NFL Game Summary - Miami at New England|
(Sunday, December 30th)
Final Score: New England 28, Miami 0
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - Stevan Ridley rushed for two touchdowns and the
New England Patriots secured a first-round bye in the playoffs with a 28-0
whitewash of the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
New England entered the final week of the regular season as the No. 3 seed in
the AFC, but a loss by the Houston Texas to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday
allowed the Patriots to steal one of the conference's coveted top two spots.
The convincing shutout gave the Patriots (12-4) the second seed behind the
Denver Broncos and capped their perfect run through the AFC East.
Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass for the 48th straight game and in doing so
moved past Johnny Unitas for the second longest streak in NFL history. Brady
completed 22-of-36 passes for 284 yards and two scores, one to his favorite
target in tight end Rob Gronkowski, who returned from a five-game absence.
Justin Francis highlighted the defensive side of the Patriots' first shutout
in over three years with three of the club's seven sacks.
"I thought it was a real good performance by our team today," said New England
head coach Bill Belichick. "They were obviously ready to go today. We got
good contributions from all three phases of the game and had a lot of guys
step up and make plays."
Miami's Ryan Tannehill ended his rookie campaign with a disappointing game.
The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft finished 20-of-35 through the air
for 235 yards with an interception and a lost a fumble.
Miami (7-9) had won two in a row coming in, but ended their fourth straight
losing season on a sour note.
Windy conditions forced the Patriots to pass up a long field goal try on their
opening possession, and Brady's pass to Wes Welker fell incomplete to turn the
ball over on downs at the Miami 24-yard line.
The Dolphins went backwards and were forced to punt, and on their next drive
Tannehill threw into double coverage and was picked off by safety Steve
Gregory, who returned the interception 13 yards to the Dolphins' 28.
"[Gregory] made a good play on it," said Tannehill of the interception. "[A
Patriots' defender] was in my face and it was the safety that made a break on
it. Just a bad decision, I can't through the ball there."
After Brady and Gronkowski hooked up for 19 yards, Welker was left open over
the middle for an easy 9-yard score.
A 50-yard punt and a penalty pinned the Patriots' at their own 8-yard line
later in the opening quarter, but a balanced attack helped the hosts pad their
lead. Ridley capped the 13-play march, which lasted nearly 7 1/2 minutes, on a
1-yard plunge over the goal line on fourth down.
The Dolphins then found themselves in the same situation the Patriots had on
their first touch, with the weather playing a role in a fourth-down decision.
But Miami opted to attempt the field goal, and Nate Kaeding's 41-yard try was
blown from the right goal post to well outside the left upright.
New England took over at their own 31 with 6:24 remaining in the half, and
Ridley capped another time-consuming drive that featured three third-down
conversions with a 2-yard touchdown run at the one-minute mark.
Miami reached the red zone for the first time late in the third quarter, but a
bad exchange between Tannehill and Reggie Bush resulted in a fumble recovered
by Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower at the Patriots' 1-yard line.
Later in the third, Dolphins safety Chris Clemons appeared to return an
interception for a touchdown, but replay overturned the score when it showed
the ball hit the ground.
Tannehill threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-7 near midfield early in the
fourth quarter, and New England took advantage of the generous field position.
Welker kept the drive moving with a 7-yard grab on 4th-and-4 from the Miami
30, and on the next play, Gronkowski, who had surgery to repair a broken
forearm in mid-November, went unguarded down the seam for his 11th touchdown
of the season.
"It was nice to get him back in the flow of things," said Brady of Gronkowski.
"We used everybody, so it was exciting to kind of have everybody out there at
once for the first time all season. We'll use the bye and hopefully come back
strong in a couple weeks."
This was the Patriots' first shutout since a 59-0 win over the Tennessee
Titans on Oct. 18, 2009 and their first shutout of the Dolphins since a 12-0
win on Dec. 7, 2003 ... The only other time the Patriots ran the table in the
division came during the perfect regular season in 2007 ... New England has
swept the season series three straight years ... Brady is 10-1 as a starter
versus Miami at home ... Ridley totaled 74 yards and 20 carries and became the
fifth player in franchise history to reach 1,200 in season ... Welker caught
eight passes for 94 yards ... Tannehill finished with 12 touchdown passes and
13 interceptions ... Bush totaled just 26 yards on eight carries, falling 14
yards shy of a second straight 1,000-yard season ... Dolphins tight end
Anthony Fasano took a viscous hit to the head by Gregory in the third quarter
and did not return.
12/31 01:00:35 ET