In the season finale for the Patriots, who have already clinched the AFC East and a top two spot in the AFC playoffs, one thing was left for them to achieve. They were able to capture the top seed in the AFC for the play-offs with a win over their AFC East division rivals, the Miami Dolphins, who also happened to be making the playoffs as well. In a game that was well in-hand for the Patriots for the majority of it, they put out a great showing against a Dolphins squad who came into today having won nine of their past ten games.
Tom Brady had another great performance in this game with 276 yards and three touchdowns on 25 of 33 passing. He came out of the gate early with two touchdown passes in the first two offensive drives with one going to Martellus Bennett and the other going to Michael Floyd. Also, Brady passed Dolphins great Dan Marino for fourth most passing yards all time in this game today. He also would finish with the best single season touchdown-to-interception ratio for a quarterback (28 touchdowns to two interceptions, 14:1) as well.
As for this game, Brady kept all of his teammates involved throughout the game with seven different players had a catch. Julian Edelman had a career day against Miami, finishing with 151 yards receiving and a touchdown on eight receptions. Capping off one of his best seasons in the NFL, Edelman finished with 98 receptions, 1,106 receiving yards and three touchdowns as Brady’s main weapon for most of the season.
Bennett and Floyd both had themselves great games as well. With his touchdown reception today, he set a career best with seven touchdowns in a single season. He’d also finish with 701 receiving yards (third highest single season total in his nine season career thus far) and 55 receptions. Taking over main tight end responsibilities for Rob Gronkowski when he went down with injury, Bennett showed he was up to the task despite dealing with multiple injuries for a good portion of the season. For Floyd, this was his second game as a New England Patriot and he made quite the impression. While he finished with 36 yards on three receptions, his touchdown reception was something to watch.
Floyd found himself with a reception around the Dolphins four yard line and despite being draped by four or five different Dolphins players, he tucked the ball in and kept his feet moving. He would be tackled just past the goal-line for the impressive catch and run effort for the touchdown. His other big play came in the form of a key open field block on Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett.
Edelman had caught a pass from Brady over the middle and was making a run for the end-zone. Floyd was keeping pace with Edelman and was able to deliver a devastating block to Lippett to secure Edelman would make the end-zone unscathed. It was a play that ratted Lippett, ultimately causing him to go through the concussion protocol (which he passed) before being allowed to return to the game.
Chris Hogan and James White both had four receptions a piece, resulting in 27 yards for Hogan and 21 for White. Matt Lengel and Dion Lewis would be the other receivers, combining for three receptions and eight yards.
Another game, another LeGarrette Blount rushing touchdown. Blount would find himself in the end-zone for the 18th time this season, which leads the NFL and is tied for 15th most for a single season. He would finish with 51 yards on 14 carries. Blount will finish the season with 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns on 299 rushing attempts (all career highs). Considering he is 30 years old and one year removed from a serious hip injury, this is quite the turn-around for the veteran. Dion Lewis would also see a good amount of work in the run game, finishing with 48 yards on 11 carries (4.4 yards per carry). White, Brady and Edelman would round out the rest of the rushing stats with four carries for 21 yards.
Overall, it was another great performance from this offense with 396 yards from scrimmage, 22 first downs and no turnovers. This offense will now have time to rest for a week on bye in preparation for their next game in the divisional round of the playoffs.
For their defense, the Patriots had another terrific showing. This is their fourth game in the past five where they kept their opponents under 15 points total. They did allow the Dolphins to score two touchdowns today, the first time allowed since the third quarter of their week 14 match-up against the Ravens. While they didn’t record any sacks on Matt Moore, New England had delivered pressure constantly throughout the afternoon on him.
That included Chris Long pursuing him and forcing him to make a throw to cornerback Logan Ryan for an interception. The Dolphins only mustered 280 yards from scrimmage and had two turnovers, including the Ryan interception. In the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty would come up with a crucial forced fumble on Damien Williams in the Patriots red-zone, which Shea McClellin picked up and ran all the way back to the Dolphins red-zone. Trey Flowers also had another impressive game as well with five tackles overall and two quarterback hits as he functioned everywhere on the defensive line today, even at nose tackle for a play or two.
Moore had a decent game overall with 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 24 of 34 passing. He would complete touchdowns to Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills on consecutive 75 yard drives to have the Dolphins trailing at one point only 20-14 in the second quarter. Landry had a nice game with 76 yards and a touchdown to go with nine receptions while Stills had four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. DeVante Parker was also involved with five receptions on 45 yards, along with Damien Williams (three catches, 23 yards) and Jay Ajayi (three catches, 20 yards). Moore showed poise in the pocket and patience at times today as he made some nicely timed throws with few mistakes outside of his interception.
After having 206 yards and a touchdown on 32 rushing attempts last week against the Bills, Ajayi came back to Earth a bit. He functioned as the lead back for the Dolphins but finished with only 59 yards on 16 carries (3.7 yards per carry). It marks the fourth game in his past six with under 4.0 yards per carry. Kenyan Drake and Williams combined for six carries for 15 yards while Jakeem Grant had one carry for a yard as well. It was a poor showing overall for the Dolphins in the run game today as they had 75 yards on 23 carries (3.3 yards per). Their longest run of the game was only for 11 yards as well, which the Patriots deserve credit for preventing any big plays in the run game from happening.
For the Dolphins in general, it was a poor showing for a team that is in the playoffs, even against the Patriots. New England had not won in Miami since late 2012 prior to today. They will now head to Pittsburgh to face off against the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
For the Patriots, they will now have a bye week to rest and get ready for the wild card weekend to see who they will be playing in Gillette in two weeks. New England also finished with the best record in the NFL this season at 14-2, which isn’t bad considering their starting quarterback was suspended for the first four games. The Patriots have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs and it’ll be interesting to see how they will fare in a field with three teams (Oakland, Miami, Houston) all potentially playing their back-ups quarterbacks.