The Patriots won their seventh straight game Sunday, dumping the Dolphins 35-17 at Gillette Stadium and moving to 9-2 on the season. Here are three things we learned in the New England victory.
35 points, but …
The Pats hung 35 points on the Dolphins and held their opponent to under 17 points for the seventh straight game, but New England looked like it was a tad hungover from the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Pats went three-and-out on their first offensive series to start the game, Tom Brady threw an ugly interception and the Pats had two big false start penalties – including one against Rob Gronkowski on a 3rd-and-nine.
The big oopsie of the game for the Pats though came when center Ted Karras snapped the ball when Brady wasn’t ready and Miami’s Reshad Jones scooped up the ball and scampered into the end zone. It was the type of bonehead play we just haven’t seen the Pats make in the 17 years since Brady and Bill Belichick have been here.
In addition to that gaffe that directly led to points for the opposition, the Pats got away with one when Danny Amendola muffed a punt return that should have been ruled a fumble in the third quarter.
Brady had a fine game. He completed 18-of-28 but he didn’t exactly look like his normally MVP-worthy self. Fortunately for the Pats some of their top other offensive weapons were raring to go. Brandin Cooks had six catches for 83 yards with a touchdown and Rob Gronkowski had five catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Cooks found the end zone on a touch-pass sweep to ice the game in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Dion Lewis shouldered the load in the running game, rushing for 112 yards on 15 attempts. Rex Burkhead found the end zone twice in the first half, once on a two-yard run and the other on a 1-yard TD pass from Brady. Burkhead finished with 50 yards rushing on 13 carries.
It seems like eons ago that the Patriots had a defense that people regarded as the worst in the NFL. Plenty of fantasy football owners were more than happy to pick up the Pats this week, however, as it seemed like a sure-thing that Matt Patricia’s boys would confuse Dolphins QB Matt Moore all afternoon. That was mostly the case, as the Pats picked off Moore twice (Stephon Gilmore, Duron Harmon) and held the Dolphins rushing “attack” to a measly 67 total yards.
The Pats defense sacked Moore seven times on the afternoon for a loss of a whopping 61 yards. Marquis Flowers, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts were particularly effective for the Pats up front, continually disrupting Moore’s flow.