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Brady run spurs Patriots to win

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, a second-half explosion that led to a 41-13 blowout, clinched the AFC East for New England and extended the team’s crazy run of division success.

It’s the sixth straight division crown for the Patriots and the 12th in the team’s last 14 years.

It’s an incredible run of division dominance that Nike’s division title T-shirts that players wore postgame accurately portrayed with the phrase, “Patriots Run the East.”

Interestingly, the continued run of success came on a day when quarterback Tom Brady ignited a third-quarter flurry of scoring with a 17-yard run that was culminated by taking on Dolphins safety Walt Aikens with his left shoulder rather than sliding or tip-toeing out of bounds.

The third-and-11 scamper from the Miami 20 was followed by LeGarrette Blount’s 3-yard touchdown, the first of five straight scores that turned a 14-13 New England halftime advantage into a convincing victory.

“I think it was a play that we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time,” Brady said. “I was going to slide but I was pretty pissed off that time so I figured I wouldn’t slide. I wish I wouldn’t have gotten knocked down, but that’s the way it goes.

“I could have slid, but I wasn’t in the best mood that time. If he was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary … things happen pretty quick for me out there. I’m not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.”

A day later, in his weekly Monday morning conference call with the media, head coach Bill Belichick supported his quarterback’s decision, even if it was one that may have given fans a scare.

“Well, you know, I never … I’ve coached for a long time and I don’t question players’ decisions on the field when they try to make them to help the team win,” Belichick said. “I think that’s, that they do the best that they can, they’re trying to win, they’re trying to win just as much as everybody else on the team is. I’m not saying every decision is a great one.

“Same thing with a coach, same thing with me. I’m not saying every decision is a great one, but every one is made with the intention of trying to help our team win and do the best that I can or an individual player can for the team.

“So I don’t second-guess those. I think what a player does at the time he does it is what he thinks is best. And I don’t second-guess him.”

That came after Brady himself expected that he might hear some advice from the coaching staff after his rare running contribution.

“Probably tomorrow,” he said in his postgame news conference.

In his own Sunday evening news conference, Belichick described the run as, “alert play on his part and it was a key first down for us. We were able to punch it in after that. That point in the game, it was a big third-down conversion, one that you usually don’t expect to get that way, but a heads-up play on his part. He ran well.”

That he did. And it’s come after a summer in which Brady has worked hard to improve his mobility.

But that didn’t stop teammates from having a little fun with their star passer.

Receiver and good friend Julian Edelman led the way. He referred to No. 12 as “Brady Vick” after the game.

“It was the slowest 17 yards I’ve ever seen in my life,” Edelman joked. “It’s always fun seeing the Clydesdale run.”

“(He) looked like a gazelle out there. I wish he would tuck it and run a bit more. But no, we’ll see about that,” fullback James Develin joked.

“It’s crazy because I actually told him, ‘If you break one today, you get down.’ And he was like, ‘No, I’m going to try and run somebody over.’ He always jokes around like that and he actually did it. It was kind of good; it was in slow motion, but it was good,” wide receiver Brandon LaFell added.

Even Brady’s offensive linemen supported the quarterback’s decision, within reason.

“He led with his left shoulder; he knows what he’s doing,” right guard Ryan Wendell said.

All the joking aside, Brady’s play was one of many big contributions on the day in all three phases of the game.

There was linebacker Jamie Collins’ blocked punt leading to a Kyle Arrington 62-yard touchdown return. Duron Harmon’s 60-yard interception return to set up a short scoring drive. Rob Gronkowski’s 34-yard catch on the first play of the second half and subsequent 27-yard touchdown later in the third quarter immediately following a Patrick Chung interception.

The Patriots are cruising toward another postseason, another potential No. 1 seed in the AFC, thanks in part to balance in all three phases of the game that hasn’t been seen in New England since, in reality, the team’s back-to-back titles in 2003-04.

And, for one day, Brady helped extend New England’s run of success with a rare run of his own.

That’s how well things are going in Foxborough these days. Even on a day when the team didn’t play its best football, on a day when it needed an actual run from its 37-year-old pocket passer, the Patriots end up with a dominant victory on the scoreboard.

There’s no doubt the “Patriots Run the East.” The only question is whether they’re ready for a run to and maybe through another Super Bowl.

REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — The Patriots’ passing offense was a story of two halves against Miami. In the first 30 minutes, QB Tom Brady completed eight of 15 throws for 82 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He missed a number of potential big plays, including a deep ball to TE Rob Gronkowski, who was held without a catch in the first half. After the break, though, things started clicking. Brady’s first throw of the second half went to Gronkowski for 34 yards. On the way to five straight scoring drives, Brady completed 13 of his 20 second-half throws for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Gronkowski had just three catches, but they totaled 96 yards and a score. Despite a bad drop, WR Julian Edelman finished with a team-high seven catches for 88 yards and a score. WR Brandon LaFell also had a solid day with six catches for 66 yards. Brady was not sacked by a Dolphins unit that got him four times in a New England loss in Miami in the opener. Brady finished with a solid 93.4 rating after the slow start.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The Dolphins’ run defense came in allowing a total of 661 yards on the ground in the previous three weeks. Using that barometer, New England didn’t have nearly as impressive a day as might have been expected. As a team, the Patriots tallied 29 carries for 108 yards with two touchdowns. That 3.7 average was clearly a disappointment, the second straight week the attack was held to less than four yards a carry. RB LeGarrette Blount never got moving. He was slow to the hole and indecisive, finishing with 17 yards on his eight carries. RB Jonas Gray came on in the second half to bring a little respectability to the rushing effort, tallying 11 carries for 62 yards and a 5.6-yard average. Brady also boosted the numbers with 18 yards on three attempts, including a key third-down scramble for 17 yards in the third quarter that set up a short Blount touchdown run. RB Shane Vereen only had five yards on his six carries, though he did punch in a 3-yard touchdown. It was a subpar rushing day against a suspect run defense.

–PASS DEFENSE: B — The Patriots’ pass defense continues to build confidence and playmaking ability each week, even if it’s not a totally impenetrable unit. Aside from a couple of big Mike Wallace plays — a 50-yard catch on the opening snap and a 32-yard touchdown just before the half — allowed by undrafted rookie CB Malcolm Butler, New England made enough plays in pass defense to get the job done. Duron Harmon returned an interception 60 yards to set up a short touchdown drive. Patrick Chung added another interception that came in part thanks to a big hit by Brandon Browner. In addition to the two interceptions, New England added four sacks, one a strip sack from Chandler Jones. The Patriots’ pass rush picked up the pace as the game got out of hand in the second half. Thanks in large part to his two long receptions, Wallace led Miami with 104 yards on five catches. Rookie Jarvis Landry held his own, including time working against Darrelle Revis, to the tune of 99 yards on a game-high eight receptions. Overall, QB Ryan Tannehill completed 29 of 47 throws for 346 yards with the one touchdown and two interceptions for a 73.5 rating. The Patriots would probably like to play it a little tighter, but when you win a blowout and the opponent converts just three of 16 third downs, you are doing something right.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus — Another week and another impressive effort by the Patriots’ run defense. Miami’s Lamar Miller came in averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but found no such luck against New England. Miller carried 16 times for 49 yards and a 2.9-yard average. As a team, Miami picked up 76 yards on the ground on 23 attempts. Tannehill chipped in with some option runs for 21 yards, including one 15-yard scamper. But overall, the Vince Wilfork-led defensive line and New England’s athletic linebackers — Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower — never allowed the running game to get going.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A — For the second straight week and fourth time this season, the Patriots’ special teams unit blocked a kick. This time it was Collins blocking a 41-yard field-goal attempt on Miami’s opening possession that teammate Kyle Arrington scooped up and returned 62 yards for a touchdown. That was the big play of the day in the kicking game and kept the Patriots in the lead into the second quarter despite a pretty slow start on both sides of the ball. Stephen Gostkowski hit his late field goals — 35 and 36 yards — while notching touchbacks on six of his eight kickoffs, although he also put one out of bounds late. Ryan Allen downed two of his three punts inside the 20 with a long kick of 60 yards. New England’s coverage unit allowed a 32-yard Landry punt return late in the second quarter that set up Miami’s quick touchdown drive. But overall the Patriots were solid in just about every area of the kicking game and the big play from Collins/Arrington is certainly worth extra credit.

–COACHING: B-minus — The Patriots’ coaches certainly deserve credit for whatever lit a fire under the team at halftime, helping to turn a 14-13 division dogfight into a 41-13 blowout. But there were some questionable calls along the way. Facing another suspect run defense, New England again chose to open with Vereen in the backfield rather than the bruiser Blount. The Patriots’ first drive included a couple passes, a hurry-up failed handoff to Vereen and an end around to Edelman. Once again it seemed the offense was trying to out-think and out-finesse the Dolphins rather than just run right at a unit that hasn’t stopped anyone on the ground in the last month. Late in the first half, though, New England played ultraconservative with three straight Vereen runs for just a total of two yards on a possession that began at the Patriots 15 with 40 seconds left in the first half. Miami used its timeouts, forced a punt and ended up scoring a 32-yard touchdown to pull within one point just before the half. Belichick admitted it was terrible coaching and execution there, taking full responsibility for the uncharacteristic ineptitude. Defensively, the Patriots also made the curious decision to open the game with the undrafted rookie Butler on Wallace. Miami noticed and opened with a 50-yard completion. The only way the Dolphins were going to pull the potential upset was through big plays — something they haven’t been able to accomplish all year — yet New England chose Butler on Wallace rather than Revis, and paid the early price. Give the staff credit for second-half motivations and adjustments, but the coaches were also a part of the early struggles for the Patriots on the day.


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