It was a former Dolphin who sparked the New England offense in Sunday’s 41-13 loss to the Patriots. Running back Jonas Gray didn’t have a single snap in the first half but provided the boost that his team needed when he finally got the ball in his hands in the third quarter.
Miami had seized the game’s momentum heading into halftime. After a highlight-reel touchdown catch by Mike Wallace, the Dolphins were trailing by just 14-13, and there was a smattering of boos from the Gillette Stadium crowd as the home team left the field. The Patriots’ touchdowns had come on a blocked field-goal attempt and an 8-yard drive set up by an interception, and their offense wasn’t moving the ball.
When they got the ball to start the second half, Tom Brady completed his first pass to Rob Gronkowski. On the second play of the drive, Brady found Gray for a 7-yard reception, and the running back’s demonstrative reaction brought the crowd to life. Gray leapt to his feet and let out a yell that seemed to wake the slumbering Patriots up.
“I was excited,” Gray said. “I was excited to make a big play for our team and kind of be a sparkplug for the offense.”
On the following snap, he barreled through the Dolphins defensive line for a first down, and the New England offense was rolling. On the next series, Gray had 19 more yards on the ground, and the energy he ran with caught the attention of wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
“That guy came in running like he was possessed,” LaFell said. “The guy had a big game, and he’s been on the bench for a few weeks, but when he got his chance [Sunday], man, he came out and showed up.”
Gray became a fan favorite after a 201-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Indianapolis Colts, but he found himself in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse after sleeping through practice the following week. In the team’s next four games, Gray had three carries and wasn’t on the field until the third quarter on Sunday.
“Whenever your number is called, whatever you can do to help the team, you do your role to the best of your ability,” Gray said.
He finished the game as New England’s leading rusher with 62 yards on 11 carries, but it was the way that he ran that got his offense’s attention.
When asked about Gray’s start to the second half, fullback James Develin said: “I love when people get all hyped up, and you can feel it. You can feed off of those other guys, and you can feed off of the crowd and keep it rolling.”
Gray began his career as a Dolphin in 2012 when he was signed as an undrafted free agent. But he never played a regular-season snap for Miami. He was nursing an injured knee in training camp and was one of the Dolphins’ final roster cuts at the end of the preseason. Despite not making the team, Gray said that he harbors no ill-will toward Miami.
“I was happy to be there for the time I was there,” Gray said, “and I was thankful for the opportunity that they gave me. But this week was a regular game, and we were playing a divisional opponent that’s given us some trouble the last couple of games, and that’s really all I was focused on was getting a win.”