In the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, Patriots fans rarely have to wait until Christmas Day to feel the holiday joy of a division title. The Pats again wrapped up the AFC East early, winning their sixth straight division title and 11th crown in the past 12 years, courtesy of a 41-13 blasting of the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
The Pats moved to 11-3 on the season and maintained their position as the No. 1 seed in the AFC with two regular season games remaining (at Jets next Sunday, vs. Buffalo on Dec. 28).
Ryan Tannehill threw for 346 yards but most of that yardage was meaningless as the Dolphins were shutout in the second half. Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung each picked off Tannehill, who finished with a 73.5 QB rating. Tannehill was also sacked four times, highlighted by the returning Chandler Jones’ 1.5 sacks on the day.
The Pats were dominant in the third quarter, posting 24 points on the board. Brady’s first pass of the third was a 34-yard connection to Rob Gronkowski, which set the tone for the big quarter. Gronkowski hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Brady off a seam-route and had a 35-yard reception off a “go” late in the third, which set up a six-yard touchdown grab by Julian Edelman. Edelman’s score put the Pats up, 38-13, heading to the fourth quarter.
New England running back Jonas Gray got his most carries since his 37-attempt, 201-yard day against Indy a month ago as he ran the ball a team-high 11 times for a team-high 62 yards.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer with his third quarter field goal, surpassing the man he replaced in 2006 – Adam Vinatieri.
Brady finished the day having completed 21-of-35 for 287 yards with a touchdown and interception. His QB rating was 93.4, the fifth time in six games in which No. 12 hasn’t cracked 100.0.