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BOSTON (CBS) – It wasn’t pretty, but the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins 23-16 in Florida on Sunday to clinch their fourth straight AFC East crown.
Here are the Ups and Downs from Sunday’s win.
Welker continues to dominate his old team, hauling in 12 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. He did most of his damage in the first half, catching 10 passes, including his seven-yard score on a slip screen putting the Patriots up 14-3 in the second.
With the big day, Welker went over the 1,000 yard mark for the team-record fifth time as a member of the Patriots. Sunday was his 17th game with 10+ receptions and 16th career 10-catch, 100-yard game — a new NFL record.
In need of a long scoring drive in the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ offense delivered. While it only ended with a field goal, the Patriots put together a 16-play, 77-yard drive that ate up 7:18 and caused the Dolphins to use all three of their time outs.
It all began with 8:28 left to play and the Patriots holding on to a 20-13 lead. When it was all said and done, the Patriots were up 10 and the Dolphins had just 1:10 to work with.
Running back Stevan Ridley did most of the damage on the drive, rushing for 46 yards on 10 carries. He finished the day with 71 yards on the ground and became the 12th Patriot running back to eclipse the 1,000 rushing yard mark for a season.
Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd also made key first-down catches on the drive.
Making The Most Of Miami Mistakes
The Patriots scored 17 points thanks to a trio of Dolphin errors on Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of the opportunities they were given.
The Patriots made sure to get points off a Miami botched punt, roughing the kicker penalty and yet-another fumble caused by the New England defense.
AFC East Champs
It’s just one of many things the Patriots hope to accomplish on the season, but the Patriots are back in the playoffs and AFC East Champs once again.
Bill Belichick noted they still have a quarter of the season left, but they are now one step closer to their ultimate goal.
Bonus Up: Trevor Scott
Filling in for the injured Chandler Jones and suspended Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott filled in nicely on the Patriots defensive line with a strip sack and two total sacks.
Off Day For Brady
Tom Brady had to throw the ball 40 times and once again struggled in Miami. He was sacked four times, tying a season-high, and looked off at points during the afternoon.
Brady also threw his first interception in 202 attempts. He finished the game with 238 yards and a passer rating of 74.8 – his lowest of the season.
Offense Stagnant At Times
The offense struggled to get things going and scored under 30 points for the first time in four games. They didn’t really get things going until “the drive,” and even then had to settle for just a field goal after stalling out in the red zone.
The offensive line struggled with the Miami pass-rush, as Brady was under pressure most of the afternoon and found himself on the ground numerous times. The return of Sebastian Vollmer was outweighed by the absence of Logan Mankins and the departure of Dan Connolly, and Miami took advantage.
Brandon Lloyd was a relative no-show, hauling in just one catch on his only target for 10 yards.
The offense benefited greatly from another solid showing from the New England defense.
Gostkowski Misses Again
Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal attempt of the afternoon — a 49-yarder – and is up to six misses on the season. He hasn’t missed that many kicks since he was a rookie in 2006, and the Patriots still have four games left on the schedule.
More Injury Concerns
The Patriots lost a pair of players on the offensive side in guard Dan Connolly, who left with a back injury in the first quarter, and receiver Julian Edelman, who left with a foot injury in the second half.
Connolly was New England’s starting right guard despite battling the injury throughout the week in practice.
Edelman suffered a concussion Thanksgiving night against the Jets, and had a solid game blocking before having to leave with the injury. According to reports, he was seen in a boot and on crutches after the game.
Losing Edelman would put a huge strain on the Patriots receiver depth heading forward.