Last year, the New England Patriots had a chance to lock up home field advantage in the season finale in Miami against the Dolphins and failed to deliver.
There was no such slip up this time around.
With a dominating performance by their future Hall of Fame quarterback, the New England Patriots delivered a loud message to the sixth seeded Dolphins and the rest of the AFC playoff field:
This Patriots team is going to be a difficult out.
Tom Brady finished the day 25-32 for 276 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots locked up the number one seed in the AFC and assured themselves home field throughout the playoffs. They’ll have a week off and await their next opponent as the Wild Card round takes place next weekend.
New England’s win look similar to their earlier win over the Dolphins in Week 2, as the Pats raced out to a 20-0 lead on Brady touchdowns to tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Michael Floyd before Miami came back with two touchdowns of their own to make it 20-14.
Just as it looked like Miami would come back again, the Brady and receiver Julian Edelman delivered the crushing blow.
Facing a 3rd and 7 from their own 23 yard line, Brady hit Edelman on a quick hitch pattern for a first down. As he raced up the field, Edelman got a bone-crushing block from Floyd near the 45 yard line of New England to clear the path and the Patriots never looked back from there. A LeGarrette Blount one yard touchdown and two point conversion finished the scoring as the Patriots bookend their season with a 35-14 win.
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New England, who finishes the season at 14-2 for the first time since 2010, had struggled in Miami in recent seasons, having not won there since 2012. But as they did in Denver two weeks ago, they made sure another one of their houses of horror would not derail another Super Bowl run.
And they did so in dominating fashion.
- Tom Brady continues to astound. The 39 year old passer seems to get better and better as the season goes on and he played one of his best games this season when everything was on the line. Many speculated that Brady and the starters would be pulled late in this game, but the Patriots played their starters throughout. Brady, who finishes the season with 28 touchdowns and two interceptions, sets the NFL record for best TD:INT ration at 14:1 beating Nick Foles‘s previous record of 27:2.
- The Patriots defense, which finishes the regular season as the number one overall scoring defense in the NFL, showed some signs of concern today, particularly in the pass rush. New England failed to register a sack in a game for the first time since Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- One the other hand, the Patriots defense has continued to come up with turnovers in big spots. None were bigger than the fumble safety Devin McCourty forced mid-way through the fourth quarter. Facing a second and goal from the Patriots nine yard line, Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore hit running back Damien Williams on a little swing pass to the left. As Williams tried to turn up field, McCourty ripped the ball out of his hands and linebacker Shea McClellin raced 69-yards up the right sideline to set New England up for their game clinching score.
- Michael Floyd made a massive impact for the Patriots and that is a healthy sign as the Patriots begin to march towards the Super Bowl. Now that they will be without tight end Rob Gronkowski, Floyd’s physical presence–as was evidenced today by his first touchdown as a Patriot and block on the Edelman touchdown–will be an added bonus for this team in the playoffs.
- The Patriots, who were unable to do so last year, sent a huge message to the rest of the AFC: enter Foxborough at your own risk.
A bye. New England has next weekend off as they prepare to face off against either the Dolphins, Raiders, Chiefs, or Texans depending on how the seeding plays out in the afternoon games.