Every week, PFW associate editor and Patriots writer Kevin Fishbain will identify three up-and-comers and three players/units going in the opposite direction in the Patriots stock report.
1. WR Wes Welker: In case anyone forgot how dangerous Welker can be, he reminded them with a dominant performance on Saturday. Welker had 12 catches for 138 yards and was targeted 19 times. He also had four third-down catches. It was Welker's first 100-yard receiving game since Week 13 and his most catches since Week Three.
2. DE Shaun Ellis: With Andre Carter out for the season, Ellis, Brandon Deaderick and Mark Anderson needed to step up and fill his void. Ellis was the one who saw the biggest spike in playing time, as he was on the field for 34 defensive snaps, according to ESPN Boston. Ellis finished with a sack, two QB hits and three tackles. It was his first sack of the season.
3. S Sergio Brown: Brown struggled often earlier in the season and played his way out of the safety rotation. With Patrick Chung still out and the Patriots without much consistency, Brown saw increased playing time on Saturday. He was in on 54 snaps and finished with two tackles.
1. Offensive line: First, OLT Matt Light is a late scratch, then his replacement, Logan Mankins, leaves with an injury, putting the Patriots with a very inexperienced group up front. The Dolphins took advantage, sacking Tom Brady four times and hitting him eight times. The Patriots finished the game with rookies at the tackle spots and a reserve at left guard - Donald Thomas. The health of this group is a big concern heading into the postseason.
2. Big-play defense: Devin McCourty had four passes defensed, including an interception, but he was also beat deep on a 39-yard play to Brian Hartline and on plays of 41 and 47 yards to Brandon Marshall. The middle of the defense allowed a 26-yard pass to Marshall with Jerod Mayo and James Ihedigbo in coverage.
3. Starting fast: OLB Rob Ninkovich told PFW last week about the team's need to start fast, but it got down 17-0 quickly to Miami. It was the fourth time this season the Patriots did not score in the first quarter and the third time in the last five games they allowed at least 10 first-quarter points, putting Tom Brady's offense in a hole.