Now that’s how you want to enter the postseason. The New England Patriots were firing on all cylinders in a 28-0 home beatdown of the Miami Dolphins, and that means the Patriots will finish the season undefeated in AFC East play. This is just the second time this has happened in franchise history, and the other year they did this was in 2007.
The Patriots now have plenty of momentum heading into the postseason, and the defensive show of power was best seen in the way the pass rush played. Ryan Tannehill was sacked a whopping seven times, and Justin Francis led the way with three sacks. The rising undrafted rookie bounced back big time from a very poor showing last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it looks like Francis is in line for a little bit more playing time.
Rob Gronkowski made his return and immediately made a huge impact for this team with a touchdown catch through the seam for 23 yards. He made the most out of his four targets with two big catches, and the Patriots offense turns from very good to elite with Gronk on the field.
Wes Welker caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, and he continues to be the best skill position player in games against his former team. I always love watching him shove it in Jeff Ireland’s face in games like this.
The Patriots owned the trenches on both sides of the ball, because the offensive line greatly improved from their last game against the Dolphins, as well as their poor performance last week against Jacksonville. Everyone on the line played well, and Sebastian Vollmer finally looks healthy. The continued battles between Vollmer and Cameron Wake will be a treat to watch year-in and year-out.
With the extra time in the pocket, Tom Brady was as surgically accurate as ever with an average of nearly eight yards per attempt to go with an overall quarterback rating of 104.4. He was solid and did what he needed to do to give the Patriots two touchdown passes in a turnover-free game.
I came away very impressed with the running game, because everyone contributed to the effort in a big way. It’s no easy task running on the Dolphins front seven (credit to the line as well here), because guys like Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Koa Misi, Karlos Dansby, and Kevin Burnett are some of the best run-stoppers at their positions.
Stevan Ridley averaged under four yards per carry, but that’s misleading to me. He was the workhorse for this offense and showed a ton of effort in breaking tackles and finding the open holes. He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns. Shane Vereen had a great game with 38 rushing yards on just eight carries, Brandon Bolden chipped in a solid 26 yards, and Danny Woodhead continues to be great when given the opportunity to carry the rock. Woodhead averaged six yards per rush on three carries for 18 total yards.
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