FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Dimitri Patterson knows a thing or two about lost time.
He’s spent the majority of the 2013 season out of the limelight, his patience tested to an exasperating degree by a groin tear suffered in Week 1.
It was only fitting then that when he officially returned to the starting lineup Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, his second game back, Patterson needed just two plays to send his team’s most formidable foe into a tailspin.
With one eye on quarterback Tom Brady and the other on tight end Rob Gronkowski, Patterson jumped New England’s offensive route, darting in front of Gronkowski and intercepted Brady’s pass, cradling his catch with one arm as he fell to the turf. At 12:15 of the first quarter, the Dolphins were given the jolt that would last for a full two quarters.
“We knew [the Patriots] wanted to get started early and get Gronk going,” Patterson said.
Patterson’s lost time allowed for extra film room sessions — the same sessions that gave the 5’10”, 200-pounder the right insight for his two-interception game at Cleveland in Week 1.
In just three games, the eighth-year undrafted pro out of Tuskegee has three interceptions, eight solo tackles and a sack.
“Every play’s critical, you try to make as many plays as possible,” Patterson said. “You try to make them when they come your way and capitalize on every chance you get. [Brady’s] a great quarterback, he’s not going to make many mistakes.”
The play set in motion a dominant half by the Dolphins, who led 17-3 as the second quarter expired. Unfortunately for Patterson and Miami, the high energy and complete control of the first half morphed into a sinking, methodical loss by the close of the second half (24 unanswered points for New England).
In the third quarter, Patterson found himself in the middle of two of the game’s most critical plays.
With the game tied at 17 and the teams trading drives, the Patriots threatened again at 2:24.
On second-and-9 from his own 34, Brady went deep to Aaron Dobson, under tight coverage from Patterson and safety Chris Clemons. Patterson’s coverage was as tight as it could be, but Dobson made the catch nonetheless, gaining 26 yards in the process.
Three plays later for the Patriots, at third-and-5 from the Miami 40 and with the Dolphins defense hanging on for dear life, Brady threw deep to a triple-teamed Gronkowski. A 5-yard defensive holding call by Patterson completely changed the landscape of the drive, and put the Patriots in position to take the lead. New England responded with an eventual 48-yard Stephen Gostkowski a field goal, securing a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Calls get made that you disagree with every week,” Patterson said. “But there’s no excuses. That’s how we play, anyone who watches us on tape knows that — the corners and the secondary.”
Patterson’s first-half boost didn’t just flow over to the offense, but to his teammates as well. Defensive end Jared Odrick’s two sacks (including one at the start of the third quarter) helped fill the defensive highlight reel.
Odrick said he’s relieved to have Patterson back in the full-time lineup.
“Dimitri’s a great guy to have around, not just on the field but in terms of the team as a whole,” Odrick said. “He’s a veteran guy that comes in and does his job every day, and he’s a focus guy. He doesn’t talk much, he just does his job.”
For one half at least, that job performance gave the Dolphins serious hope for their divisional chances. But Patterson seemed to know there was nothing but additional film studying awaiting him after a flight back to South Florida.
“It felt good coming off a tough injury like this,” Patterson said. “But obviously it was offset with the loss — a very tough loss.”