Pats Sink Dolphins, Lock Up Home-Field Advantage For Postseason
The New England Patriots have clinched the top seed in the AFC and locked up home-field advantage for the playoffs, beating the Miami Dolphins 35-14 in convincing fashion Sunday, in Florida.
Here are some initial thoughts after the win:
Momentum Swing- After the defense came out and allowed the Miami offense to put together another successful scoring drive to start the third quarter, things were looking like they might take a turn for the worse for New England. That was, of course, until the Patriot offense returned to the field and reminded everyone just how dangerous they are. New England's first offensive series of the second half spanned just three plays, but covered 80 yards and was capped by another touchdown pass for Tom Brady. On third and seven, Brady hit his top target Julian Edelman on a deep slant route to pick up the first down, and the quick slot receiver put the afterburners on from there. Edelman took off across the middle of the field, picked up a monster block from Michael Floyd, who laid out Tony Lippett near midfield, and raced to the end zone for a 77 yard score. The touchdown pushed the Pats' lead back to double digits and put them back in firm control of the game.
Edelman Has Himself A Day- Tom Brady's favorite target, wide out Julian Edelman, had himself quite the day, Sunday. The gritty slot receiver finished the day with eight catches on 13 targets for a career-high 151 yards, including the 77-yard score mentioned above. Not only did the 151 receiving yards notch a career-high for a game, but it also put Edelman over 1,000 yards for the second time in his successful career and set a new career-high for receiving yards in a single season with 1,106.
MVP- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady truly looked like the MVP of the league, Sunday, as he picked apart the Miami defense all day long. On the day, the future Hall-of-Famer completed 25 of 33 pass attempts for 276 yards and three scores, while compiling a 130.4 passer rating. Brady also passed former Dolphin Dan Marino for fourth place on the all-time passing yards list. Maybe most impressive of all, Brady's three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the game capped his touchdown/interception ratio at a league record 28:2. If someone else beats out the 39-year-old for the MVP award this year, the voting will probably be as crooked as the league's witch hunt that cost him four games at the start of the season.
Perfect On The Road- The win capped a perfect, 8-0 road record for the Patriots this season. They have now become just the seventh team in league history to finish a regular season undefeated away from home. It is also the second time that the Pats have done it, as the 2007 team also won out on the road. Not only were the Pats perfect on the road, but so was there quarterback. Brady finished the regular season with zero road interceptions in over 250 passes through seven away games; a feat that may never be topped.
Top Dogs- With the win the Patriots have clinched the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage for the postseason. That means that the road to the Super Bowl will go through New England for the AFC. After losing a few games down the stretch last season and losing the top seed, the Pats realized how important it was to snag home-field advantage for the playoffs and were able to make the most of their opportunity this season. They are back to being the top dogs in the AFC.
Another One- Patriots power back LeGarrette Blount added another touchdown to his already record setting scoring barrage. A late game touchdown became Blount's 18th score of the season, capping his single season franchise scoring record.
Making An Impact- With an opportunity to play more, due to Malcolm Mitchell's knee injury, recently signed wide receiver Michael Floyd made a big impact, Sunday, as he looks to become a factor for the Pats in their playoff push. On four targets, FLoyd caught three passes, including a 14-yard, red zone strike that saw him push through four Miami defenders to power across the goal line for a first quarter score. That scrappy play coupled with a thunderous block he laid on defensive back Tony Lippett, to spring Edelman on his 77-yard score, were two big highlights that make you think the wide out really could factor into big games down the stretch.
Overall Strong Effort- With the exception of a two drive sequence from the end of the first half through the middle of the third quarter, the Pats defense had an overall strong day stopping the Dolphins. Despite those two back-to-back scoring drives at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half, the Pats defense played stoutly, holding the Dolphins to 280 total yards of offense and 14 points on 57 plays. Against the run, the defense was it's usually stout self, allowing just 75 yards from top back Jay Ajayi and company. The secondary also played well, allowing only a couple of big plays on the day.
Winning The Turnover Battle- A huge part of the team's success was the fact that they added to their already strong turnover ratio by creating two takeaways, Sunday. First, a Logan Ryan pick in the first quarter led to a field goal. Later in the game, as the Dolphins looked to be fighting their way back into the game and were near the goal line, Devin McCourty did a wonderful job of knocking the ball loose from the grip of Damien Williams. Shea McClellin scooped up the fumble, carried the ball 69 yards to reverse the field and put the Patriot in position to score. A few plays later the Pats took a 21-point lead and fully cemented the victory.
All in all, it was a great day for the Patriots. They now completely control their own destiny and are in line to waltz to another Super Bowl. The next time we see this team it will be at home in the Divisional Round, two weeks from today. Keep an eye out for who they might be facing.