In The Red Zone

I hope every one had a great holiday, mine sure was better with the win on Saturday over the Miami Dolphins.

I’d say there’s probably one more thing to accomplish for the team in the regular season and that’s to secure the top seed in the conference.  That happens with a win on Sunday or a Baltimore loss and a Pittsburgh loss.

After a short week then a game the team now gets an extra day to prepare for the Buffalo Bills who, with the exception of the Week 3 loss earlier this year in Southern Canada, have been New England’s whipping boys for the last 8 seasons.

It’s also the regular season finale and then the team will have two weeks to prepare for its first playoff opponent.  They’re hoping this year to get past the first round.  As Patriots fans recall the last two seasons have ended with home playoff losses to Baltimore and the New York Jets.

It will be interesting to see how much stock Bill Belichick and the staff put into getting home field advantage through out the playoffs.  Does he take the game against the Bills to rest some regulars or does he go all out?  I think with a bye week next week you will see an all out effort as being at home where the Patriots play so well is extremely important to playoff success.  You don’t want to lay back and get to the Conference Championship only to have to go to Pittsburgh or Baltimore.  While those teams are formidable no matter where they play I’m sure New England would rather have the Gillette Stadium crowd behind them in crunch time.

No if the defensive secondary could only hold up through the playoffs this has “Magical Run” written all over it.

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Head coach Bill Belichick has 189 career wins, which are good for 9th all-time. Former LA Rams, Washington and Seattle head coach Chuck Knox is 8th with 193 wins.

Belichick and George Seifert are the only two head coaches with 13+ wins in 4 different seasons.  With a win on Sunday Belichick will have done it five times.

Patriots clinched a first round bye with the win over Miami.

After the game on Saturday, the team gave owner Robert Kraft the game ball and a painting honoring his late wife Myra.

New England has won 7 consecutive games after a 2 game losing streak.  It is their longest win streak of the season.

Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, New England is 73-15 at home including the playoffs and is 20-1 in December home games.  Both are the best in the NFL in that time period.

New England is 40-5 in December games, home or away, since 2001.  That’s the best in the NFL in that time period.

The Patriots went undefeated again in the month of December.  They now have had 7 undefeated Decembers since 2001.

Tom Brady had 1 TD pass to give him 297 TD passes in his career he is now 6th all-time.  Hall of Fame QB John Elway is 5th with 300.

Brady had two rushing TD’s in a game for the first time in his professional career.

Brady has 123 career wins he is 6th all-time.  With a win on Sunday he will tie Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton for 5th with 124 wins.

K Stephen Gostkowski made a TD saving tackle, erasing the memory of his earlier missed FGA.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 97 consecutive games including playoffs, 80 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

Look at that date in the last line…that’s 6 years with a catch in every game he has played in.

Welker had 138 receiving yards to break Randy Moss’ team record of 1,493 set in 2007.

TE Rob Gronkowski had 78 yards receiving to break the team record of 1,174 by a TE set by Ben Coates in 1994.

Gronk needs just 72 yards receiving to set a NFL record for single season yards by a tight end that is held by the great Kellen Winslow Sr. with 1,290 yards in 1980.

The coaching staff sings the praises of rookie RB Stevan Ridley.

New England was 8 of 17 (47%) on 3rd down and 1 of 1 (100%) on 4th down.  Miami was 5 of 13 (38%) on 3rd down.

Dolphins were 3 for 3 in the red zone and 1 for 1 on goal to go efficiency while the Patriots were 3 for 4 in the red zone and 3 for 3 in goal to go efficiency.

The Patriots tied their season high of five sacks in a game Saturday. (5 at Pittsburgh and 5 at New York Jets).

After not having allowed a 100-yard rusher all season New England has allowed a back to get 100 yards or more in two of the last three weeks.

On Monday the team released S Ross Ventrone from the 53-man roster and DL Cedric McKinley from the practice squad.

How the Patriots suddenly handled the Dolphins blitzes.

New England is now plus 14 in turnover differential after getting 2 takeaways against Miami.

Russ Goldman of Pats Fans has five positives to take away from the Patriots victory over the Dolphins.

Mike Reiss charts the Patriots offensive snaps and defensive snaps played vs. Miami.

This is good stuff; has a searchable table of all the team stats.

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald is reporting that on his way back from New York for holiday celebrations he listened to WFAN and it was All Jets, all panic, all the time. Just how we New England fans like it.

New England plays the Buffalo Bills on Sunday New Years Day at 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.  Look for the Sox & Dawgs “In The Red Zone Game Preview” available on Friday.

Follow Steve on Twitter @djstevem