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Tom Brady, Patriots cruise against Dolphins, lead 20-7 at halftime

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The Patriots are in total control for the season finale.

The New England Patriots are taking a 20-7 lead over the Miami Dolphins into halftime.

The Patriots received the opening kickoff and immediately imposed their will on the Miami Dolphins defense. QB Tom Brady completed all 6 of his passes for 41 yards and a touchdown, while the offense collectively gained 34 yards on 7 carries (4.86 yards per carry). Brady and company controlled the clock for 7:32 before Brady hit TE Martellus Bennett on an easy 2-yard touchdown play action pass and a 7-0 lead.

Rookie DT Vincent Valentine received the start over DT Malcom Brown for the second-straight week as Brown receives the doghouse treatment for being later to a meeting. Sophomore ED Trey Flowers tackled Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi for a pair of 1-yard gains, and then Flowers crushed Dolphins QB Matt Moore to force an incompletion on third down.

The Dolphins punted away and were subsequently flagged for holding, giving the Patriots the ball on the Dolphins 45-yard line. RB LeGarrette Blount picked up 32 yards on three carries before Brady hit WR Michael Floyd for a 14-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead. Floyd is the 65th player to receive a touchdown pass from Brady, the second-most in NFL history.

The Dolphins started their next drive and Brown took the field. Rookie LB Elandon Roberts stopped Ajayi for 2 yards on the first play. Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard pressured Moore on second down, who rolled out and threw a duck that was intercepted by CB Logan Ryan, giving the Patriots possession at their own 44-yard line.

The Patriots were driving down the field, but WR Julian Edelman headbutt a Dolphins defender in the end zone after an incomplete pass, wasting a down and setting the Patriots back 15 yards. Brady picked up some yardage back, passing Dolphins QB Dan Marino for the 4th most passing yards in NFL history, and set up a New England field goal attempt from the 22-yard line to start the second quarter. K Stephen Gostkowski kicked a perfect 40-yard attempt between the uprights to give the Patriots a 17-0 lead.

The Dolphins put together a strong drive, but still had to punt from their own 46-yard line. The Patriots were forced to start from their own 10-yard line and responded with an 82-yard, 8 minute and 19 second drive that stalled at the 8-yard line. RB Dion Lewis was tackled by the turf and Brady overlooked WR Chris Hogan in favor of forcing a bad throw to Edelman, forcing Gostkowski to hit the 26-yard field goal for a 20-0 lead.

The Dolphins pieced together a two-minute drive after checking down to the running back for the entire drive, before finding Jarvis Landry for a pair of catches and an 8-yard score to close the lead to 20-7. Landry slammed his helmet to the turf and earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Patriots got the ball with 28 seconds left on the clock at their own 43-yard line and decided to go for a field goal before the half. Gostkowski lined up for a 52-yard field goal, but missed it wide right.

Brady finished the first half 19 of 24 (79.2%) for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns for a passer rating of 122.4. The Patriots have picked up 100 rushing yards in the first half, thanks to 45 yards from LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Blount, Lewis, Edelman, Bennnett, Hogan, and Floyd all have 20+ yards in the first half.

The defense was perfect until the two-minute drive, but the Patriots appeared happy to let the Dolphins run down the clock; they would have rather not allowed a touchdown, but they weren’t playing a defense conducive to stopping checkdowns to the running back.

New England kicks off to start the second half. Hopefully both teams bench their starters early in the second half.