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G15: Patriots 27, Dolphins 24 (Final): Sublime in first half, and then not so much

[1. Merry Christmas eve, Christians! Happy holidays, others! Join us on Twitter @gregcote. 2. You can still vote in our "No Matt Barkley -- What Next" Dolphins poll in post directly below this. 3. Heral'ds Heat special section is out today and I contribute this column on impact of Udonis Haslem's return to health].

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G15: DOLPHINS AT NEW ENGLAND: NEW STAKES FOR MATT MOORE?: Final: There is no shame in losing 27-24 at New England, although when you lead 17-0 after a dominant first half, even losing-close doesn't feel so good. Another solid game from Matt Moore save for one pick. Another big game from Reggie Bush (22-113) and from Brandon Marshall (7-156). But in the end Tom Brady to Wes Welker was too much for Miami. This game reiterated what the surge since that 0-7 start has showed us: Miami is pretty good. But not yet good enough. ..... 4Q: Moore to Davone Bess TD pass and Dolphins within 27-24 with under 2 minutes left. (Those people cheering, led by me, are the ones who bet Miami to cover a 10-point spread). ..... Brady with another short TD run and a 27-17 Pats lead with under 3 minutes left. ..... Pats' 42-yard FG for first lead at 20-17. ..... Moore with an underthrown INT; not his finest moment. ..... 3Q: Brady sneaks in from the 1 and Pats tie it 17-17 in a big third quarter for the Tri-Cornered Hats. ..... Brady to Deion Branch for 1-yard TD pass and Pats suddenly within 17-10 after Moore loses fumble at own 38. ..... Dolphins lose fumble. My wife (and untold thousands of other Dolfans) just said, "Heeeere we go..." ..... English finally avert shutout and make it 17-3 on 45-yard FG. ..... Half: Complete domination. Matt Moore with a 120.3 passer rating to Tom Brady's 51.9. Reggie Bush already with 81 yards rushing and Brandon Marshall with 102 receiving. Defense with 3 sacks and holding NE to 107 total yards. Good lord. Very impressive performance. ..... 2Q: Pats shank a FG try wide left with 3 seconds left to keep shutout intact at half. ..... A 3-and-out by Pats elicits boos at Razor Blade Stadium. ..... Matt Moore with his second TD pass, this a 1-yarder to Charles Clay, the lead now 17-0. Wow. ..... Upset in the making? Brandon Marshall 19-yard TD from Matt Moore and it's 10-0. Tom Brady is 2-for-9. The dimple on his chin is sad! ..... 1Q: yet another case of the dropsies by Brandon Marshall. ..... Dan Carpenter 47-yard FG for 3-nil lead. ..... Original post: Matt Moore has impressed. His 1aa1dolpat88.7 passer rating is fifth in the AFC. That, coupled with USC's Matt Barkley excluding himself this week from the upcoming NFL draft, make the final two regular-season games very interesting for the Dolphins at the QB position. It had been all but a given that Miami would target Barkley in the first round. Now, without that option, with Andrew Luck out of play, with a trade-up for Robert Griffin III costly and with the Colts claiming they won't trade Peyton Manning, options have been limited. Unless Miami is enamored of Landry Jones (I hear otherwise) or a lesser-regarded collegian, it would seem increasingly likely Moore might go into 2012 as the starter-designate if he continues to impress in the final two games. Beyond that audition element today, I give Miami a decent outright upset shot at New England and think they'll beat the 10-point betting spread. Think the Dolphins can do plenty with the ball against a pretty generous (read: bad) Pats' defense. But ultimately I also think Tom Brady aiming at Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski will be too much. Pick: Patriots, 30-23.