Patriots 27, Dolphins 17: Takeaways & observations

The Miami Dolphins’ quest to put together a strong 60-minute effort again fell short.

What’s more frustrating for the Dolphins and their fans than losing on the road to the AFC East-leading Patriots 27-17, was that Miami dominated the game for the first 35 minutes.

Then the Dolphins collapsed.

Miami led 17-3 after one half in which it controlled the ball for 19 minutes, 9 seconds (compared to New England’s 10:51).

Safety Jimmy Wilson was incorrectly called for pass interference on a third-and-6 pass to Rob Gronkowski. The call helped set up the Stephen Gostkowski’s 34-yard field goal.

Although that bad flag was glaring, it was not the reason Miami lost the game.

Caleb Sturgis missed a 46-yard field-goal try against the wind on the Dolphins’ first possession of the third quarter. From that point, New England took control and Miami’s offense did little.

The Dolphins became the first team since the Patriots in 2002 to win their first three games and then lose the next four.

1. Tackle Bryant McKinnie and the offensive line produced a mixed bag.

As expected, newcomer McKinnie started at left tackle with Jonathan Martin moving to right tackle.

Early signs were encouraging, as the line helped Miami rush for 103 yards and convert 6 of 10 third-down tries in the first half. Plus, Tannehilll wasn’t touched.

That all changed in the third quarter, when the Patriots went blitz crazy. They sacked Tannehill twice, the second one resulting in a forced fumble at Miami’s 13.

Overall, Tannehill was sacked six times for 47 yards lost. That’s 32 sacks allowed through seven games.

2. Wide receiver Brandon Gibson exits early with a leg injury.

Gibson scored Miami’s first touchdown when he caught Tannehill’s 4-yard pass at 6:37 of the first quarter. It was the receiver’s third touchdown in seven games.

On the Dolphins next possession, Gibson suffered a left leg injury when Tannehill overthrew him on a first-down pass. He limped off the field and was carted off the sideline. He did not return.

Signed as a free agent during the offseason, Gibson entered the game as Miami’s second-leading receiver, behind Brian Hartline. His loss for an extended period of time would be a big blow.

Rishard Matthews (three catches, 30 yards) replaced Gibson.

3. Wide receiver Mike Wallace continues to make little impact.

Even with slot receiver Gibson missing most of the game, Wallace had just three catches for 41 yards. He also had two drops.

A late screen pass gave a glimpse of what Wallace can do with the ball, when he ran 25 yards on a third-and-23. He also gained 8 yards on an end around in the third quarter.

Still, the big free-agent haul this spring seeks that breakout performance.

4. Defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon played well.

Odrick had two sacks and four tackles (two solo). Vernon had one sack and six tackles (2 solo).

They especially played well in the first half, when New England managed just 41 yards rushing.

They also helped a defense that allowed Rob Gronkowski just two catches and limited Tom Brady’s effectiveness (13 of 22, 116 yards, one touchdown, one interception).

5. Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis was off the mark.

Of the past five times Sturgis has lined up for a field goal, the Dolphins have come away with 3 of a potential 15 points.

Sturgis’ 39-yard attempt was blocked by New England’s Chandler Jones. He also hit the goal post on his 46-yard miss, and kicked a 52-yarder against the wind.

His last two attempts entering the game were misses from 57 and 51 yards. Not gimmes, but he was drafted with the reputation of having a very strong leg.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas