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Patriots 23, Dolphins 16

Preview | Box Score | Recap

MIAMI (AP)—Bill Belichick showed again how resourceful he can be. Not that Nick Saban expected anything less from his mentor.

With no running back, a Saban castoff at fullback and reserves at three other offensive positions, Belichick and the injury-riddled New England Patriots still beat Saban’s Miami Dolphins 23-16 Sunday.

Tom Brady brought New England from behind twice in the second half, throwing for the game-winning score with 2:16 left. Gus Frerotte then drove the Dolphins 70 yards to the 5 with a minute remaining, but his fourth-down pass went off Chris Chambers’ fingertips in the end zone with 36 seconds to go.

“This is one of those great games that went back and forth,” Belichick said. “It turned into a track meet at the end. I’m proud of the guys for hanging in there.”

The game was the first between Belichick and protege Saban, a friend of 23 years. When the game ended, they shook hands at midfield and had a brief exchange.

Two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England (5-4) remained alone atop the AFC East. The Patriots have won 21 of their last 25 division games.

Miami (3-6) missed a chance to tie for the division lead, instead losing for the fifth time in six games.

“I can’t sit here and say that our players aren’t as good as their players,” Saban said. “I feel terribly that we didn’t get the result that we wanted.”

Four offensive starters were inactive for the Patriots, and a fifth— running back Corey Dillon—was limited to two plays because his leg tightened.

“They’re great at making adjustments, and great at getting things fixed,” Saban said.

Belichick turned ball-carrying duties over to fullback Heath Evans, signed after Saban released him Oct. 25. Evans carried 17 times for 84 yards, surpassing in one game his total for any of his previous four NFL seasons.

“I remember the first day at practice when we thought, `Why did somebody release him?”’ Brady said. “We thank the Dolphins very much for letting him go.”

But it was Brady who bailed out the Patriots. He went 21-for-36 for 275 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to backup tight end Benjamin Watson.

“As usual, Tom played his best football when it counted,” Belichick said.

Brady’s first scoring pass covered 16 yards and put New England ahead 12-7 on the final play of the third quarter. But Frerotte, who went 25-for-47 for a season-high 360 yards, regained the lead for Miami on a bizarre 15-yard touchdown pass.

With the Dolphins in the shotgun on third-and-3, Seth McKinney snapped the ball prematurely and it deflected off Frerotte’s right leg. He quickly picked it up and threw down the middle to Chris Chambers, wide open in the end zone after slipping behind Ellis Hobbs.

The Dolphins’ 2-point conversion failed, leaving them ahead 16-15 with 2:59 to go.

New England needed only two plays to come back. First, Brady threw 59 yards to Tim Dwight, who outwrestled Reggie Howard for the ball. Then, Brady hit Watson with a 17-yard touchdown pass.

Frerotte and the Dolphins weren’t finished, and they reached the 5 with 58 seconds left. Saban, the target of much second-guessing when he opted to throw rather than run with a chance to force overtime a week ago, again went with passes.

Frerotte threw incomplete into the end zone on first and second downs, then hit Ronnie Brown in the flat for a 5-yard loss. Chambers had a chance to catch Frerotte’s final throw, but the ball fell incomplete.

“I got my fingertips on it,” said Chambers, who dropped three other passes. “I had a tough time picking up those low balls today.”

Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals for New England. Olindo Mare kicked one for Miami but missed a 31-yarder in the second quarter.

The Dolphins squandered another scoring chance when McMichael lost a fumble at the New England 9 and Hobbs recovered.


Patriots C Dan Koppen went to the locker room in the third quarter with a left arm injury. … Patriots WR David Givens, RB Patrick Pass, TE Daniel Graham and T Tom Ashworth were inactive. … Frerotte’s yardage total was his highest since 2000. … The Patriots won in Miami for only the second time in their past eight attempts.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New England
B. Watson B. Watson TE
3 Rec, 37 yds
2 TDs
G. Frerotte G. Frerotte QB
25-47, 360 yds
2 TDs, 1 INT

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards


Week 12
  Thursday, Nov 24  
Detroit 27
7 Final
Dallas 24
21 Final
      Sunday, Nov 27  
Cincinnati 29
42 Final
Buffalo 13
9 Final
Tampa Bay 13
10 Final
Minnesota 12
24 Final
  New England
Kansas City 16
26 Final
  San Diego
Washington 23
17 Final
  San Francisco
Tennessee 22
33 Final
  St. Louis
Houston 33
27 Final
Arizona 24
17 Final
Oakland 33
21 Final
  Green Bay
Philadelphia 14
19 Final
  NY Giants
Seattle 21
24 Final
  New Orleans
NY Jets 21
19 Final
      Monday, Nov 28  
Indianapolis 7
26 Final