Have the Dolphins been competitive with Patriots? Not at the right times

Tom Brady is looking to make the Patriots 4-0 against Miami under Adam Gase. (AP)

DAVIE—In 180 minutes against the Patriots as Miami head coach, Adam Gase has not had a single lead. In fact, he’s never been able to escape the first quarter without already being down two touchdowns.

Yet there’s this feeling throughout the Dolphins’ locker room that they’ve shown themselves they can compete with New England. It’s not totally unfounded, though the Patriots are 3-0 by a margin of 46 points, because some of their games are up for interpretation as far as how much of a chance Miami had.

A quick recap:

–In Week 2 last year, the Dolphins were down 24-0 at the half and trailed 31-3 late in the third quarter despite the Patriots playing Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. However, Miami closed the game with 21 straight points and was throwing into the end zone from inside the New England 30 on the final play.

–In Week 17, the Patriots pummeled Matt Moore in a game that didn’t have significant stakes for either side. That one was 20-0 in the second quarter and ended 35-14.

–Two weeks ago, critics would point out that Miami was down double digits from early in the second quarter through the end of the game, while the Dolphins would defend themselves by saying they were within 11 and still had 11:43 to play.

So when he takes all of that into account, how much of a fight does Gase believe he’s put up against Bill Belichick?

“We’ve made some mistakes that have extremely hurt us, especially early in the game,” he said. “Then once we get into the game we compete better with them and put ourselves in positions where at least we have a chance.”

The slow starts have been a killer.

This year’s game at Gillette Stadium was the best the Dolphins have done, trailing by merely 14 before they scored their first points. They forced what looked like a three-and-out on New England’s opening possession, but the Patriots converted a fake punt from their own 27-yard line and ultimately rolled in for a touchdown.

They had their third touchdown about two minutes into the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Dolphins went punt, punt, field goal, interception, punt, lost fumble and punt on their seven offensive possessions through three quarters.

“It’s really hard to challenge them the way you need to challenge them if you’re down 21, 14, 20 before you even get going,” Gase said. “They’re a hard enough team to play when it’s close, and now all of a sudden you give them a big lead and you’re (thinking), ‘Hey, we’ve gotta score every drive and then we have to stop them.’ That’s a tough thing to do.

“We need to do a better job of being competitive early and try to see how long we stay tight with them, and then that’s when you have to go try to win in the fourth quarter. There’s not too many times where you see teams get a lead and keep a lead for the entirety of the game. To beat them, it’s gonna be close. You’ve gotta keep it close, then in the fourth quarter you’ve gotta make plays to beat them.”

The crux of Gase’s comments is that there’s minimal margin for error if a team like the Dolphins is going to beat New England. The Patriots are better in every regard, and that’s not the type of team Miami will be able to catch from behind.

Gase starts thinking about that from the onset, which factored into his thinking at the coin flip two weeks ago. Miami won the toss and, despite its struggles with falling behind the Patriots, elected to kick off. He fears giving Belichick the chance to manipulate the possessions going into and coming out of halftime.

“If we take the ball, you know what’s gonna happen at the end of the half, right?” he said. “They’re gonna have six minutes left, they’re gonna use all the clock, then they’re gonna get the ball (after halftime) and they get a chance to have two scores without us touching the ball.

“Our defense went three and out last time (on the opening possession), and we got caught on a fake punt. That’s a prime example of everybody’s gotta do their job and be where we’re supposed to be, and it’s complementary football. It’s what they do best, and we have to do a better job of it.”

[Dolphins TE Julius Thomas explains his unusual touchdown celebration]

[Nice win, Dolphins. Now pay Jarvis Landry.]

[Grading the Dolphins after their 35-9 win against Denver]

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