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AFC East Report: Dolphins continue to surge, and other Week 12 takeaways

Related: NFL playoff picture: Patriots move into 2nd place in the AFC


The 12th week of the NFL regular season is in the books. That means it is now time for a new edition of the AFC East Report and for a look back at what happened in the New England Patriots’ division over the weekend — one that saw all four teams celebrate victories: the Buffalo Bills returned to their winning ways on Thanksgiving; the Miami Dolphins continue to surge by winning their fourth straight; the New York Jets celebrate their third victory this year.

Let’s dive straight in.

1. New England Patriots (8-4)

Week 12: 36-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, in Foxborough MA

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Bill Belichick on Patriots’ win over the Titans: ‘It was a good all-around effort’

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‘Energizer Bunny’ Kendrick Bourne keeps making electric plays for the Patriots offense

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Patriots vs. Titans snap count report: New England deploys heavy rotation in 36-13 win

Patriots vs. Titans: Fan Notes from the Game

Patriots vs. Titans injury analysis: New England suffers only minor bumps and bruises

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Mac Attack: What went right and what went wrong for Mac Jones against the Titans

Jonnu Smith has begun to blossom in the Patriots’ offense

Patriots vs. Titans rookie review: Christian Barmore’s impact extends beyond the stat-sheet

Comparing Mac Jones to the other first-round rookie quarterbacks after Week 12

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

2. Buffalo Bills (7-4)

Week 12: 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints, in New Orleans LA

Despite a short turnaround after their blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts the previous Sunday, the Bills’ prime time game on Thanksgiving was a successful one. Head coach Sean McDermott’s team won in convincing fashion against an overmatched opponent.

Buffalo started the game. in perfect fashion. After forcing a short kickoff return followed by a quick three-and-out, quarterback Josh Allen and the offense went on a 10-play drive that was capped off with a touchdown pass to Dawson Knox.

The Bills continued to control the game heading into the second quarter, with the defense forcing a fourth-down stop to set up a field goal drive. Buffalo had additional opportunities to add to its lead before the half, but Allen threw a pair of interceptions to keep the score at 10-0 heading into intermission.

The opening drive of the third quarter, however, saw Buffalo reach the scoreboard again: Allen and company drove 75 yards in 11 plays to go up 17-0 on a 5-yard pass to Stefon Diggs. Following another three-and-out by the defense, the Bills scored their second touchdown of the half — a 24-yard connection between Allen and Knox.

While New Orleans finally got on the scoreboard in the early fourth quarter, it was too little, too late. Buffalo eventually added another touchdown — a 23-yard catch-and-run by Matt Breida — to go finalize the score at 31-6; Jordan Poyer then went on to add an interception to cap a strong defensive effort in style.

The win was a costly one for the Bills, who lost star cornerback Tre’Davious White to a torn ACL, but it helped them keep up with the Patriots in the race for first place in the AFC East. The two teams’ upcoming Monday night meeting will be a big one.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Week 12: 33-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, in Miami Gardens FL

Hosting former Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers, the Dolphins continued to show why they are currently among the hottest teams in the league. Winning their fourth game in a row in convincing fashion, they are now 5-7 and still alive in the playoff race — especially considering that they are facing a favorable schedule down the stretch.

Their first big play against the Panthers came on special teams: Duke Riley blocked a punt that was recovered by Justin Coleman and returned two yards for a touchdown. Down 7-0, Carolina did fight back with a score of its own. However, two straight Cam Newton interceptions — one caught by Jevon Holland, the other by Xavien Howard — allowed Miami to retake the lead in the second quarter.

Tua Tagovailoa connected with Jaylen Waddle from 9 yards out to put their team up 14-7. Following a defensive three-and-out, that lead increased to 14 points: Myles Gaskin caught a direct snap and found the end zone from 3 yards out for Miami’s third touchdown of the first half.

The Dolphins had a chance to add to their lead before halftime, driving into kicker Jason Sanders’ goal range late in the second quarter. However, a bad snap was recovered by Carolina and returned into their own field goal range. The Panthers scored a 41-yard field goal as time expired and the teams headed into the locker rooms with Miami up 21-10 instead of, possibly, 24-7.

However, the Dolphins still stayed in control of the contest. After forcing a punt to open the second half, they went on a massive 13-play series that covered 80 yards and was capped by Myles Gaskin’s second score of the day.

Another 10-play series later — one that covered only 19 yards — the Dolphins were up 30-10 thanks to a 46-yard field goal. At that point, Cam Newton had already gotten benched in favor of P.J. Walker; the Panthers’ starting quarterback had completed only 5 of 21 pass attempts for 92 yards and a pair of interceptions.

Walker did not find any more success against a stingy Dolphins defense, though. In fact, he was sacked twice and threw an interception to Nik Needham on his first possession. The Dolphins converted the pick into another field goal to win with a final score of 33-10.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (3-8)

Week 12: 21-14 win over the Houston Texans, in Houston TX

After having lost five of their last six games, the Jets finally returned to the win column in Week 12. Their 21-14 road victory over the Texans may not have been pretty at all times, but it still helped the team improve to 3-8 on the season.

New York opened the game on defense and with the game’s first takeaway: John Franklin-Myers intercepted a Tyrod Taylor pass to set up the Jets offense in Houston territory. The unit, which saw the return of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, drove deep into the Texans red zone, but a sack on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line forced New York to settle for a 31-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.

Following a three-and-out, Wilson had another rough series: he was sacked on 2nd-and-8 before throwing an interception on the ensuing third-down play. The Texans converted the takeaway into a touchdown; they then added another after a Jets three-and-out.

Even though New York’s offense continued to struggle, the defense kept the team in the game: the unit forced a three-and-out of its own to set up a 10-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a Austin Walter touchdown run from 2 yards out plus a successful two-point attempt. Down 14-11 at the half, the Jets were therefore still in the game — and finding their rhythm.

New York opened the third quarter with another touchdown drive, this one capped by Wilson with a 4-yard scoring run. The Jets had a chance to add to their 18-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Ammendola sent a 42-yard field goal wide to the left. Luckily for the team, its defense continued to dominate — forcing another three-and-out and an unsuccessful 55-yard field goal try.

The Jets then proceeded to bleed more than six minutes off the clock on a drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal. Up 21-14, the defense delivered one more stand: the unit stopped a fourth-down attempt to effectively end the game.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.