By Traci McCartney @traciamc
Patriots 35 Dolphins 14
As New England Patriots‘ fans, we are SO lucky to have our team in the postseason pretty much every year. As a kid, that wasn’t something that happened often.
In fact, from the time I was born up until 2001, the Patriots were in the playoffs 9 times – twice they went to the Super Bowl and twice they’d lost. But since the 2001 season, the Patriots have made it to the playoffs every year with the exceptions of 2002 and 2008. We have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and anyone in their 20s and 30s and younger has only seen a winning team – a dynasty. The team has been to the Super Bowl 6 times since then, winning it 4 times out of those 6 appearances. We’re spoiled, and we should be so grateful!
There are some who say the NFL deliberately tried to keep the Patriots down after what I call the “debacle of deflation”. Even Tom Brady decided to give up the crusade in favor of putting it in the past and moving on with football. But that meant a 4 game suspension, and no one was really sure what the Patriots would do in Brady’s absence.
But Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissette (who had never even been on the field in an NFL game), combined to win 3 out of those 4 games. When Brady came back, he was on a tear – the Patriots have now become only the 7th team in NFL history to go 8-0 on the road, ending the season with a 14-2 record.
And through this season, Brady’s TD/INT ratio is 28/2, which is crazy good even having missed 4 games, spurring chants of “MVP! MVP!” at Hard Rock Stadium. After fighting the Oakland Raiders all season to win the #1 seed in the AFC, the Patriots capped off their season with a road win against the division rival Miami Dolphins. Until the win on New Year’s Day, the Patriots hadn’t won in Miami for over 4 years.
Miami won the toss and elected to defer, so the Patriots had the ball first. Brady went 6 for 6 (including a 6 yd run by Brady himself to pick up a first down) on a drive that chewed up 7 ½ minutes, culminating in a touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett in the back of the end zone and putting the Patriots up 7-0.
When Rob Gronkowski went out for back surgery, it was unclear who would fill the void. But Brady has managed to “spread the wealth”. And with Danny Amendola out as well, Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and rookie Malcolm Mitchell have been involved in the passing offense. Malcolm Mitchell was ruled out in the game in Miami due to a knee injury, so it was time for newly acquired wide receiver Michael Floyd to figure in. And he made quite a good impression.
On the Patriots second possession, and with great field position after a 33 yd punt by the Dolphins, Brady finished up a 5 play drive with a 14 yard catch and run to Floyd, who fought his way into the end zone through 6 Dolphins for the Patriots second touchdown. And in the 3rd quarter, Julian Edelman had a career long 77 yd touchdown made possible by a HUGE block in the open field by Floyd. That put the Patriots up 27-14, and it was part of Edelman’s big day – 151 yds on 8 catches, a good part of the Patriots’ 396 yds offensively.
The Dolphins didn’t score again. The defense held them to 280 yards of offense and forced 2 turnovers resulting in 10 points. Logan Ryan intercepted Matt Moore in the first quarter which led to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. In the fourth quarter with Miami driving down the field to score, Matt Moore completed a pass to Damien Williams, who had the ball punched out by Devin McCourty.
The fumble was picked up by linebacker Shea McClellin, who ran the ball all the way back to the Miami 18 for a 69 yard play. Five plays later and with 5:33 left in the game, LeGarrette Blount ran right at Ndamukong Suh for a touchdown, and the Patriots finally get their first win in Miami since December of 2012 by a score of 35-14.
The Patriots now head into the playoffs with a first round bye and 2 games at Gillette Stadium between them and the Super Bowl, with a huge opportunity of winning the franchise’s 5th championship. 2017 has most definitely started out right. Let’s not forget, as Patriots’ fans, how lucky we truly are.
See you in Foxborough….lowest seeded remaining team from the Wild Card round. Whoever you are – we’ll be ready!
Featured image as Michael Floyd blocks Miami’s Tony Lippett to clear a path for Julian Edelman’s 77 yd TD courtesy: Jim Davis/Boston Globe
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