BY KEVIN FLANAGAN
After looking under-manned, uninspired and downright dreadful on both sides of the ball in the first half against the Dolphins the Patriots came out in the second half and did something that they haven’t been able to do all season in the third quarter, score touchdowns.
Looking every bit like a team that was trending downward the Pats played as if they were sleepwalking for the first two quarters of the game. The defense playing without their run-stopper Vince Wilfork was shredded for nearly 100 yards rushing by halftime and the offense was downright offensive with quarterback Tom Brady throwing for a scant 25 yards and an interception.
Whatever adjustments were made at halftime worked and the unstapling from the bench of running back Steven Ridley and cornerback Logan Ryan also helped. Ridley spent the first quarter in moth balls while Ryan rode the pine for the better part of the first half. Once he was inserted to the game Ridley proceeded to run for over a hundred yards and Ryan contributed to a defense that swarmed the Dolphins in the second half.
Given their contributions to the comeback it makes you wonder why they were on the bench at all.
To start the day it looked as if everyone from the fans in the stands to the Patriot players on the field were dealing with a collective hangover from the horrible end to game 3 of the World Series just hours earlier. The Dolphins, who were given an early gift from Brady to start the game seemed to be able to move the ball at will and the Patriot offense was at a loss in trying to respond. When TB12 took a knee to wind out the clock to end the half the boo birds were out in force in Foxboro.
What the second half showed is that this team, while it is clearly flawed, still knows how to fight. You can’t coach heart and the bounce back they showed in the second half is a sure sign that although they are dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball they still have the will to compete even when they were clearly outplayed for the first 30 minutes.
With the NFL trade deadline approaching on Tuesday and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be “in play” for a deal this offseason you have to wonder if the Patriots could make a push for the other worldly wide out before the deadline.
Much like the addition of Aquib Talib at the deadline last year, such a move could spark the Pats sometimes sputtering offense and give Brady another reliable target on an offense that has yet to discover its identity. That coupled with the return of Talib could re-establish the Patriots as a team to contend with when the real season starts in January.
It is only one game and it was only the Dolphins but the second half comeback for the Pats is the type of game that good teams build on. Whether they do or not will go a long way in determining if the 2013 Patriots are contenders or pretenders.
A big move at the trading deadline could be just what this team needs.