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Sports

October 29, 2013

Patriots still a work in progress at season's midpoint

FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots’ season is half over.

Sometimes it seems as if it’s still training camp.

Young receivers are getting in sync with Tom Brady. Undrafted rookies are starting on the defensive line.

And a once-dominant team is searching for consistency.

Somehow, they’re 6-2 and leading the AFC East by two games.

“We’re trying,” Brady said. “There are a lot of things we can do better.”

That message was received at halftime of Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, the latest in a season-long line of mediocre opponents.

The Patriots went into the locker room trailing 17-3 after gaining just 59 yards. Brady was intercepted on his first pass, threw for just 25 yards and had a miserable 38.0 passer rating in the first two quarters.

“The first half was brutal,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said.

But they scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions in the third quarter.

And the Dolphins missed a field-goal attempt when the ball hit the right upright, then lost a fumble that led to the Patriots’ second touchdown that tied the game 17-17.

It was 20-17 when substitute cornerback Marquice Cole, playing because of a groin injury to Kyle Arrington, intercepted a pass tipped by safety Devin McCourty and managed to get both feet inbounds.

That set up an 82-yard drive with Stevan Ridley running the last 3 for the final points of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

But there is plenty of room for improvement on a team trying to fill holes.

Rookie wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson are playing positions handled last season by Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, who combined for 192 catches.

Free agents Chris Jones and Joe Vellano are filling in at defensive tackle for injured Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. Star linebacker Jerod Mayo is on season-ending injured reserve.

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