12-play touchdown drive into the wind in the fourth quarter, drawing a hands-to-the-face penalty against Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai.
3. A case could be made that running back Stevan Ridley should be playing more than he is, but the counter-point was on display on the Patriots’ 12-play scoring drive into the wind in the fourth quarter. LeGarrette Blount ran hard on the drive, playing nine snaps (passing back Brandon Bolden had the other 3), and his presence was a big part of the team’s success. Blount had a long run of 19 yards up the middle on the drive. Bill Belichick obviously likes the idea of a time-share at the position and he could point to that drive as the reason. At this point last season, Ridley was averaging 35.8 snaps per game. This year, while adjusting the average for the one game he missed, he’s at 27 snaps per game.
4. On the third sack of Tom Brady, with 11:37 remaining in the quarter, it was once against left guard Logan Mankins' responsibility as Olivier Vernon dropped Brady. The difference on this one was that there was more of a coverage element to it. Mankins anchored to initially stop Vernon's momentum and Brady did have time for a quick throw, but when the first read wasn’t to his liking, Vernon had shaken free at that point. Not entirely on Mankins, of course, as the pocket was closing quickly on Brady as the Dolphins had sent a defensive back off the blindside that was picked up (sort of) by left tackle Nate Solder, who dove low to impede the path of Jimmy Wilson. Overall, this wasn't Mankins' best game.
5. On “Crazy Legs” Brady’s 8-yard scramble on fourth-and-4, the Patriots lined up with three pass-catchers to the left -- Austin Collie split wide, with tight end Rob Gronkowski inside him, and Danny Amendola a bit tighter to the formation. Receiver Aaron Dobson was the lone receiver lined up to the right, while Bolden aligned to Brady’s right in the shotgun. As Brady explained after the game, he was looking for Gronkowski and Amendola at the sticks but they were well covered. He pumped once before tucking the ball and running up the middle, where Bolden had stepped up to pass protect before releasing because there was no one to block on the four-man rush. The Dolphins over-pursued on the edges, opening the lane for Brady up the middle and his pump fake might have been the key because it froze linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler enough to keep them honest.
6. Cornerback Logan Ryan got credit for a sack of Tannehill with 5:25 remaining, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see that ultimately shared between him and rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones. More impressive play from Jones, who played every snap, as he aligned as a 3-technique (outside shade on guard) over left guard Richie Incognito, beat him to the outside, fought through what looked like a non-called holding penalty, and closed on Tannehill while wrapping up his leg as Ryan finished him off.
7. The Patriots’ defense pitched the second-half shutout, but one play the unit would like to have back is a 25-yard quick receiver screen to Mike Wallace on third-and-23 with 4:45 remaining. Perfect call by the Dolphins against a seven-man blitz, as the Dolphins had the numbers and size advantage down the field, with the speedy Wallace doing a nice job following his blockers. One could say “live by the blitz, die by the blitz” as the Patriots dialed up the pressure more than they had all season. This was one play where it worked against them.
8. Protection breakdowns just killed the Dolphins. On Ninkovich’s sack that preceded a blocked field goal, he was unblocked coming off the left defensive edge as right tackle Jonathan Martin blocked Chris Jones and running back Daniel Thomas stepped up and blocked no one. It was noted in the third-quarter picked-up pieces that it appeared to be Thomas who blew the assignment on Ryan’s strip sack. He seemed to be at fault on this one too.
9. We don’t often get to highlight the field-goal block team, but with Chandler Jones breaking through to block Caleb Sturgis’ 39-yard attempt with 2:51 remaining, here is how the team lined up (left to right): Cornerback Cole, linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive end Ninkovich, defensive end Chandler Jones, defensive end Andre Carter, defensive tackle Joe Vellano on the left side of the snapper, with defensive tackle Chris Jones, linebacker Chris White and safety Steve Gregory on the line to the right. Linebacker Brandon Spikes was on the second level to the left of the snapper (if he was on the line of scrimmage on that side it would be a penalty) and safety Devin McCourty stayed about eight yards deep. On the play, Chandler Jones timed up the snap perfectly and beat the right tackle to his outside shoulder as there was immediate separation in the protection, and then he reached his long right arm in the air. Just like they drew it up.