By Levan Reid, WBZ-TV SportsBy Levan Reid

FOXBORO (CBS) – WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid breaks down the Patriots-Dolphins Christmas Eve game from Gillette Stadium.

Fourth Quarter/Final Thoughts

The Highs:

It wasn’t pretty, but the Patriots did what they had to do in the second half and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs with a come from behind 27-24 win over the Dolphins. A win against Buffalo next Sunday, and they have the top seed in the AFC and home field throughout the playoffs.

Belichick, Brady Postgame 

I wonder who was throwing the chairs in the locker room at halftime, but whoever it was it worked. Tom Brady did all he had to do in the second half, finishing with 304 passing yards and running in a pair of scores.  His second of the day put New England up 27-17 with 2:56 left to play. He also chose not to slide in the final two minutes, picking up five yards on a first down play.

There were plenty of other highs from the fourth quarter, so here they are:

– On third and five with the Patriots needing a first down to seal the deal, Brady goes to Welker. #83 had a huge day, hauling in 12 receptions for 138 yards. He passed Randy Moss to set a new franchise record for receiving yards in a season with 1,518.

– The Pats defense came out swarming in the second half and should have pitched a shutout. They didn’t give Moore much time to make his reads and ended up with five sacks on the afternoon (and this was without Andre Carter!). Jerod Mayo came up with a huge sack with eight minutes left, rushing straight up the middle to hit Moore. It forced a Miami punt, and New England would go on a 11 play, 59 drive that ate up 4:46 of the clock to take a 27-17 lead. Mayo finished with two sacks on the day.

– McCourty got his first interception of the season, albeit on a very poorly underthrown ball by Moore. It would be nice to get him going and gain some confidence as the playoffs approach.

– Good day for rookie running back Stevan Ridley, who gave the Patriots a solid rushing effort in the second half. He did run to the side with less than a minute to go, but finished with 64 yards on 13 carries.

– Rob Gronkowski went another week without a touchdown, but set a Patriots record for receiving yards by a tight end on Saturday. Gronk finished with 78 against the Dolphins, and is up to 1,219 yards in 2011 to surpass Ben Coates’ record of 1,174 back in 1994.

The Lows:

– The offensive line struggled mightily without Matt Light and Logan Mankins, which is to be expected. Brady was sacked four times, three coming in the first half. The only sack of the second half came on a third down play as the Pats were driving in Miami’s territory. They had to settle for a 42-yard field goal to take a 20-17 lead with just under nine minutes left. They could have potentially had more if the O-Line better protected Brady.

– Bill Belichick goes with an all-out blitz on a Miami third down in the final three minutes, and Moore makes them pay with a long completion to Marshall. A few plays later, the Dolphins QB hits Devon Bess in the end zone to make it 27-24 with 1:48 to go. Veteran corner Nate Jones was beat on the coverage.

– The Patriots lost a challenge on a Hartline catch early in the fourth, the first challenge Belichick’s lost this season. It cost New England a timeout, and it was their final challenge with 12:48 to go in the game.

Overall, the Pats was able to atone for a poor (and I’m being kind with that word) first half, but they can’t do that in the playoffs against better opponents. Belichick is going to have a lot of fun with this game on Monday…

3rd Quarter

The Highs:

– Not the greatest but this will have to do. The Pats use an 11 play drive to put three points up on the board.  They started the half still out of sync, but at least they are got some points.

– Stephen Gostkowski comes up with a big play on the ensuing kickoff to save what could have been a touchdown return by Clyde Gates.

– Pats defense comes up with a big play. Moore fumbles on the exchange, and Vince Wilfork falls on it.  New England gets the ball in Miami territory and make sure they make something out of it.  A couple of passing plays puts New England in the red zone and they finish with a one-yard touchdown to Deion Branch. A seven play drive that covers 38 yards and makes it 17-10 Miami.

– The Pats defense holds again on the Dolphins second possession of the quarter.  Ninkovich and Brandon Deaderick come up with a big sack on Moore.

– After getting the ball back The Pats pull even with Miami on a seven play drive that ends with Brady doing it himself. No big spike this time, but it’s a whole new team here in the second half.

– We should have seen this coming, at least from the offense. New England is outscoring opponents 127-50 in the third quarter this season.

The Lows:

– After all that complaining in the first half, I got nothing. Good job boys.

All tied at 17 after three….

2nd Quarter

The Highs:

– There weren’t many in this quarter, but on the Dolphins third possession of a quarter there is at least a little bright spot for the Patriots. They force Miami into a three-and-out.

– Dolphins fourth possession of the quarter and the Pats defense holds. Kyle Arrington with a nice play on a break up and Miami is forced to punt again.

The Lows:

– On the first play of the quarter the Dolphins get a big one.  Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall for 47 yards.  Not sure what McCourty was doing on the play, which would would lead to a 19-yard touchdown pass from Moore to Marshall.

– Pats first possession of the quarter and they go three-and-out.  On a third and one play, Brady checks out of a running play to a pass and can’t complete it.

Scoreboard: Follow The Game Live!

– Second possession for the Dolphins in the quarter and on a third and 12 play, McCourty gets hit with a pass interference call.  He is starting to look like he can’t play the position, because the ball was un-catchable but he still felt the need to wrap up Hartline. The Pats keep making miscues on this drive. Another big catch by Marshall, a pass interference call on Rob Ninkovich on a play he was defending Moore as a receiver, and it would all lead to a one-yard touchdown pass from Moore to Charles Clay.

– After the Dolphins score on their 11 play drive, the Pats offense goes three and out once again.

–  No surprise, Pats go three and out on their third possession of the quarter.  Tom Brady is under pressure for all three plays.  He had to run for a yard on one play, was hurried into a bad pass on another and then sacked on the final play.  The offensive line is losing every battle right now.  The fans are getting restless and letting the home team know with a lot of booing.

– Stephen Gostkowski missed a 51-yarder before the half that would have put New England on the board. Instead he missed wide left, and very badly at that.

– There is something to be said that entering the final minute of the half, New England had more punts (4) than Brady had completions (3).

Miami up 17-0 at the half…

1st Quarter

The Highs:

– Defensive end Shaun Ellis was an early contributor, sacking Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore on Miami’s first drive. It’s been awhile since we heard Ellis’ name.

– On the Dolphins second possession the Pats defense holds again. They get some great plays by Devin McCourty and Dane Fletcher forcing Miami to punt.

– Dolphins third possession of the quarter and the Pats defense gives them nothing.  McCourty with a good play on a pass to Brandon Marshall, knocking the ball out of the receivers hands.

The Lows:

-After losing left tackle Matt Light before the game, the Patriots also lost guard Logan Mankins to a knee injury, who was filling in for Light at left tackle. Mankins’ return is questionable.

– Dolphins get the ball first and the Pats have a chance to stop the drive on third and nine.  Instead, McCourty gets beat on a 39-yard passing play.  The Dolphins would use that and get three points from a 47-yard field goal.

– Pats first offensive possession and they get nothing.  Couple of third down conversions but Brady was under pressure for the whole drive.  The series ends with Tom getting sacked by Yeremiah Bell.  Right now the Dolphins look like they are taking advantage of Mankins and Light not being in the line up.

– Pats second possession of the quarter and they are still struggling.  Brady sacked by Jason Taylor on the first play of that drive.  The Pats go three-and-out.

– Pats third possession of the quarter and more of the same.  They are having trouble moving the ball. They get a first down on a 15-yard passing play to Aaron Hernandez and then they go three-and-out…

Dolphins up 3-0 after one

After the game, be sure to tune in to Patriots Fifth Quarter on WBZ-TV and The Postgame Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub for all the reaction and analysis on the Pats-Dolphins matchup!

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