Patriots win the division, remain on track for first seed. We'll get to more specifics from the game shortly, but the main accomplishment of today's game: the Patriots' victory moves them to 11-3 and wins them their sixth straight AFC East division title. The Patriots treat every hat and t-shirt game as a championship game, and this was a huge win. The victory also keeps the Patriots on track for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If they continue to take care of business.
Patriots turn it on in the second half. Somehow, the Patriots had a lead after 30 minutes of this game, despite being outplayed and outcoached most of the first half. The led thanks to their special teams and defense. On the opening drive of the game, Jamie Collins blocked a field goal attempt. It was picked up and returned by Kyle Arrington for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Duron Harmon intercepted an overthrown Tannehill throw and returned it within the 10. Shane Vereen capitalized with a short touchdown run. The offense couldn't do a thing. The playcalling was suspect. The defense was allowing big chunks of yards and allowed an uncharacteristic long touchdown pass to Mike Wallace in the closing seconds of the second half.
When the third quarter began, everything changed. Brady was a bit erratic in the first half, but was dominant in the second half. The Patriots picked up 24 third quarter points to essentially seal the deal. Brady was delivering all over the field, Mid-range, down the field to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Most of Brady's success came off the play action, but the Patriots offensive line did a pretty admirable job against the strong Miami front. Sebastian Vollmer really shut down Cameron Wake. Brady's had a deep touchdown to Rob Gronkowski immediately following a Patrick Chung interception. He also found Julian Edelman late in the third quarter to close out the scoring binge.
The improvements the Patriots had in the second half were certainly promising. However, there were legitimate concerns created by that lackluster first half.
Patriots suffer two key injuries. The Patriots did have a couple of key injuries that will need to be monitored going forward. Kyle Arrington went down with a leg injury in the first half, and did not return. It appeared to be a hamstring issue. Guard Dan Connolly went down with a neck injury in the second half and was replaced by Josh Kline. Both are key players for the Patriots, and we'll have updates on both of them as soon as they become available.
Jonas Gray gets involved. After an ineffective first half from LeGarrette Blount in which he picked up just 10 yards on five carries, the Patriots turned to Jonas Gray to begin the third quarter, and saw immediate positive results. Gray looked explosive, was breaking tackles, and even got involved in the passing game. The Patriots didn't commit to the run enough considering some of the injuries the Dolphins' had in their linebacking corps, but Gray once again flashed. There may be more of a committee approach between Blount and Gray going forward.
Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower both looked very strong in their respective return from injuries. Jones appeared to be moving well coming off the hip injury. He pushed the pocket a bunch of times, had a beautiful run stuff in the first half, and an explosive strip sack of Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter. Hightower was also in the mix throughout the day, and had a powerful read and tackle in the backfield in the first half as well. He also had a fourth quarter sack. With those two back in the mix, the Patriots are more stack defensively than they have all year.