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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Patriots Roll Over Dolphins 28-0 To Clinch The No. 2 Seed In The 2012 AFC Playoffs

After Indianapolis beat Houston 28-16 earlier this afternoon, New England was handed a special opportunity: beat Miami and they'd clinch a Top-2 seed in the 2012 AFC playoffs. That extra certainty of motivation proved to be significant as the Patriots (12-4, 6-2 home) blanked the hapless Dolphins (7-9, 2-6 away) 28-0 at chilly Gillette Stadium.

With the victory, New England knows they host a divisional round game on Sunday, January 13 at 4:30 p.m. against either the Texans (who host the Bengals) or the winner of Colts/Ravens. I think I speak for all Patriots fans when I say that I like their chances against any of those three squads.

Basically the only thing that didn't go right for the Pats today was that Rob Ninkovich hurt his hip and had to leave the game in the second quarter. We're not sure how serious it is but the good news is that he has an extra week to heal and rest. Tom Brady (22 for 36, 284 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) had a solid game while Wes Welker (8 catches, 94 yards, TD) and Danny Woodhead (5 catches, 79 yards) were in a nice rhythm with TB12.

Stevan Ridley ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns while Rob Gronkowski returned after missing five games to catch a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The ironic part is that Gronk still leads all NFL tight ends with 11 TDs despite all that time off. He was obviously favoring his arm though so I'm thrilled that he doesn't have to play another game for a while.

New England's defense posted its first shutout since 2009 thanks to its best pass rush of the season which produced seven sacks led by undrafted rookie free agent Justin Francis (3 sacks). Steve Gregory intercepted rookie Ryan Tannehill (20 for 35, 235 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) and Dont'a Hightower recovered a Tannehill fumble.

Miami's only effective weapon was wide receiver Brian Hartline (5 catches, 69 yards). Tannehill's interception was terrible and Reggie Bush fumbled on the goal-line (although it was charged to Tannehill). Clearly, the Dolphins had no interest in putting up a fight in their season finale.

After Gregory's interception, Welker cashed in with a nine-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Ridley had a one-yard touchdown run (on 4th and Goal) followed by a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The only intrigue left in the contest was over whether Ryan Mallett would make an appearance (he didn't) or if Miami would score (also a negative).

Now let's all sit back next weekend, watch the Wild Card games and get plenty of rest. The Patriots have never won a Super Bowl without a first-round bye so this was the first step to what we hope is a very special season.

UPDATE 1/1: The Patriots signed rookie defensive tackle Tracy Robertson to the practice squad.

UPDATE 1/4: Today, New England signed quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive end Marcus Benard to reserve/future contracts for next season.

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