By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 35-14 Patriots: It’s all over. The Dolphins ran out the clock, and this one is history.
The Patriots are 14-2, and they’re the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The road to the Super Bowl goes through Foxboro.
Fourth quarter, 2:32, 35-14 Patriots: LeGarrette Blount didn’t like being shoved by Ndamukong Suh after the whistle, so the running back popped up and ripped Suh’s helmet right off his head.
That cost the Patriots some yards, and as a result they couldn’t get out of their own end zone. Ryan Allen punted with his heels on the white lines, and he boomed it out past midfield. The Dolphins will take over at the New England 45-yard line.
Blount will likely be forking over some cash to the NFL for that move, but considering it was Suh involved, nobody will likely blame him.
Fourth quarter, 3:43, 35-14 Patriots: The Patriots’ defense came up with another stop, and the Dolphins elected to wave the white flag with a punt.
They did down it deep in New England territory, so don’t tune out just yet. There’s work to be done for the Patriots to escape trouble in their own end here.
Tom Brady is out of the game.
Fourth quarter, 5:53, 35-14 Patriots: The Patriots very quickly made that turnover hurt, with LeGarrette Blount getting three straight chances from inside the 10-yard line. He finally made it in untouched on the third one, scoring his 18th touchdown of the season. It’s been a tremendous regular season for him, and that’s the appropriate way to end it.
The Patriots went for two, and Brady converted with a quick pass to Edelman. This one’s over. The Patriots will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Fourth quarter, 8:33, 27-14 Patriots: The Patriots were once again getting shredded over the middle, until they came up with the game-changing play.
Damien Williams made a catch at the New England 5-yard line, and he cut back to the middle of the field to try to get in the end zone. McCourty came in and knocked the ball free, allowing Shea McClellin to pick it up on the fly and return it all the way to the Miami 18-yard line.
And now as the Patriots take over on offense, some chants for “M-V-P!” echo throughout Hard Rock Stadium.
That was such a massive, massive play by McCourty.
Fourth quarter, 13:57, 27-14 Patriots: A holding penalty on Joe Thuney proved very costly, as it turned a third-and-2 into a second-and-26. Brady then got clobbered by Wake on the second-down pass, which was tipped, and they settled for a conservative play call on third-and-long.
The hit by Wake was a touch late, and one could argue that Wake drove Brady into the ground. Certainly, lesser hits have been penalized. But the Patriots were not bailed out on this play, and the Dolphins will be looking to make this a one-score game.
End of third quarter, 27-14 Patriots: Julian Edelman is back out there on offense, so it must have just been some surface pain earlier.
An odd penalty was called on the Patriots, as the officials whistled Cameron Fleming for a false start on a play when Fleming never really moved. Brady, Blount and Edelman all argued vociferously with the officiating crew, but to no avail.
It’ll be second-and-16 to start the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 1:32, 27-14 Patriots: This game has suddenly turned into a defensive struggle. Rob Ninkovich got a hand on the arm of Moore while the quarterback was making a third-down pass. That came one play after Eric Rowe made a nice stick on Ajayi on a second-down reception to limit the running back to a short game.
Edelman is apparently OK, as he was there to make a fair catch on the punt.
Third quarter, 3:16, 27-14 Patriots: Not much doing for the Patriots on that drive, which ended with a screen pass to Edelman for a gain of nine yards on a third-and-11. That forced a Ryan Allen punt, and the Dolphins will get the ball at their own 41-yard line.
Of particular concern for the Patriots was Edelman walking off gingerly and pointing toward his right leg. That’s something that is obviously worth monitoring, and the Patriots would likely be wise to get him out of the game as quickly as possible. This game does mean something, but it’s not worth potentially worsening a bad leg for the most important receiver.
Third quarter, 4:23, 27-14 Patriots: The Patriots really needed to get off the field on third down. And Logan Ryan made sure they did it.
The cornerback stayed on the tail of DeVante Parker and wrestled him down on what felt like the 100th crossing pattern run by the Dolphins today. It forced a Miami punt, and the ball goes back to New England, with a chance to really put the game realistically out of reach.
Edelman’s 10-yard punt return would have set up the Patriots at their own 29-yard line, but a holding penalty pushed them back to their own 9-yard line.
Third quarter, 6:41, 27-14 Patriots: It didn’t take long for a New England response.
On a third-and-7 from the New England 23-yard line. The Dolphins forgot to cover Julian Edelman.
That’s a silly thing to do.
Edelman ran a quick route to pick up the first down before realizing he had a lot of room to run. He broke free over the middle and picked up a huge block from receiver Michael Floyd, and just like that, Edelman was off to the races with a 77-yard touchdown.
With that, Brady has 251 passing yards and three touchdowns on the day, and he currently owns the NFL record for best TD-to-INT ratio in league history. He’ll need to make it through the rest of the afternoon without throwing a pick in order to keep that record, of course.
Third quarter, 8:39, 20-14 Patriots: Look out, boys and girls. We’ve got a ball game.
The Dolphins once again methodically drove up the field, moving the chains and playing a physical game. It led to a third-and-3 at the New England 25-yard line, and Kenny Stills got behind everybody on the Patriots’ defense. Nobody was within 10 yards of the receiver, and Moore easily lofted a pass to the end zone for the score.
The Dolphins are now 6-for-8 on third downs, as the Patriots’ defense has had a lot of trouble over the last two drives in getting off the field.
Third quarter, 15:00, 20-7 Patriots: The second half has begun. First-and-10 from the 25-yard line for the Dolphins.
Halftime, 20-7 Patriots: The Patriots seemed intent on making that penalty really hurt the Dolphins. Brady hit Edelman for a gain of 14 before the Patriots took a timeout. Then Brady hit White for eight more yards. White got out of bounds, so the Patriots ran another play — a short gain to Edelman.
Gostkowski came in for a 52-yard attempt, but it was off line and missed wide right. On this turf, that’s not the worst miss.
Second quarter, :28, 20-7 Patriots: Jarvis Landry has a story to tell his grandkids. He dropped his shoulder right into the chest of Dont’a Hightower, and he came out on top.
The receiver absorbed Hightower’s best shot, but he remained on his fight and fought his way into the end zone.
It capped off an impressive 75-yard drive for Miami, which hadn’t been doing much of anything through the whole first half to that point.
Landry was penalized 15 yards for removing his helmet and spiking it to the turf in celebration. We’ll see if that makes any difference in the Patriots’ approach prior to halftime.
Second quarter, 1:01, 20-0 Patriots: The Miami offense is finally finding a rhythm. They’ve driven from their own 25-yard line to the New England 24-yard line in short order, and they just used their first timeout. It’ll be second-and-4 when they resume the action.
Second quarter, 3:21, 20-0 Patriots: It was another long, methodical drive for the Patriots, but the Dolphins were able to come up with a red-zone stop to force a field goal.
Bennett had a 20-yard catch-and-run as the big play of the drive, and Michael Floyd made a toe-tapping catch along the sidelines look extremely easy. (It was most certainly not easy.) But on third-and-goal, Brady had nowhere to go, and he threw incomplete into the end zone.
Brady is now 16-for-20 for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis has 43 rushing yards, while Blount has 45. Gostkowski is 2-for-2 on field goals and 2-for-2 on PATs.
That drive went for 80 yards on 15 plays, chewing up 8:19. Two Patriots scoring drives — the opening drive and the most recent drive — took up more than a quarter of the game.
Second quarter, 11:40, 17-0 Patriots: The Patriots’ defense is making football look like fun. Dont’a Hightower just went flying over the middle at Kenny Stills, who did not want to absorb the necessary punishment to make the catch. Hightower popped up all sorts of fired up, letting Stills know that he made the right decision. Earlier on that drive, Malcolm Butler popped Stills as he tried to make a catch near the sideline, forcing an incompletion.
The Dolphins did actually move the ball on that drive, but the incompletion to Stills put an end to it.
The Patriots have 169 yards of offense and 12:29 of possession. The Dolphins have 30 yards of offense and 5:28 of possession. A completely lopsided affair so far.
But the Patriots will be starting with bad field position, after taking a holding penalty on a punt which Edelman ended up making a fair catch on. They’ll start at the 10-yard line.
Second quarter, 14:56, 17-0 Patriots: For the first time today, the Patriots have ended a drive without a touchdown.
That’s because an incompletion in the end zone led to a little bit of a showdown between Bobby McClain and Julian Edelman. McClain stood over Edelman after the incompletion and talked some trash. While it wasn’t enough taunting to draw a flag, it was enough to boil the blood of Edelman, who popped up and got in McClain’s face.
That response drew a flag, forcing the Patriots into a second-and-25. Brady would hit Hogan on a screen for a gain of 13 on third-and-21, but the Patriots will have to settle for a field goal to start the second quarter.
That’s a self-inflicted wound, but the Patriots will take it. If Edelman didn’t play with that fire, he wouldn’t be the player he is.
Gostkowski’s kick, by the way, was perfect. And the Pats lead by three scores.
First quarter, 2:54, 14-0 Patriots: Things go from bad to worse for the Dolphins, as Matt Moore managed to escape what looked like a sure sack by Jabaal Sheard. But as Moore scrambled left, Chris Long was hot on his trail. Moore threw a pass up the left sideline, and it looked to have been intended only for Logan Ryan.
The Pats corner made the pick, and the Pats once again have the ball near midfield.
First quarter, 3:44, 14-0 Patriots: Michael Floyd really wanted to score a touchdown. He wanted to score so badly, in fact, that he was willing to drag the entire Dolphins team on his back from the 4-yard line.
Floyd made a catch on an in-cut on the left side, and he hit a wall of blue jerseys around the 4-yard line, and he blasted his way through all of them to get his first score as a Patriot.
LeGarrette Blount was the star earlier in the drive, rushing for 31 yards on three carries, including a 19-yarder to start the drive.
Brady is now 7-for-8 for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
First quarter, 6:00, 7-0 Patriots: The Patriots’ defense came to play, and their dedication to selling out to stop Jay Ajayi has shown early. He was gobbled up at the line on first and second down, and a false start forced Miami into a third-and-13. On that play, Trey Flowers dismissed center Kraig Urbik en route to getting in QB Matt Moore’s face, forcing a bad pass.
On the punt, Matt Darr kicked a bad one, and so the Patriots will begin their second drive at the Miami 45-yard line.
The Patriots’ defense is on a bit of a roll.
First quarter, 7:28, 7-0 Patriots: It did not appear to be the greatest start for the Patriots, as Brady had to take a timeout prior to a third-and-6 on the opening drive. But coming out of the timeout, with the crowd all jacked up, Brady took a shotgun snap and then escaped pressure and ran to pick up the first down. He gave Patriots fans a bit of a scare when his knee brace got stuck in the turf, but he appeared to emerge no worse for wear.
Two plays later, Brady got clobbered by Cameron Wake after handing off to Julian Edelman on an end-around. For those who hoped to keep Brady in bubble wrap today, that’s clearly not happening.
On the ensuing third down, Brady delivered a high pass to Edelman over the middle, and the receiver made the catch after a brief bobble for a gain of 20 yards.
On another third-and-1, Brady handed to Lewis for an easy gain of 3 up the gut, making the Patriots 3-for-3 on third downs to start the game.
Brady then hit Martellus Bennett after a play-action fake to Lewis to pick up another first down, this one getting the Patriots to the 14-yard line. Lewis crept through the bodies for an 8-yard gain before moving the chains with a run on the next play.
And then, very casually, Brady connected with Bennett in the end zone off another play-action fake. Bennett was wide open.
Brady went 6-for-6 for 41 yards and a touchdown on that drive, in addition to the 6-yard run.
Lewis ran for 17 yards on four carries and also picked up four receiving yards.
It looked dicey to start, with that early timeout. But the opening drive ended up looking like a work of art.
First quarter, 15:00: Dion Lewis caught the opening kick in the end zone, and he took a knee. This game will begin at the 25-yard line.
1:01 p.m.: The Dolphins won the toss and elected to defer, so the Patriots will start the game on offense.
12:22 p.m.: Head coach Bill Belichick was asked by Scott Zolak on the pregame show if Malcolm Mitchell’s absence will open the door for Michael Floyd to get in some more reps.
“Yeah absolutely,” Belichick told Zolak. “It’ll be Floyd, [Julian] Edelman and [Chris] Hogan today, so those guys should all get a lot of playing time.”
The coach was also asked about the prospect of being able to claim an 8-0 record on the road this year.
“That’d be a great thing to be able to say. This will be a big test for us — Miami is a playoff team,” Belichick said.
11:31 a.m.: The season will end without rookie QB Jacoby Brissett taking any more snaps, as he’s on the inactive list today. It’ll be just Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo on the QB depth chart for New England. Here’s the full list of Pats inactives:
LaAdrian Waddle, T
D.J. Foster, RB
Danny Amendola, WR
Cyrus Jones, CB
Malcolm Mitchell, WR
Jordan Richards, S
Jacoby Brissett, QB
The big name missing from that list, of course, is Dont’a Hightower, who’s back in action this week.
And here’s the list of Dolphins inactives:
Ryan Tannehill, QB
Byron Maxwell, CB
Jelani Jenkins, LB
Thomas Duarte, WR
Dominique Jones, TE
Leonte Caroo, WR
Mario Williams, DE
10:30 a.m.: While the Dolphins present a worthy challenge in their own right for the Patriots, it seems as though the field itself may prove to be a tough opponent this afternoon in Miami.
CSNNE’s Mike Giardi and ESPN’s Mike Reiss have been posting pictures of crews working to fix the sloppy field conditions at Hard Rock Stadium, which hosted the Orange Bowl on Friday night between Michigan and Florida State.
Clearly, it’s an issue this morning. We’ll see how much it impacts the game later in the day.
9 a.m.: You never really know what Week 17 in the NFL will bring, and this year we learned of a pretty surprising announcement out of Denver, where Gary Kubiak is set to resign as head coach. ESPN reported the news.
Though he’s coached just two seasons in Denver — winning the Super Bowl last year — he is leaving the job over health concerns. He was hospitalized earlier this season and he also suffered a mini-stroke back in 2013.
Health-wise, Kubiak is making a sound decision. And it leaves open a rather alluring head coaching spot, if the Broncos decide to look outside of the organization. The Broncos are likely missing former offensive coordinator Adam Gase around now.
It’s big news league-wide, and it also relates to the Patriots, as the Broncos are always a tough AFC opponent. But, even though the Denver job is a very good one, it’s likely safe to assume that Josh McDaniels will not be a candidate, given his history with the Denver franchise.
So that’s that. As for today’s game, we’ll keep a close eye on that list of inactives, as well as provide all other pertinent pregame updates, as the Patriots try to make it a 14-2 season while earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC.