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BOSTON (CBS) – Stick with the CBSBostonsports.com LIVE blog throughout the Patriots-Dolphins game for all the updates!
Final: Patriots 28, Dolphins 0: That’s all she wrote. The Patriots put together a very solid effort in their final regular season game and earn the 2-seed in the AFC and get a first-round bye next week.
Tom Brady was his efficient-self with 284 yards and two touchdowns, with Wes Welker accounting for 94 of those yards (on eight catches) and one touchdown.
Rob Gronkowski knocked off the rust after missing five weeks, contributing with two catches and a touchdown. According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Gronkowski was out there for 24 of the Patriots 80 offensive snaps.
The New England defense put together a very strong performance, playing with lots of energy and putting plenty of pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Patriots sacked the rookie seven times, including three from rookie Justin Francis.
There is some concern, with defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich leaving in the first half with a hip injury. Ninkovich has been a huge part of the defense’s success and integral to their pass-rush.
So it’s good that the Patriots now have an extra week to get healthy before beginning the postseason.
4th Quarter, 2:00 – Patriots 28-0: Tom Brady is still out there for the Patriots, though it looks like he’ll be handing off and taking a knee from here on out.
Brady hit Wes Welker on a 3rd and 6 to pick up seven yards and move the chains, bringing us to the two-minute warning.
4th Quarter, 4th Quarter, 6:27 – Patriots 28-0: Undrafted rookie Justin Francis is having a career day, as he just registered his third sack of the afternoon.
Francis came into the game without a sack on the season. The Patriots have not sacked Tannehill seven times on the afternoon.
4th Quarter, 9:20 – Patriots 28-0: The Dolphins do know that Rob Gronkowski is playing, right?
Gronk put the Patriots on top 28-0 when Brady hit him over the middle on a play-action pass, and the tight end waltzed into the end zone untouched for his team-leading 11th touchdown of the season.
Gronk now has two receptions for 42 yards on four targets for the day, which may be over after that score.
And of course, the return of Gronkowski also means his touchdown spike returns as well.
4th Quarter, Patriots 21-0: The Patriots went three-and-out as well, but it’s not like the Dolphins are going to do anything once they get the ball.
Tannehill picked up back-to-back first downs with completions to Brian Hartline (22 yards) and Lamar Miller (12 yards), but three of his next four passes fell incomplete — including a fourth down drop by Binns, his second big drop of the day.
Tannehill took another shot by the Patriots defense, with Dont’a Hightower laying a hit as Tannehill tried to find Hartline again.
3rd Quarter, 0:34 – Patriots 21-0: Dolphins go three-and-out and give the Patriots the ball right back. Patriots will take over on the Miami 45-yard line.
3rd Quarter, 1:11 -Patriots 21-0: The Patriots offense put together a half-way decent drive for one that started back at their one-yard line, but .
After getting hit on the first play of the drive, Brady handed off to Stevan Ridley who picked up 19 yards on three carries. Then facing a 3rd and 3, Brady went over the middle to Welker for a 20-yard gain.
Brady went to Gronkowski for the second time on the say on a 2nd and 10, but the throw was too high for the tight end to make a play. Brady went back to Welker on third down, but he was only able to pick up nine yards before being pushed out of bounds.
Miami offense will take over again, looking to get anything against the Patriots defense.
3rd Quarter, 4:13 – Patriots 21-0: It looked as though the Dolphins were going to find the end zone, but Reggie Bush fumbled the ball at the one-yard line and rookie Dont’a Hightower was there for the recovery.
It’s the Patriots ninth Red Zone takeaway of the season. Now they just need to take care of Tom Brady.
3rd Quarter, 4:18 – Patriots 21-0: Scary sight for Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano, as he took a forearm from Steve Gregory to the head as he was being tackled.
Fasano was on the ground for few minutes, and looked wobbly when he stood up. But he did walk off the field under his own power.
You just hate to see any player suffer a head injury.
3rd Quarter, 7:30 – Patriots 21-0: Not a great possession by the Patriots, as Tom Brady takes his first real hits of the day.
Brady was sacked by Bryan McCann on 3rd and 10, and was the only one that saw the corner blitzing. He was able to brace himself for the hit, but wasn’t too happy after.
That play followed Brady and Brandon Lloyd not being able to connect, which also drew some fire from Brady. Lloyd has just one catch for nine yards on five targets for the game.
3rd Quarter, 11:18 – Patriots 21-0: New half, same defensive effort out of the Patriots.
While the Dolphins were able to pick up some yards, the Patriots applied more pressure to Tannehill and came up with a pair of sacks out of it. First up was Vince Wilfork on 2nd and 10, followed by Trevor Scott on 3rd and 12.
The Patriots have now gotten to the rookie QB four times on the afternoon. Patriots will take over at their own 18 following the Miami punt.
Halftime – Patriots 21-0: There isn’t much to complain about with the Patriots taking a 21-0 lead over the Dolphins into the locker room.
The Patriots have pretty much dominated this one and have controlled the game from the get-go. On offense, New England has picked up 18 first downs while running 42 plays, compared to just 25 plays by the Dolphins.
Brady has been his efficient-self, with 193 yards on 14-of-22 passing. Danny Woodhead has been a big difference maker on offense, with 63 yards on three receptions and another 18 on the ground off three carries.
Rob Gronkowski has played in 18 of the Patriots 46 offensive snaps, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, catching one pass for 19 yards. He doesn’t look too rusty, but he also doesn’t look to be 100-percent just yet.
On defense, the Patriots have played with some great energy and the only concern is the knee injury to Rob Ninkovich. He limped off the field and was taken to the Patriots locker room, and is questionable to return.
With one half left in the regular season, it’s looking like the Patriots should clinch the two-seed and get that ever-important first-round bye.
2nd Quarter, 1:00 -Patriots 21-0: The Patriots offense is in a groove right now, and the Dolphins cannot stop them.
Stevan Ridley capped off another scoring drive with a rushing touchdown, his 12th of the season, to put New England up 21-0. Ridley has 30 yards on 10 carries, with Shane Vereen leading the way on the ground with 38 yards on eight carries.
Rob Gronkowski was out there blocking for Ridley, and was very careful with his left arm. We’ll see how much more action he gets if this one gets out of hand.
2nd Quarter, 6:28 – Patriots 14-0: The Dolphins failed to get on the board thanks to a missed field goal attempt, as well as a dropped pass that likely would have ended with a touchdown.
Nate Kaeding missed a 41-yarder (remember when Bill Belichick went for it from the same distance in the first???) shortly after receiver Armon Binns — in for an injured Devon Bess — dropped what would have likely been a touchdown, keeping it a 14-0 Patriots lead.
The Patriots sent the house at Tannehill on 3rd and 10, who overthrew tight end Anthony Fasano.
The stop came at a cost though, with defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich suffering what looked like an ankle injury. He was helped off the field and went straight to the New England locker room.
Ninkovich has been huge on the Patriots defense this season, and losing him for any period of time would be a big loss for the Patriots.
That first-round bye looks even more important now.
2nd Quarter, 10:30 – Patriots 14-0: Facing a 4th and goal, the Patriots decided to go for it again — and this time it paid off.
Stevan Ridley, who watched Shane Vereen get a string of carries on the drive, took it in from a yard out for his 11th rushing touchdown of the season to put the Patriots up 14-0. It’s their 24th straight Red Zone trip that has ended with the Patriots putting points on the board.
As is usually the case after a snowy day in Foxboro, the fans celebrated by throwing snow up in the air.
There was also a Deion Branch sighting on the drive. Facing a 3rd and 13, Brady went to Branch over the middle who picked up 16 yards for the first down.
It was a 13 play, 92 yard drive that ate up 7:28, New England’s 40th drive of 10+ plays this season, which is the most in the NFL.
End of 1st Quarter, Patriots 7-0 : Did the Dolphins forget how good the Patriots are at screen plays?
Brady went short to both Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker on screens, and they took care of the rest. Woodhead picked up 25 yards with Welker picking up 23 yards thanks to some great blocking by the offensive line.
After one quarter, Rob Gronkowski has been on the field for 8 of the Patriots’ 22 snaps, but has yet to come out for their fourth offensive drive.
Brady threw for 140 yards in the first, with Danny Woodhead accounting for 49 of them on two receptions and Wes Welker adding 42 yards on three catches.
1st Quarter, 2:54 – Patriots 7-0: The Patriots defense is bringing the pressure against Tannehill.
The Dolphins picked up a pair of first downs on back-to-back plays, but the D clamped down as Brandon Deaderick was able to get to Tannehill on a 3rd and 4 from the Miami 36.
1st Quarter, 6:40 – Patriots 7-0: The Patriots turn that interception into seven points after just two plays on offense.
With Aaron Hernandez getting a lot of attention, Brady went to Gronkowski for 19 yards on first down to set up a 1st and Goal. Gronk got a huge ovation from the crowd for the catch.
Just one play later, with the defense focused on Gronk and Hernandez, Brady found a wide open Wes Welker for the score.
Not only does it give the Patriots that early lead they wanted, but Brady becomes the first player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in all 16 games for three straight seasons. Brady is now up to 48 straight games with a touchdown pass, moving him into second place on the all-time list.
1st Quarter, 7:15 – 0-0: Rob Ninkovich applied some pressure on Tannehill, who was forced to make a quick pass that was picked off by safety Steve Gregory.
It’s the 40th takeaway by the Patriots defense this season, and the offense takes over at Miami 28.
1st Quarter, 8:27 – 0-0: The Patriots offense doesn’t get much going, aside from Brady and Hernandez picking up a first down with a nine-yard connection on 3rd and 2.
Hernandez has gotten plenty of work already, with three receptions for 30 yards and five targets. Brady has yet to go Gronkowski’s way, who has been on the field for six of the first 14 snaps according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss.
This drive ended with a Mesko punt, and the Dolphins will take over at their own eight-yard line.
PS: Broncos already have a 7-0 lead over the Chiefs.
1st Quarter, 11:07 – 0-0: The Patriots defense had a solid stance on the Dolphin’s first possession, forcing a quick three-and-out.
Jerod Mayo made a nice play on 2nd and 9, deflecting Ryan Tannehill’s pass over the middle. Then on third down, rookie Justin Francis got to the Tannehill for the sack and the Dolphins were forced to punt.
4:30pm: The Patriots said this week they wanted to get off to a fast start against the Dolphins, something they hadn’t done the last two weeks.
Well, those slow starts continued. After picking up three first downs, the Patriots went for it on 4th and 6 rather than attempt 40+ yard field goal into the wind. Brady couldn’t hook up with Wes Welker, so the Dolphins will take over at their own 24-yard line.
4:29pm: Patriots will start with the ball after the Dolphins won the toss and deferred.
Rob Gronkowski was out there to start the game, so it looks like he’ll see plenty of action — at least for now.
The Patriots gained 14 yards on their first play, a pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez. There isn’t a happier person in New England to see Gronk back out there than Hernandez. Wes Welker is probably a close second.
4:15pm: While there is plenty talk about the playoffs today, it’s also a day for Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti.
The voices of the Patriots for nearly four decades, Gil and Gino were honored on the field prior to the game, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced that Santos will be the 2013 inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Cappelletti retired from his color commentary duties following the Super Bowl last year, and Santos will retire after this season.
The two will be reunited in the booth for the first drive of today’s game.
4:00pm: It’s official. The Colts have beaten the Texans 28-16 to give the Patriots a shot at a first-round bye. The Patriots have a shot at the number-one overall seed if they beat the Dolphins and the Broncos lose to the Chiefs, however unlikely that seems.
3:47pm: It’s the final weekend of the NFL’s regular season, but there is still plenty to be sorted out when it comes to the playoff picture.
That includes the New England Patriots, who host the Miami Dolphins at a chilly and formerly snow-filled Gillette Stadium.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is active for Sunday’s finale after missing the last five games with a broken forearm. There have been reports that Gronk will play in a limited role, knocking off the rust before the playoffs start, but there is also a report saying the Patriots may go with their initial plan to keep him sidelined until the postseason.
WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid reported seeing Gronkowski is on the field for warm ups with a protective cast visible on his left forearm. It goes from his wrist to just below his elbow. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Scott Zolak the decision of if — or how much — Gronkowski plays will likely come down to the final minutes prior the game.
A lot of that might depend on what happens with in the Houston-Indianapolis game. The Colts currently lead the Texans 28-16 in the 4th quarter, which would be a huge help to the Patriots. As everyone knows, if Indy holds on and the Patriots beat the Dolphins then New England will get next weekend off and a home game in two weeks. If the Patriots can get that week off, expect to see a lot of Gronkowski as the game becomes a must-win.
The first-round bye appears to be within their reach as long as New England can take care of business this afternoon. All week, the Patriots have said their focus is winning this game, and cleaning up their sloppy play of the last two weeks, but now it looks like they’ll also have a chance to earn a break in the process.
Tune in to Patriots-Dolphins on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV. After the game, tune in to three hours of postgame coverage on the Hub, and Patriots 5th Quarter on myTV38!