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Monday, December 15, 2014

Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13 To Win Their 6th Straight AFC East Title

I am as guilty as anyone of not respecting the AFC East so thanks to New England's 41-13 pasting of Miami this afternoon at Gillette Stadium, I can stand my by ruling that the AFC East is a complete mess every year. The Patriots (11-3 overall, 7-0 home) captured their sixth AFC East crown in a row which is a very impressive accomplishment regardless of how poorly their division has played outside of them. New England still holds the No. 1 seed in the AFC with two regular season contests left (at Jets, vs. Bills).

New England followed their recent pattern of playing poorly in the first half and that continued today as they slogged to a 14-13 undeserved lead at the break. Just like last Sunday in San Diego, the Pats exploded in the second half by outscoring Miami (7-7 overall, 4-4 away) 27-0 including 24-0 in the third.

LeGarrette Blount started that flurry with a 3-yard touchdown run then Stephen Gostkowski had to settle for a 35-yard field goal. No problem, Ryan Tannehill (29 of 47 for 346 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) promptly threw his second interception of the game-to Patrick Chung (10 tackles, 5 solo, 2 passes deflected). The next play was a 27-yard touchdown laser pass from Tom Brady (21 of 35 for 287 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) to Rob Gronkowski (3 catches, 96 yards). Goodnight Dolphins, hope you have a safe flight home!

A few minutes later, Julian Edelman (7 catches, 88 yards) caught a six-yard touchdown catch to make New England's lead 38-13. The only points in the fourth quarter came off a 36-yard field goal by Gostkowski. Earlier in the contest, Gostkowski became New England's all-time leader in points scored, passing Adam Vinatieri in that very exclusive club.

The first big play of the game was so Dolphins in December at Gillette that it hurt. Caleb Sturgis' field goal attempt was blocked by Jamie Collins (5 tackles, 4 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hit) and returned 62 yards for a touchdown by Kyle Arrington. Miami drove into New England's red zone but the Patriots' defense held them to a 24-yard kick by Sturgis that made it 7-3.

Tannehill's first interception was killer since Duron Harmon (yes he's still on the team) returned it 60 yards to Miami's 8-yard line. Three plays after that, Shane Vereen ran it in from three yards out for a 14-3 Patriots advantage. Miami got another field goal, a 53-yard bomb by Sturgis and then New England's bizarre play calls at the end of the first half helped the Dolphins add seven more points. Actually, Mike Wallace (5 catches, 104 yards) made it all happen with a ridiculous 50-yard touchdown catch that was originally ruled out of bounds but replay rightfully overturned it.

Chandler Jones (7 tackles, 4 solo, 1.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hits) played for the first time since Week 7 vs. Jets and he didn't show much rust at all. It was also nice to see Jonas Gray (11 carries, 62 yards) finally get out of Bill Belichick's doghouse. He's more talented than Blount and there is no reason that they couldn't at least split time between them.

The Pats hit the road for the final time this regular season with a game on Sunday afternoon (1, CBS) at MetLife Stadium vs. lowly Jets (3-11 overall, 4th in AFC East). New York beat Tennessee 16-11 in a true rock fight this afternoon. The Jets actually gave the Patriots everything they could handle in that Week 7 meeting, a Thursday Night Football 27-25 win by the Pats that was as tight as it seemed. I'm not dumb enough to say that the Jets will beat them or even make it competitive again since they are a disaster and Rex Ryan is rehearsing for his upcoming role in "Dead Man Walking."

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