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Patriots 35, Dolphins 17

Takeaways from Patriots’ sloppy victory over Dolphins

Marquis Flowers (top) and Trey Flowers took down Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8). Jim Davis/Globe staff

FOXBOROUGH — Duron Harmon’s plan was to steal Matt Moore’s pass and seal a victory. Stealing teammate Stephon Gilmore’s thunder wasn’t on his agenda.

The Patriots safety accomplished all three, however, locking up New England’s seventh straight victory — a 35-17 blowout of the Dolphins Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Harmon snatched Moore’s deep pass away from DeVante Parker — and Gilmore, who also had a bead on it — for his team-high third interception of the season.

The vision of the teammates wrestling for the ball on the ground could make for some comic relief in this week’s film session.


When they realized they were battling each other and not Parker, Gilmore politely told Harmon he could have it. After all, Gilmore already had pocketed one that ended a Miami scoring threat in the first half.

“I told him he was a good teammate, man, he let me have it,’’ Harmon said with a laugh when asked what the post-pick conversation was like. “We were both all over it. It lets you know that we both have good film study and we were ready for the play. But I’ll tell you he’s a good teammate, man. He’s a really good teammate.’’

Gilmore flashed a smile and gave the same answer when asked about it.

“I had it, he had it, but I told him I’m a team player, so I gave it to him,’’ he said.

The interception capped another sterling effort by the Patriots’ defense, which has now allowed 17 points or fewer in every game during the winning streak. The defense allowed just 221 total yards — and average of 3.7 per play — and came up with three turnovers and seven sacks.

Long gone are the days when communication breakdowns and giving up big plays were the big story as the Patriots started 2-2. Now it’s New England’s defense making the big plays.


“There was a good mix today between coverage and [pass] rushing,’’ said safety Devin McCourty. “There were times out there when I think they had guys open and we got there in a hurry and other times when we covered well and gave those guys an extra second or two to make plays getting the [quarterback] down and that’s big for us.’’

The offense wasn’t bad, either. And it was the usual suspects leading the charge.

Tom Brady threw for 227 yards, Rob Gronkowski had a pair of touchdowns, and Dion Lewis rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries as Josh McDaniels’s crew ran up 417 yards.

The Patriots built a 14-0 first-quarter lead on TDs from Rex Burkhead (2-yard run) and Gronkowski (5-yard pass) and it felt like a blowout in the making.

The Dolphins stanched the bleeding temporarily on Reshad Jones’s scoop-and-score TD on a botched shotgun snap.

Burkhead got that back with a 1-yard TD reception before the Dolphins again found some life. Cody Parkey’s 28-yard field goal cut it to 21-10 and they were on the move again at the end of the half when Gilmore intercepted a pass intended for Parker in the end zone.

It was a horrible decision by Moore, who again threw into double coverage.

“They ran that route earlier on us in the first quarter and I knew they were going to come back to it,’’ said Gilmore. “I know every time Parker is in the slot he runs the seam empty so I just beat him to the spot.’’


The Dolphins were pretty much dead in the water after that — though they did manage their lone offensive TD in the fourth quarter (a Kenyan Drake 8-yard catch from Moore).

That score was sandwiched by a pair of Brady scoring strikes — a 15-yarder to Gronkowski and a 5-yard jet sweep pass to Brandin Cooks.

Here are some other observations as the Patriots ran their record to 9-2 and now shuffle off to Buffalo before heading to South Beach to face these Dolphins in two weeks:

■  The Patriots were hot in the red zone.

New England was 5 of 5 in a region where they’ve struggled this season. Stephen Gostkowski, fresh off his team record-setting performance in Mexico City, got to take the day off — at least from field goal duties.

“Obviously those are big swings, 4-point swings, whether it’s a field goal or a touchdown,’’ said Brady. “We’ve left some out there in the red area so this was good to kind of have a 100 percent day.’’

■  Jonathan Jones was again efficiently effective.

The nickel corner had a game-high nine tackles and played tight coverage against Jarvis Landry. Though Landry had eight catches, he was held to 70 yards as Jones wrapped him up and allowed precious few YAC yards — a Landry specialty.

■  The pass rush caught fire in the second half.


New England had just 17 sacks coming in, but really turned up the heat on Moore, dropping the QB seven times, including a key sequence in the fourth when Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy registered back-to-back takedowns.

Even newcomer Eric Lee registered a sack in his Patriots debut.

“It was riveting,’’ said Lee. “What goes through your body when you get a sack is overwhelming. You just want to express yourself. I’ll try to build on top of this obviously, but it was great.’’

■  The offensive line, again down a pair of starters, struggled some.

Brady was sacked only once but he was hit eight times (the QB was hot at referee Ronald Torbert a few times for what he thought were low hits) and the pressure seemed to force a few hurries and led to a Bobby McCain interception.

Fill-in center Ted Karras took the blame for the bad snap.

“That’s 100 percent my fault,’’ he said. “I just snapped it early. It was kind of a nightmare but we overcame it.’’

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Brandin Cooks got a lift from Rob Gronkowski after Cooks’s 5-yard TD. Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Patriots running back Dion Lewis had several Dolphins chasing him. Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Trey Flowers (98) knocked the ball loose and Patrick Chung (right) jumped on it. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.