Another strong game by Tom Brady. Just another AFC East title for the New England Patriots. Rebounding from a mediocre first half, the Patriots clinched the division for the sixth straight season as Brady threw two touchdown passes and made an uncharacteristic long run in a big third quarter that carried them to a 41-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The Patriots scored on their four series and piled up 24 points, a team record for that period.
New England (11-3) can secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in their remaining games. Miami (7-7) saw its slim postseason hopes dwindle further.
The Dolphins cut the lead to 14-13 on Ryan Tannehill's 32-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace with five seconds left in the first half, a play on which the on-field call that Wallace landed out of bounds was overturned. Then the Patriots took charge.
On the first play of the second half, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 34-yard gain down the middle, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. That came one play after Brady, hardly known for his running, scrambled 17 yards for a first down -- the third longest run of his career. The Patriots kept rolling with 10 points in 13 seconds.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal, giving him a team record 1,160 points, two more than Adam Vinatieri. After Patrick Chung intercepted Tannehill's pass, Brady connected with Gronkowski for a 27-yard touchdown with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
Just over three minutes later, New England boosted the lead to 38-13 on Brady's 6-yard pass to Julian Edelman. Gostkowski made it five straight scoring possessions with a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Patriots evened the season series that began with the Dolphins' 33-20 win on Sept. 7, snapping New England's streak of 10 season-opening victories.
In that game, Miami scored a touchdown on its first series after blocking Ryan Allen's punt. On Sunday, Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins blocked Caleb Sturgis' 41-yard field goal attempt on Miami's first possession and Kyle Arrington returned the ball 62 yards for a touchdown.
Sturgis kicked the first of two field goals late in the first quarter before the Patriots capitalized on another turnover. Duron Harmon returned an interception 60 yards to the Miami 8 and Shane Vereen scored on a 3-yard run three plays later.
Leading 14-6, the Patriots played conservatively after getting the ball with 40 seconds left in the half at their 15 following a punt and it cost them. Vereen ran three times for 2 yards with the Dolphins calling timeout after each play. Jarvis Landry then returned Allen's punt 32 yards to the Patriots 32 with 11 seconds remaining. On the next play, Wallace leaped over cornerback Malcom Butler to catch Tannehill's pass on the left side of the end zone.
The Patriots won the AFC East for the 11th time in 12 years. They only fell short in 2008, when Miami won the division after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
This story was written by The Associated Press.
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