Brady’s arm, legs spark Patriots to division title
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady will do almost anything to win a game, even run with the ball.
So the reluctant rusher took off on a 17-yard scramble that set up a key third-quarter touchdown and sparked the New England Patriots to a 41-13 win over the Miami Dolphins and their sixth straight AFC East title Sunday.
“It was in slow motion,” Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell joked, “but it was good.”
Good enough to set up LeGarrette Blount’s 3-yard touchdown run on the next play and begin a streak of four scoring drives on the Patriots’ first four possessions after they led 14-13 at halftime.
“I wasn’t in the best mood at that time” because of New England’s poor first half, Brady said.
The star quarterback and his teammates were feeling better after the Patriots (11-3) became the first team in NFL history with 11 division titles in 12 years. They missed only in 2008, when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener and Miami won the AFC East.
Now they can secure home-field advantage with wins in their remaining games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
“Everything starts with winning your division,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “We wanted to win big.”
That seemed unlikely in the first half when they gave up Ryan Tannehill’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace with five seconds left.
The Patriots had a much different look after intermission, starting with Brady’s 34-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski on the first play from scrimmage. Six plays later on third-and-11 at the Miami 20, Brady ran up the right side and was knocked out of bounds at the 3.
“I wished I wouldn’t have gotten knocked down, but that’s the way it goes,” he said. “It’s good to go in there and finish them off like we did.”
Miami (7-7) gave up a touchdown on a blocked field goal and Tannehill threw two interceptions.
“It’ll probably take a miracle to get into the playoffs,” Wallace said.
Here are some things to remember from New England’s second straight win and Miami’s second straight loss:
SCORING FAST: The Patriots scored 17 points in 3:14 late in the third quarter to take a 38-13 lead. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal before Brady threw touchdown passes of 27 yards to Gronkowski and 6 yards to Julian Edelman.
“It was awful,” Wallace said. “They whipped us from start to finish in the second half, from the first play to the last play.”
WASTED CHANCES: On the first play from scrimmage, Tannehill connected with Wallace for a 50-yard gain, matching Miami’s longest completion of the season. But just four plays later, Caleb Sturgis’ 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Jamie Collins and returned 62 yards by Kyle Arrington for a touchdown. Midway through the first quarter, Jason Trusnik’s interception began a drive that brought the Dolphins to the Patriots 10. But they settled for a 24-yard field goal by Sturgis.
“The game started on a good, positive play for us,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said, “but we’re down there in good position and weren’t able to capitalize.”
SAME TEAMS, DIFFERENT RESULT: The Patriots evened the season series that began with a 33-20 loss at Miami in the opener. In that one, the Patriots had a bad second half after leading 20-10. On Sunday, they dominated the last two quarters.
“We’ve been waiting all season to get back and play this game,” McCourty said.
KICKER’S MILESTONE: Gostkowski became the Patriots’ career leading scorer with 1,165 points, passing Adam Vinatieri, the kicker he succeeded in 2006. Gostkowski had 11 points on Sunday to top Vinatieri’s total of 1,158.
“It was a special game for me,” he said. “It’s my son’s birthday (Monday) and my whole family is in town. Just a coincidence of something like that happening at home and with a lot of people in town.”
NOTES: Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 287 yards and one interception. Tannehill was 29 for 47 for 346 yards. ... The Patriots’ six consecutive division titles are one short of the NFL record since 1970 set by the Los Angeles Rams from 1973-79, according to STATS. ... Wallace grew testy after the game when a reporter asked him about Philbin’s future.
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