With about 4 minutes to play within the third quarter, the Patriots definitely appeared like they had been headed for a loss.
The offense was fairly lifeless and whereas the protection saved the workforce within the sport, the Patriots hopes of extending playoff life appeared fairly bleak.
Enter safety Kyle Dugger.
With Miami up 14-10 and dealing with Third-and-15 from the 24, starter Teddy Bridgewater dropped again and unloaded the ball to Trent Sherfield, who seemed to be huge open.
Besides he wasn’t. Dugger, taking part in Cowl-2 in the course of the sphere, learn the play, jumped in entrance of Sherfield, picked off the cross and weaved 39 yards to the tip zone.
Landing. Patriots lead.
“You by no means actually know when your time goes to return to do it,” Dugger stated after the 23-21 win over the Dolphins. “I used to be in the correct place on the proper time.”
The group, which did not have a lot to cheer about at that second, erupted. Patriots linebackers had been leaping up and down. It supplied a a lot wanted jolt.
“Once I acquired my palms on the ball, I knew I needed to rating,” Dugger stated of the snap that led to the Patriots’ victory. “It helped the workforce quite a bit. That was the aim.”
Dagger initially headed down the left sideline after he intercepted a cross, however ultimately minimize, bowling over Bridgewater to seek out himself in the long run zone.
“I actually noticed a bit little bit of a gap proper on the finish. I believe it was the quarterback in a approach,” Dagger stated. “I noticed a excessive entry from the O-lineman, a bit bit open. I knew I needed to get into it to get in the long run zone.”
Dagger has sparked the workforce a number of occasions this season because it marked his third defensive landing of the season, the primary Patriot to take action since 1970.
“We wanted him in the present day. Made an enormous step,” Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty stated of Dagger. “I might say that within the final a part of the season he’s taking part in nice soccer. Actually proud to be there with him.
“His manufacturing and studying, his course of all through the season, it is no shock that it is paying off. The boy was great.”
Matthew Judon didn’t argue with that evaluation of Dagger, who’s now in his third season.
“I believe you are going to have to write down Kyle a clean verify, that is how good he’s on the market,” the Patriots quarterback stated. “Only for him to get that interception and switch it into an offense, that is a one-man band.
“It simply appeared like each week we acquired one. We’ve got to maintain doing it, concentrate on it. That is the aim. For Kyle to try this, it was a extremely unimaginable sport.”
The return additionally marked his seventh defensive landing of the season, a brand new franchise report. It was choose five-six. The protection being so opportunistic was a godsend for the workforce.
“It simply form of exhibits that the mindset is to get the ball and rating, get the ball and rating,” Dugger stated. “Drive the automobile, drive down. It is simply our mind-set. I believe that basically highlights it probably the most.”
Whereas Dugger is aware of he nonetheless wants to enhance in a number of areas, his playmaking means within the secondary has actually stood out. His touchdowns got here with two interceptions and one fumble return.
Patriots head coach Invoice Belichick praised Dagger after the sport, particularly for a way he was in a position to make his approach into the tip zone.
“It was an important sport. A bit bit like Marcus (Jones’) sport. It was an important run. The interception, it was play, catch and all that, however he made loads of yards on his personal,” Belichick stated. “Like I stated, like Marcus did final week, breaking down offenses at midfield or the 40-yard line, no matter it was, slicing again.
“Yeah, everyone knows Kyle is a really, very explosive, athletic participant. He is carried out an important job for us jamming receivers, making runs, making tackles, making huge performs. When he will get his palms on the ball, he is arduous to pay money for. “There’s not loads of guys on the market which are going to catch him on offense, so if it was a Detroit scoop-goal sport, the interceptions right here that he is had the final couple of weeks … he is actually helped us.”
Dagger, a Patriots 2020 second-round choose from Lenoir-Rhyne, stated he does not preserve his landing sport balls. He’s extra involved with making ready for the subsequent sport. He appears to be like ahead to the problem of taking part in the Payments when the playoffs dangle within the stability.
“We’re very enthusiastic about it, the problem forward, understanding we now have quite a bit to place into the week,” Dagger stated. “We’re extraordinarily enthusiastic about this chance. We’re going to ensure we do every thing we will to make it sport.”