Patriots defeat Dolphins, clinch AFC East title


The Miami Dolphins’ game plan coming in against the Patriots was to eliminate the big play and not turn the ball over – nothing fancy.

And nothing fancy is exactly what we got.

Playing fundamental football at it’s finest in all three phases of the game, the Dolphins targeted the Patriots running game, employed their own ground game…and unleashed punter Brandon Fields.

The field position game was won by Miami all game as Fields continually pinned the Patriots in their own territory, twice inside the 3 yard line, forcing Brady to start from poor field position throughout the afternoon. But it wasn’t enough  as the Patriots ultimately took a gritty 23-16 road win to clinch the AFC East title.

Dec 2, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins strong safety Chris Clemons (30) is called for facemask on New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Patriots won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami run defense frustrated the Patriots early, and it wasn’t until the Patriots recommitted to the run late in the 3rd quarter that the game really started to turn in their favor.

The Patriots had all of ten rushing yards in the 1st half, then exploded for 100 in the second, using the run primarily on a 16 play 77 yard drive that ate up 7:18 of the clock, all of Miami’s time outs and any hope they had of upsetting the heavily favored Patriots.

Tom Brady went 24/40 for 238 yards and one touchdown, also suffering his first interception in four games.  Wes Welker cracked the century mark, catching 12 balls for 103 yards and Aaron Hernandez 8 for 97.  That total also put Welker over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.

Stevan Ridley also reached the 1,000 yard plateau in rushing yards on the season as he carried the ball 19 times for 71 tough yards.

No play exemplified how the running game opens up the Patriots’ passing game than when they committed to run late in the 3rd quarter.  On 3rd and 1 on the first play of the 4th quarter from the Dolphins’ 35 and the Dolphins loaded up for a run, Brady went with the play action instead, hitting tight end Aaron Hernandez in stride for 31 yards and a 1st and goal.

The Patriots’ defense held Reggie Bush to 65 yards rushing while forcing four Miami fumbles, though only managing to recover one.  Rookie Quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 13 for 29 and 186 yards for Miami, who saw their playoff hopes take a big hit, falling to 5-7 on the season.

The Patriots improved their record to 9-3, clinching their 9th AFC East crown in the last 10 years, and their fourth in a row.

New England returns home to face the 11-1 Houston Texans next Monday night in a showdown that, should the Patriots win, would give them the head-to-head tie breaker and a huge boost in their quest for homefield advantage and a first round bye.