FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Dolphins were as close as they have been to cruise control against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium when the clock ticked down at the end of the first half.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took a knee before the home team went to the locker room at the break with boos echoing around Gillette Stadium.
At the start of the second half, the game was still moving in the Dolphins’ favor. The Patriots went three-and-out in their opening drive. Tannehill and the Dolphins responded, moving the ball down the field into field goal range.
But kicker Caleb Sturgis’ 46-yard field goal attempt rattled off the right upright — the kick had plenty of distance on it. In the end, the miss summed up the Dolphins’ second half.
“All of my balls in warm up were moving pretty good right to left, a few yards, so I just thought I’d start up on the right upright,” Sturgis said. “It just never moved.”
Following the missed field goal with 10:13 left in the third quarter, momentum slowly moved toward the Patriots’ sideline.
On the game clock exactly 10 minutes after Sturgis’ miss, New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski swung through a 48-yarder that put the Patriots up, 20-17, erasing the 14-point deficit they faced at the start of the quarter.
Sturgis knew that his missed field goal would have dug the Patriots into a deeper hole, too.
“It would have put us up three scores, it would have been huge,” he said. “I need to make those.”
The Patriots scored 24 unanswered points — 17 of those in the third quarter — and swiftly shifted attention from their struggles in the beginning onto the Dolphins’ miscues at the end.
With an opportunity to cut into New England’s lead late in the fourth quarter, Sturgis stepped up again for a 39-yard attempt.
This time the kick didn’t even reach the end zone. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones came off the edge and blocked the kick.
“I was slow. I need to speed up on that, I know on my part I was just slow,” Sturgis said. “It’s disappointing when you let the team down.”
Right tackle Jonathan Martin acknowledged that Sturgis’ first miss could have affected the game’s “emotions,” but said that the team’s response needs to be better, too.
“Anytime you have a change of possession near midfield, I think that it affects the emotions of the game,” Martin said.
“They went down and scored after that, so I think there’s some truth to that [first missed field goal shifting momentum]. But we have to do a better job as an offense making sure after something like that happens, we come out and execute better.”
Sturgis made the first 10 field goals he attempted this season, but has struggled since the Dolphins’ Oct. 6 loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
After making his first three kicks against the Ravens, Sturgis missed a 57-yard attempt that would have tied the game at 26-all. (Miami lost the game, 26-23.)
Including his final kick against the Ravens, Sturgis has missed four of his past five attempts.
But Miami coach Joe Philbin isn’t losing confidence despite his kicker’s latest slip up.
“I have a lot of faith in Caleb,” Philbin said. “He’s a pro and works at it every single day. I’m sure he’s going to get back on track.”
Philbin did notice a difference in the way Miami played before and after Sturgis’ kick went off the upright, though.
“[Before the miss] we were making a lot of first downs. We were dictating the tempo, just like we wanted to,” Philbin said. “We were making stops on third down. Credit them, they made a lot of plays in the second half, and we have to do better.”