New England Patriots defeat Miami Dolphins, 23-16

Two plays. Two inches. Too good.

The essence of what makes pro football the game America loves and coaches hate decided yesterday's gutsy 23-16 Patriots victory over the Miami Dolphins at Dolphins Stadium. Two plays. Two inches. Too good.

That's what the Patriots did and what they were. They were too good by 2 inches, which is the way most things get decided in the NFL these days.

In a game they badly needed to win, the Patriots made two plays that were too close ...

Patriots running back Corey Dillon felt good after warmups yesterday and thought he was ready to go. But he appeared to injure his right calf on the first play of the game and didn't play again in the 23-16 win over Miami.

It was a difficult end to a stressful week for Dillon, whose father died last week.

Dillon, who sat out one game this season, said his status has been frustrating.

''I just have to get healthy," Dillon said. ''I'm just now getting halfway over t...

Corey Dillon was hurt again. Mike Cloud wasn't getting anywhere. Sam Cunningham is retired, and it didn't seem like a good idea to try Richard Seymour on offense again, so Bill Belichick went with his only other option.

Heath Evans.

Only fantasy footballers and Patriot get-a-lifers had heard of Evans before yesterday, but it was all-beef Heath who shouldered the load for much of the day in New England's 23-16 win over the Dolphins.

Evans led all rushers with 84 ya...

Asante Samuel had chest bumping in mind, and there was no shortage of teammates willing to oblige.

Defensive linemen, linebackers, even offensive players who were coming onto the field so that Tom Brady could take the required kneel-down, offered flying chest matches for the Patriots cornerback.

It was time to rejoice in triumph.

Twice on this day -- and for the first times this season -- a New England opponent ventured into the red zone and came away without poin...