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Harrington no help as Dolphins lose to Patriots

Oct 8, 2006 - 8:19 PM FOXBORO, Massachusetts (Ticker) -- Joey Harrington was much more mobile than Daunte Culpepper but could not get the Miami Dolphins moving in the right direction.

Making a surprise start, Harrington threw a pair of costly interceptions that kept the Dolphins struggling with a 20-10 loss to the New England Patriots, who got a pair of touchdown passes from Tom Brady.

Steve Gostkowski kicked two field goals for the Patriots (4-1), who managed just 213 total yards but nevertheless handled the punchless Dolphins for the sixth time in the last eight meetings.

After going 9-7 with journeyman Gus Frerotte last season, the Dolphins overhauled the quarterback position in the offseason, acquiring Culpepper and Harrington via trades. Neither has been able to generate any offense as Miami (1-4) has yet to score more than 17 points.

A former Pro Bowler with Minnesota, Culpepper was coming off knee reconstruction surgery, which clearly affected his mobility. He was sacked a league-high 21 times before coach Nick Saban made the change before Sunday's game, citing his starter's bruised right shoulder.

"Joey started today because we felt Daunte was not physically able to go out there and play up to his capabilities," Saban said. "(Culpepper) wanted to play. I admire that in him. I love it in him. He's a pit bull kicking in the corner, giving his last breath."

"We heard Harrington got some reps early in the week and we figured it was a possibility," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "I was still thinking Culpepper up until game time until we heard it was going to be Joey.

A bust with Detroit, Harrington showed good mobility and presence. He avoided a sack until the fourth quarter and threw with confidence, completing 26-of-41 passes for 232 yards.

However, he was picked off twice by cornerback Asante Samuel, and both were costly.

"Every single one of us fought out there today and we made mistakes to give the ball game away," Harrington said. "When you play a good team like New England, you can't make the mistakes, because they are not going to.

"It's the best way to defeat another team," Samuel said. "If you win the turnover battle, you have a good chance to win."

Samuel returned the first interception 26 yards to the 10 to set up Brady's touchdown pass to Troy Brown for a 13-10 lead midway through the second quarter. The second was a deflection off the hands of Wes Welker and led to Brady's one-yard TD toss to fullback Heath Evans with 9:47 to play.

Brady was 16-of-29 for 140 yards - including a pair of fourth-down completions - as he improved to 28-6 all-time against AFC East foes. New England scored 17 points off three turnovers by Miami.

"We didn't play as well as we were capable, but we got the win," Brady said. "We got some help from the defense a bunch of times, which really helped us out a lot offensively because we didn't move the ball very well. I think everyone is feeling good after a tough win."

Welker caught a career-high nine passes for 77 yards and tight end Randy McMichael added six for 84 for the Dolphins, who also lost a fumble and committed 10 penalties.

"No one likes to lose," Saban said. "I think we're a lot better football team today than we've been for a long time and I think we need to build on that. It doesn't make any difference what the record is, it's what we need to build on and what we need to do."

Miami trailed by just three points late in the third quarter when David Bowens recovered a fumbled punt return by Kevin Faulk at the New England 37. But Harrington threw two incompletions and Miami had to punt again.

On 3rd-and-5 from his 12, Harrington threw a bit behind Welker on a crossing route. The ball could have been caught but instead deflected right to Samuel, setting up the Patriots at the 24.

"Turnovers are huge," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It puts you on a good field. There are opportunities there. That was big.

Two plays later, Brady threw to the end zone and drew an interference penalty on cornerback Will Allen that put the ball at the 1. He found Evans on the next play, and when Olindo Mare missed a 50-yard field goal with 5:59 remaining, that was it.

We lost, which doesn't feel good, but we did make some positive strides," Harrington said. "I think Coach Saban said it best when he said that he was proud to be part of the Dolphins today, but we hate losing."

Harrington's first bad throw came midway through the second quarter as he never saw Samuel, who had inside coverage. Two plays later, Brady threw a dart over the middle to Brown for a TD and a 13-0 lead.

"It was flat coverage for us," Samuel said. "I went for the ball and went up and got it. Every week you watch the films on different teams and you get a couple hints. They like to go outside a little bit."

It looked like the rout was on, but Harrington showed some poise and directed a pair of scoring drives before the end of the half.

He found Welker three times for 46 yards before Ronnie Brown banged in from the 2 with 2:56 left in the first half, then completed four straight passes to set up Mare's 40-yard kick with 24 seconds to go.

Ronnie Brown's first-possession fumble at the Dolphins 38 set up a 35-yard field goal by Gostkowski that opened the scoring.

Mare had a 40-yarder blocked before Brady completed a fourth-down pass and Gostkowski booted a 31-yarder early in the second period.

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