DAVIE, Fla. -- A prime-time meltdown by the Miami Dolphins' special teams cost an assistant coach his job.
"It's a hard decision to make," Sparano said. "I know how hard this guy works. Nobody works harder than him at what he does."
While the turnovers hurt, the lapses by Bonamego's units doomed the Dolphins. The Patriots trailed 7-6 before Brandon Tate returned the second-half kickoff untouched for a score. Pat Chung blocked a punt to set up a touchdown, then blocked a field-goal attempt that Kyle Arrington returned 35 yards for a TD and a 34-14 New England lead early in the fourth quarter.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," Miami cornerback Jason Allen said. "You can't expect to win when you're playing a team like -- actually, any team. I don't care who you're playing, when we do the things we did."
"We all should be," he said. "We let the whole team down."
"I don't think probably much of anything that happens in the league these days is a surprise or unheard of," Belichick said. "It's unfortunate. ... I'm sure those decisions aren't easy."
"That's part of the special teams challenge, when you bring new players in and you get them involved," Sparano said.
The Dolphins have a bye this week, then resume a rugged stretch in the schedule. Their next six opponents are a combined 16-8.
"Miami is a good team," Belichick said. "I am sure we haven't heard the last of them."
But the Dolphins need to quickly figure out how to block for kicks and cover them better. That responsibility now rests with Rizzi, a former college head coach at New Haven who took his first NFL job when Sparano hired him last year.
"He's very smart guy who has his own way of doing things," Sparano said. "He'll have his own spin on the special teams area. It's important that we have some continuity there and fix the problems."
"I want my core players to play better on special teams," Sparano said. "If we need to put some starters out there, then we will."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press