MIAMI - Sooner or later, the hex, the curse, or whatever it was had to end.
The streak had to end.
And, unfortunately, a quality football game had to end.
What a way to end them all.
Tom Brady threw an 82-yard touchdown pass to Troy Brown 9 minutes and 15 seconds into overtime yesterday at Pro Player Stadium to give the Patriots a thrilling 19-13 win - New England’s first in 14 visits to Miami in September or October - only after Richard Seymour blocked Olindo Mare’s attempt at a go-ahead field goal with two minutes remaining in regulation, Mare (the second-most-accurate kicker in league history) missed a 35-yarder in overtime wide right, Brady recovered his own fumble at New England’s 40, and Tyrone Poole intercepted Jay Fiedler on Miami’s second possession of the extra session.
“It was almost like they were trying to give it to us,” Brown said. “It was a matter of time before we took advantage of it.”
Guess it was just time. Thirty-two years was enough. Sixty-nine minutes was enough. The Patriots definitely had had enough of being punked in Miami.
“It was good to get that monkey off our back, coming down here to Miami and losing for I don’t know how many years in a row [five],” Brown said after his walk-off touchdown (it’s still baseball season, OK?) vaulted New England (5-2) into first place in the AFC East by a half-game over the Dolphins (4-2). “It feels good just to come down here and get a win. It was one of those things hanging over our heads. We’ve been in a couple of those situations. The Jet thing, coming to New England and beating us up for four or five years [five, actually]. Coming down here and losing for I don’t know how many years in a row in September. Another one of those things to get off your back. Hopefully, next year you guys won’t hang it over our heads.”
Can’t. They’ve got another streak going. The Patriots have beaten the Dolphins in overtime the last two times they’ve met. New England overcame a 24-13 deficit with five minutes left in last season’s finale to win, 27-24, and keep the Dolphins out of the playoffs. As they did last December, the Dolphins yesterday had several opportunities to put the Patriots away. They didn’t. Or, worse for their annually failed Super Bowl aspirations, they couldn’t.
“It should have been over [at the end of] regulation,” Jason Taylor said. “It could have been over sooner than that. We could have put some separation between us. We didn’t, and now we’re sitting here with long faces talking about what could have been.”
Taylor had been a rather rude host the Patriots’ previous three visits (3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries), but he was extremely hospitable yesterday (one tackle in regulation) until his strip sack of Brady to end New England’s first drive of overtime because the Patriots were sliding their protection toward him. Taylor went back to being a nonfactor from there, which wasn’t very long thanks to the offensive line’s execution on the final play.
Taylor beat Matt Light inside, but Damien Woody was there to back Light up. Brady, having play-faked and pump-faked right, drifted left and - sore elbow, sore shoulder, and all - heaved a deep pass to Brown, whose post route across the field split Dolphin safeties Sammy Knight and Brock Marion. Miami was in a two-deep zone. The Dolphins let Brown get too deep and he ended up scoring.
“Brady, I don’t know how long he held onto the ball,” Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said, “but he throws it on time, [Brown’s] not going to get behind [the coverage].”
“I told Brock and Sammy it wasn’t their fault,” Taylor said. “We gave them too much time. He scrambled to my side and threw the ball, so I obviously feel very responsible. The guys in the back cover, and it’s my job to beat whoever they put in front of me.”
The five to seven men placed in front of Brady kept the quarterback from being sacked until Taylor finally got around Light in OT. But Brady, who struggled here the previous two autumns, had enough time to complete 24 of 34 attempts for 283 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
“Our offensive line did an unbelievable job all day,” Brady said. “Those guys . . . just played their [butts] off. The gave me a little extra time on [the winning touchdown]. Troy got behind them, I just laid it up there and just let old No. 80 go trot in for the win.”
Brown, running out of “bunch” formations designed to prevent Miami’s defenders from matching up with and pressing receivers, had 131 yards on six receptions. His touchdown was the longest reception of his 11-year career.
“Tom said, `This is your play.’ So I ran as hard as I could,” Brown said. “I was tired of being out there. It was getting hot. Guys on defense were starting to cramp up. I wanted to finish it right there.”
The Patriots looked done when Miami converted four third downs on a 16-play drive to what was assumed would be Mare’s go-ahead field goal. But “Block Right Push” saved the day. They looked done again when Fiedler and Derrius Thompson hooked up on a questionable 31-yard completion on the second play of OT, and when Ricky Williams scooted for 10 and 13 yards on the next two plays to put Miami at New England’s 20. But Mare was wide right.
It turned out they were never out. Most important, not at halftime (10-6, Miami), the way they were last year (16-0).
“We knew coming in if we just fought them for 60 minutes - actually, today was 60-plus - we could pull it out,” Woody said. “We just kept slugging it out and eventually came out winners.”