Patriots Sweep AFC East
Season Finale Set for Saturday in Jersey
There you have it: The only 15-0 regular-season team ever. And so many records with that. So many more possible. So much more possible in less than a week.
Bill Belichick addresses his defensive starters while NFL Films listens in.
Photo: Pats Pulpit / Tom Masse
Anyway, this game, too, was a tale of two halfs. New England nearly played the perfect first half. The second half was highly flawed.
Tom Brady is the perfect example, because he was nearly perfect in the first half and anything but in the second.
In the first half, Brady was 14 of 18 (77.8 percent) for 163 yards with 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. That gave him a passer rating of 144.0.
In the second half, Brady was 4 of 15 (26.7 percent) for 52 yards with zero touchdowns and 2 interceptions. That gave him a passer rating of 1.9.
Brady also had a fumble in the second half. For the second week in a row, Brady connected with just 5 different receivers.
Both of Brady's interceptions were passes intended for Randy Moss. The first was underthrown in to double coverage in the end zone. It would have been a historic moment. The second was a pass Moss -- in all his superhumanness -- should have caught, but his bobble ended up in a defender's hands. And you knew Moss should have had it because of the way he chastised himself after the play.
OK, enough of the depressing news. Let's look at the list of milestones:
- When Troy Brown returned the punt on Miami's first drive of the game, he played in his 192nd game, fourth in Patriots history.
- When Brown returned the punt, he officially played in his 15th season with New England. Brown has played his entire career with the Patriots, tying him for the 2nd longest tenure with one team with Jason Elam of Denver and Michael Strahan of New York.
- When Brady hit Donté Stallworth for 16 yards on a 2nd-and-1 on the Patriots first drive, New England broke the franchise record for first downs in a season (348 in 1994). At game's end, the record stands at 366.
- Laurence Maroney ran for 51 yards on 1st-and-10 from the New England 21. It was the longest run of his career.
- Moss's second touchdown, a 1-yard laser from Brady, gave Moss 123 career touchdown receptions, tying him for 10th all-time with Marvin Harrison.
- Mike Vrabel sacked Cleo Lemon on 3rd-and-11 early in the 2nd quarter, setting a new career high for Vrabel with 10.5 this season. Vrabel is the first Patriot with more than 10 sacks in a season since Willie McGinest had 11 in 1995. Update [2007-12-25 9:26:22 by tommasse]: Vrabel had another sack in the 3rd quarter, raising his season total to 11.5, the most since any Patriot since Andre Tippett's 12.5 in 1987.
- On 3rd-and-1 from New England's 41, Maroney ran for a 59-yard touchdown -- that' the longest of his career.
- That run also broke the Patriots franchise record for total net yards in a season with 6,015 (5,965 in 1978) and tied New England with the 1984 Dolphins for most touchdowns in a season.
- That touchdown also put the Patriots in 2nd place all-time with 544 points.
- On the Patriots' next drive, Brady hit Jabar Gaffney for a 48-yard touchdown. That gave Brady 48 touchdown passes this season, tying him for 2nd-best all-time (Dan Marino in 1984) and gave New England 551 points on the season.
- That touchdown also broke the NFL record for team touchdowns in a season with 71. (I assume that gives Stephen Gostkowski the NFL record for extra points in a season. He is 71 of 71. Last year, he was 43 of 44.)
When the final second ticked off the clock, there were a few more milestones:
- Patriots became the first team in NFL history to go 15-0.
- Patriots became the first team in NFL history to win 15 consecutive games in a single season.
- Patriots earned their 18th straight regular-season win over 2 years, tying their NFL record set in 2003-04.
- Patriots earned their 15th win of season, a franchise record.
- Patriots tied the NFL's all-time record for most regular season victories (15) set by the '04
- Steelers, '98 Vikings, '85 Bears and '84 49ers.
- Patriots have gone undefeated in division games for the first time in franchise history.
Here are the game stats:
- Brady: 18 of 33 (54.5 percent), 215 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 79.7 passer rating, 4 carries, 11 yards
- Maroney: 14 carries, 156 yards, TD
- Kevin Faulk: 7 carries, 29 yards, 1 catch, 9 yards
- Gaffney: 5 catches, 82 yards, TD
- Moss: 5 catches, 50 yards, 2 TD
- Wes Welker: 5 catches, 59 yards
- Stallworth: 2 catches, 25 yards
- Tedy Bruschi: 7 solo tackles, 2 assists, pass defended
- Adalius Thomas: 6 solo, 1 assist, QB hit
- Rodney Harrison: 3 solo, 3 assists, pass defended
- Vrabel: 4 solo, 1 assist, 2.0 sacks
- Junior Seau: 4 solo, 1 assist, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits
- Chris Hanson: 5 punts, 45.8 avg. One was a fantastic 64- yarder from the end-line with the Patriots on their half-yard line.
Notes: NFL Films Records History
Stephen Gostkowski booted a kickoff out of bounds after the Patriots first touchdown.
Troy Brown muffed on of the 7 punts he fielded. He must have taken his eye off the ball as it bounced off his facemask. After the fumble, Belichick inserted Welker to field the next punt, a clear message to Brown, one of his favorite players. Brown was back deep for Miami's next punt. Miami's Brandon Fields punted 10 times.
While the weather deep in the stadium held off for the entire game, the offense played like it was windy and rainy for the last 30 minutes. It was cool and getting windy outside the stadium leading up to kickoff. The flags atop the stadium were stiff in the breeze, but the goal-post flags were stationary. There were just a few drops of rain in the fourth quarter, but there was no significant precipitation until after the game.
NFL Films was out and about the stadium several hours before game-time, taping cars rolling down Rte. 1. Crews roamed both sidelines for the entire game and they spent a lot of time around Belichick's defensive huddles.
The early forecast for East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday calls for temperatures in the high 40s, cloudy with a low chance of precipitation and 12-mph winds. Of course, daily highs and expectations for an 8:15 p.m. start can be drastically different. We'll keep an eye on this and update throughout the week.
'Unofficial' poll results: I didn't capture the graphic until about 3 hours after the game ended.
Who was the Week 16 player of the game vs. the Miami Dolphins?
This poll is closed
Tom Brady: 18 of 33 (54.5 percent), 215 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 79.7 passer rating
Laurence Maroney: 14 carries, 156 yards, TD
Jabar Gaffney: 5 catches, 82 yards, TD
Randy Moss: 5 catches, 50 yards, 2 TD
Tedy Bruschi: 7 solo tackles, 2 assists, pass defended
Rodney Harrison: 3 solo, 3 assists, pass defended
Mike Vrabel: 4 solo, 1 assist, 2.0 sacks