If NFL teams want to cap off their season in convincing fashion, then ask the Patriots how to get it done. Reminiscent of their 12-0 win against the Dolphins in the 2003 regular season finale, New England fans celebrated their team's victory by tossing snow into the air.
It was that kind of night.
The Patriots recorded their first shutout since their 2009 59-0 romp over the Tennessee Titans. And after last week’s poor performance in Jacksonville, where their win over the Jaguars convinced few that they were surging into the playoffs, today’s win appeased some nerves.
The Dolphin's best chance to score came in the second and third quarter. In the second, kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 41-yard field goal that would have at least made the score 14-3 Patriots. Running back Reggie Bush mishandled a snap from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the 3rd quarter and linebacker Donte Hightower recovered on the Patriot’s 1-yard line.
Yet, even that is given the Dolphins to much credit.
They stood little chance against a Patriots team vying for a top two seed in the playoffs. With the Texans losing and Denver winning, as well as the Patriots finishing off the Dolphins, New England now sits in the number 2 seed and will take next week off to rest and prepare.
The Patriots led 21-0 at the half as a result of Wes Welker's touchdown catch and two Steven Ridley touchdown runs. New England's last two touchdown drives before the half culminated in impressive 13 and 14 plays.
Brady finished mostly strong with 284 yards on 22 of 36 completions and the offense chipped in 167 total rushing yards. Brady's only fault is that other than Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, their other targets stayed relatively quiet. Reciever Brandon Lloyd caught just one ball for 9 yards.
Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard did not play and their injuries bare watching over the coming two weeks. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich left in the second quarter because of an apparent hip injury and did not return.
Although the Patriots seem to have sudden depth at the position with the quiet emergence of ends Justin Francis, Jermaine Cunningham and Trevor Scott, Ninkovich has been their most dependable and consistent defensive end all year.
However, on the positive, it was a welcome sign to see tight end Rob Gronkowski get some reps. He appeared tentative blocking, but caught two passes and one touchdown.
The Patriots will rest for two weeks and begin preparation to play the highest remaining seed amongst the two winners in next week’s wild-card match up. All potential winners next week--the Texans, Ravens and Colts--the Patriots have played this season. It is always good to queue up the note cards on a familiar foe.
It is also reasonable to continue to queue the snowballs and enjoy an end to another successful season. The Patriots finish their year on a winning note, much like they have done for many years.
Let the playoffs commence.