FOXBORO - "The more that you make plays, the more opportunities that you get," rookie defensive back Logan Ryan was mentioning after his sack and forced fumble recovery resulted in the New England Patriots tying the Miami Dolphins late in the third quarter Sunday.
"You have to be aware of the situation and make the play," chimed in Marquice Cole, who intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass and tip-toed the sideline midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots translating that takeaway into their third touchdown of the second half and a 27-17 victory over the Dolphins.
With Aqib Talib already on the inactive list, then with Kyle Arrington suffering a first-half groin pull, the Patriots' defensive secondary had some changes in personnel.
"This is what we do, understand what is being coached," related New England defensive back Devin McCourty, who leaped high to tip Tannehill's pass while falling out of bounds into the hands of Cole.
"Guys prepare hard, they come in and get a chance to make a play and they did."
The Patriots made so many plays defensively during the second half that they twice wiped out 14-point deficits; limited Miami to 126 net yards of offense over the final two quarters (just 43 rushing yards), allowed just two of seven third-down conversions, all while Tannehill was completed just 11 of 24 passes, while being sacked six times.
The result was New England's sixth victory of the season, while the Dolphins suffered their fourth straight setback.
Ryan, Cole and McCourty were the enablers, the New England defense limiting Miami to just 51 net yards on five offensive series during the third quarter, to without a point during the second half as kicker Caleb Sturgis had a third quarter 46-yard field goal hit the right goalpost and a 39-yard attempt in the fourth quarter was blocked by Chandler Jones.
That was all after Miami had scored points on three of its first five series during the first half; had limited Tom Brady to merely 25 yards passing, yielded just 41 yards on the ground, allowed New England to convert just two third-down situation and cross midfield just once.
Ryan, the rookie out of Rutgers, proved to be a catalyst, sacking Tannehill for a 10-yard loss and forcing a fumble at the Miami 13-yard line which Rob Ninkovich recovered.
"I just wanted to get the ball out, it's something that we always have - all 11 guys executed on the play," said Ryan. "Sack, fumble is something that we practice every day. Getting the sack is one thing, but I wanted to force the fumble and I'm glad that it came out."
Ryan, who returned his first NFL career pass interception 79 yards for a touchdown last week against the Jets, created his first NFL sack on the second down play that left New England in possession of the ball at the Dolphins' 13-yard line.
"I moved on from the last game," added Ryan, who apologized to teammates, family and NFL fans for his end zone antics at Met Life Stadium. "I got my opportunity in the second half, any time that your number's called, your name is called, you want to make a play.
"That's what Patriot football looks like - everyone doing their job, being consistent. That stuff rubs off. A lot of guys are making plays at opportune times."
Then it was McCourty and Cole placing an exclamation mark on Miami's second-half demise with their perfectly choreographed pass interception.
Trailing by the margin of a field goal with a first down at the New England 46-yard line, Tannehill lofted a sideline pass toward wide receiver Mike Wallace. "He (Cole) was in bounds, but I kind of figured, just running as far as I ran that I wasn't in bounds," said McCourty, who deftly leaped him and, while in the air, tapped the ball into the hands of Cole.
"That's the biggest thing on that, being aware, by myself getting my feet in and Devin making the play happen," said Cole, who tucked and treasured the ball for his first pass interception of the season. "You can't practice that, things just happen that you just have to be aware of the situation and make the play."