Justin Francis #94 of the New England Patriots celebrates a sack against Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins in the second half during the game at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The New England Patriots came into Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins knowing they could finish anywhere from 1st to 4th in the conference.  By the time the game started they knew they were playing for a bye week and quite possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Patriots then went out and played like champions.

Forget last week, Tom Brady was so pissed off after last Sunday all of New England could feel his wrath and it was certain his team mates did.  They put aside the ugliness on both sides of the ball from Week 16 and just flat out beat the Dolphins who were trying to finish at .500 for the season.

Brady himself set the example that last week was unacceptable to him, the staff, the team, the owners and the fans.  He was 22 of 26 for 284 yards with 2 TD passes, no INTs and only got sacked 1 time. 

RB Stevan Ridley had a pair of rushing TD’s and went over 1200 rushing yards for the season.  TE Rob Gronkowski returned and only had 2 catches but 1 was a 23-yard TD catch from Brady.  The Mighty Mice, WR Wes Welker and R Danny Woodhead, showed why they are football players.  Welker had 8 catches for 94 yards and 1 TD, while Woodhead ran for 18 yards and added 79 receiving yards as well.  Time after time Brady went to the Mice for needed first downs and they rarely let him down.

On the defensive side, rookie DE Justin Francis had his coming out party and was named the Sox & Dawgs Defensive Player of the Game with 3 sacks, 3 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 3 QB hits.  Fellow rookie DE Chandler Jones looks fully recovered from his foot injury and led the team in tackles.  S Steve Gregory had an INT and rookie LB Dont’a Hightower had a huge fumble recovery that snuffed a Dolphin drive in the 3rd quarter.

The only thing the Patriots couldn’t today was help Kansas City beat Denver.

New England gets a bye week next week and then they face one of three teams they’ve already seen earlier this season.  Depending how the Wild Card games shake out New England will host the Texans, Ravens or Colts on January 13th.

Dolphins at Patriots Gamebook includes the box score, all the stats, play by play, drive charts and more.

Patriots at Dolphins Game Recap.

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Turning Point of the Game

Trailing 21-0 Miami had a 2nd and goal at the New England 3 yard line and QB Ryan Tannehill botched a handoff to RB Reggie Bush the ball rolled to the 1-yard line and was recovered by Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower.

Offensive Player of the Game

WR Wes Welker had 8 catches for 94 yards and 1 TD and added 11 yards rushing.

Defensive Player of the Game

DE Justin Francis, the rookie had 3 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 3 QB Hits.

Game Notes

Starters for the Patriots were:

On Offense:

LT Solder

LG Mankins

C Wendell

RG Connolly

RT Vollmer

TE Hernandez

TE Gronkowski

TE Welker

WR Branch

QB Brady

RB Woodhead

On Defense:

DE Ninkovich

DT Wilfork

DT Deaderick

DE C. Jones

LB Mayo

LB Spikes

LB Hightower

CB McCourty

CB Arrington

S Gregory

S Chung

Inactives for the Game:


  1. CB Marquice Cole (finger)
  2. CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring/knee)
  3. OL Markus Zusevics
  4. DE Jake Bequette
  5. OL Nick McDonald (shoulder)
  6. WR Kamar Aiken
  7. S Nate Ebner (hamstring)


  1. QB Pat Devlin
  2. WR Devone Bess (back)
  3. CB Nolan Carroll (knee)
  4. LB Josh Kaddu
  5. T Patrick Brown
  6. TE Kyle Miller
  7. DT Kheeston Randall

The spread (Patriots MINUS 11) WAS covered.  The over/under (46) WAS NOT COVERED.  I GAVE the points (Patriots) and took the OVER.  I am now 4-12 vs. the spread and 10 of 16 calling the under/over.

Since 1999 the Patriots have the best record in the NFL at 159-65.

Since 2001 the Patriots are 74-17 in games played on Thanksgiving or later.

Since 2001 New England is 45-6 in December games. At home in December they are 22-2.

New England is 61-21 vs. the AFC East since 2000 in the regular season. 

Since Gillette Stadium opened the Patriots are 27-5 against the AFC East.

The New England defense has forced a turnover in 27 consecutive games dating back to Week 6 in 2011.

The Dolphins lead the all-time series 50-45. This includes 3 meetings in the playoffs with the Patriots holding a 2-1 post season edge.

The Patriots have gone undefeated in division play for the 2nd time in team history (2007).  They have had 1 division loss 7 times (1987,1997, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011).

Patriots set a new NFL record for most first downs in a season with 444.

The Patriots have won 15 of the last 20 games between the teams.

New England is 30-17 as the home team in the series including playoffs.

The Patriots swept the series from Miami for the 3rd consecutive season.

The Patriots have now swept the Dolphins 9 times in the series history including 6 times in the Belichick era (2003-‘04, ‘07, ‘10-‘12).

This was the fourth time the Patriots have shut out the Dolphins in the series.  It was the first since December 2003 when the Patriots won 12-0 at Gillette Stadium.

The shut out was New England’s first since the 2009 season.

Bill Belichick is now 204-108 including playoffs in his career.

Belichick’s 204 wins are good for 7th all-time.  Marty Schottenheimer who coached the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers is 6th with 205 wins.

Belichick coached teams are 17-11 vs. Miami. Belichick is 17-9 as Patriots head coach and he was 0-2 as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Tom Brady is 16-6 vs. the Dolphins.  Overall including playoffs he is 152-44.

Brady has 334 TD passes in his career he is now 5th all-time.  Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton is 4th with 342.

Brady has thrown at least 1 TD pass in 48 consecutive games.  That is the second longest streak in NFL history.

He is the first QB in NFL history to throw a TD pass in a 16 games, 3 seasons in a row.

The Patriots are 91-16 when Brady throws at least 2 TD passes in a game.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 117 consecutive games including playoffs, 100 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

Welker led the team with 8 catches for 94 yards and 1 TD.

RB Stevan Ridley finished the season with 1263 rushing yards and a team leading 12 TD’s.  He had 74 yards and 2 TD’s on 20 attempts.

Ridley is just the 5th Patriot to rush for 1200+ yards in a season.

TE Rob Gronkowski had the other TD catch it was his 11th TD of the year.

DE Chandler Jones led the team with 7 tackles (3 solo), he also had 2 passes defensed and 1 tackle for loss.

Rookie DE Justin Francis had a team high 3 sacks on Sunday.  DT Vince Wilfork, DT Brandon Deaderick, DE Trevor Scott and S Derrick Martin each had 1 sack.

Francis (3) and Wilfork, Deaderick, Scott, Martin and LB Dont’a Hightower each had QB hits.

Hightower had a fumble recovery at the New England goal line when Miami QB Ryan Tannehill botched a handoff to RB Reggie Bush.

Francis had 3 tackles for loss to lead the team.  Jones, Wilfork, Deaderick, Scott and Martin all had 1 tackle for loss.

S Steve Gregory had his 3rd INT of the season.

Jones (2), Gregory, S Patrick Chung, CB Kyle Arrington, LB Jerod Mayo all had passes defensed.

Arrington led the squad with 2 tackles on special teams.

Roster moves this week:

  • DE Jermaine Cunningham was activated to the 53-man roster after serving a 4 game NFL suspension.
  • WR Kamar Aiken was released.
  • RB James Develin was released.
  • WR Tony Logan and OL Jeremiah Warren were released from the practice squad.
  • Re-signed RB James Develin, WR Kamar Aiken and S Cyhl Quarles to the practice squad.
  • Released DL Ron Brace.
  • Promoted DB Malcolm Williams and WR Kamar Aiken to the 53-man roster.

The Patriots sacked Miami QB Ryan Tannehill 7 times, while Brady was sacked 1 time.

New England is PLUS 25 in turnover differential, 1st in the NFL. The offense has given up 9 INT and 7 fumbles, while the defense has 20 INTs and 21 fumble recoveries. 

The Patriots were 3 for 3 (100 %) in the red zone.  They had 3 TDs.

New England was 8 for 16 (50%) on third down conversions and 2 for 3 (66.7%) on 4th down attempts.

The Dolphins are 17-30 as the road team in the series and 2-9 at Gillette Stadium.

The Fish are 31-43 vs. the AFC East since 2001.

Miami has lost the last 6 meetings between the teams.

Miami head coach Joe Philbin in his 1st season as an NFL head coach; he is 7-9 since taking over.

He is 0-2 against New England in his career.

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is in his first season in the NFL and he is 7-9.  He was Miami’s first round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M.

He is 0-2 vs. New England in his career.

Tannehill is the first rookie QB in Dolphins history to start all 16 games.

Tannehill threw his first INT in 141 attempts when Gregory picked him in the first quarter.

Miami was 5 for 13 (38%) on 3rd down conversions and 0 for 1 (0%) on 4th down attempts.

The Dolphins were 0 for 1 (0%) in the red zone.  They had 1 fumble.

Miami is MINUS 10 in turnover differential. The offense has given up 13 INT and 13 fumbles, while the defense has 10 INTs and 6 fumble recoveries. 

Jerome Boger was the game referee.  The temp at kickoff was 28 (wind chill 16), windy and cold.

Attendance – 68,756 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro MA.

Post Game Interviews

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Patriots QB Tom Brady post game press conference via patriots.com

This Week in the AFC East

Bills whipped the Jets, 28-9

Final AFC East Standings

Patriots                 12-4/6-0

Dolphins                  7-9/2-4

Jets                      6-10/2-4

Bills                      5-11/2-4

Next Week

The Patriots, who are the #2 seed in the AFC, will host Houston, Baltimore or Indianapolis at Gillette Stadium on Sunday January 13th at 4:30 p.m.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMichaelsII

photo credit: getty images