1:00 PM ET, December 14, 2014
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Patriots Clinch Sixth Straight AFC East Title
New England seeks its sixth straight AFC East crown and 12th in 14 seasons when it hosts the desperate Dolphins on Sunday.
The Patriots (10-3) held San Diego to 216 yards in a 23-14 victory last week, bouncing back from the previous week's 26-21 defeat at Green Bay in which they gave up a season-worst 478 yards. Their 12 straight 10-win seasons are the second most in NFL history behind San Francisco's 16 in a row from 1983-98.
New England can lock up the division with a win and would clinch a first-round bye with help from other teams. It can still secure a playoff spot if it loses, though that scenario involves losses or ties by at least four other teams.
The Patriots hold the advantage over Denver for home-field advantage by virtue of their 43-21 win against the Broncos on Nov. 2. They appear to have an easier schedule with next week's visit to the woeful New York Jets, against whom they have won seven of eight, and then a matchup with Buffalo at home, where they've taken 13 straight in that series.
Denver visits San Diego this week, Cincinnati the next and finishes at home against Oakland.
Coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots would probably discuss that material "in about 15 seconds" before moving on to Miami, which knocked off the Patriots in their opener.
"We need to talk about how to play offense, defense and special teams against the Dolphins a lot better than we did the last time we played them, which wouldn't take much," Belichick said. "That's what we'll be talking about this week: what to do and how to do it."
New England's 33-20 loss Sept. 7 gave the Dolphins two straight wins in this series for the first time since a five-game run Oct. 17, 1999-Oct. 7, 2001.
Tom Brady was 29 of 56 for 249 yards and lost two fumbles in the first meeting, but he's been at his best at home this year, throwing for 17 touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 303.8 yards.
The Patriots, winners of eight of nine, are 52-9 in December under Belichick -- nine more victories than any other team -- and have won 11 of 13 at home against Miami. They're an NFL-best 59-6 at home in regular-season games since Nov. 26, 2006, and have gone 6-0 there this year with an average victory margin of 18.4.
The Dolphins (7-6) are seeking their first playoff berth since 2008 but have dropped three of five after Sunday's 28-13 loss to Baltimore. Even if they win out -- like Ravens coach John Harbaugh predicted they would -- they could be on the outside looking in with 10 other AFC teams at 7-6 or better, excluding New England.
"I have a lot of faith and confidence in these guys," coach Joe Philbin said. "We've got a huge challenge this week going up to New England. I told them in the locker room, we're going to find out a lot this week."
Miami has surrendered 407.7 yards per game in its last three after holding its first 10 opponents to 302.5. The Dolphins have been particularly vulnerable against the run, giving up 661 yards in the past three -- the most they've ever allowed in a stretch of that length.
Defensive tackle Jared Odrick was seen shouting at Philbin on the sidelines in the final minutes of Sunday's loss, in which Miami gave up 447 yards. Odrick and coaches insisted no rift exists between the players and staff.
"Any time you don't play up to the standards we like to uphold, yeah, you're upset," Odrick said. "Everybody is upset."
Safety Louis Delmas' season ended Sunday when he suffered a right knee injury, though Miami will be bolstered by the return of Cortland Finnegan. The cornerback said he will play Sunday after missing four games with an ankle injury.
Miami had a season-high 191 rushing yards in the first meeting, though its running game has all but disappeared. The Dolphins have averaged 81.8 yards on the ground in their last five games after rushing for 137.3 in the first eight.
Julian Edelman, who caught eight passes for a career-high 141 yards against the Chargers, has 19 receptions for 234 yards and a touchdown over his last two meetings with Miami.
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|Avg Points Allowed||2.9||.9|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIA|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIA|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New England leads 19-9|
|Sep 7, 2014||MIA 33, NE 20|
|Dec 15, 2013||MIA 24, NE 20|
|Oct 27, 2013||MIA 17, @NE 27|
|Dec 30, 2012||MIA 0, @NE 28|
|Dec 2, 2012||MIA 16, NE 23|
|Dec 24, 2011||MIA 24, @NE 27|
|Sep 12, 2011||MIA 24, NE 38|
|Jan 2, 2011||MIA 7, @NE 38|
|Oct 4, 2010||MIA 14, NE 41|
|Dec 6, 2009||MIA 22, NE 21|
|Nov 8, 2009||MIA 17, @NE 27|
|Nov 23, 2008||MIA 28, NE 48|
|Sep 21, 2008||MIA 38, @NE 13|
|Dec 23, 2007||MIA 7, @NE 28|
|Oct 21, 2007||MIA 28, NE 49|
|Dec 10, 2006||MIA 21, NE 0|
|Oct 8, 2006||MIA 10, @NE 20|
|Jan 1, 2006||MIA 28, @NE 26|
|Nov 13, 2005||MIA 16, NE 23|
|Dec 20, 2004||MIA 29, NE 28|
|Oct 10, 2004||MIA 10, @NE 24|
|Dec 7, 2003||MIA 0, @NE 12|
|Oct 19, 2003||MIA 13, NE 19|
|Dec 29, 2002||MIA 24, @NE 27|
|Oct 6, 2002||MIA 26, NE 13|
|Dec 22, 2001||MIA 13, @NE 20|
|Oct 7, 2001||MIA 30, NE 10|
Dolphins held Brady to 2-18 (11.1% comp pct) on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield in Week 1. QBs are completing a league-worst 27.8% of those passes this season against the Dolphins[+]
Lowest Opponents' QBR This Season - Passes at Least 15 Yds Downfield
The Patriots lost to the Dolphins in Week 1. They have not been swept by a divisional opponent since they were swept by both the Dolphins and Jets in the 2000 season.
- Tom Brady's home win streaks on the line Sunday vs Dolphins: - 15 consecutive home starts overall (last loss: 2012 Week 15 vs SF) - 19 consecutive home starts vs AFC East teams (last loss: 2006 Week 10 vs NYJ) - 42 consecutive home starts vs AFC opponents (last loss: 2006 Week 10 vs NYJ)
Bill Belichick's next win will be his 229th including playoffs, tying Curly Lambeau for the 4th-most wins by a head coach in NFL history including playoffs.[+]
Most Wins by NFL Head Coach Including Playoffs
Tom Brady can extend his home win streak against the AFC East to 20 games on Sunday against the Dolphins, already the longest streak in home divisional starts since the 1970 Merger (ELIAS).[+]
Most Consecutive Home Divisional Starts Won - Since 1970 Merger
Since Week 9, Ryan Tannehill leads the NFL in completion percentage at 71.9%. In that span, Tannehill's average air yards per attempt is 6.7, which ranks 29th among 33 qualifying QBs.
FROM ELIAS: Rob Gronkowski's 7 straight games with 70 receiving yards is the longest streak ever by a tight end. He crossed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the 2nd time in his career Sunday, making him and Jimmy Graham the only tight ends to have multiple seasons with 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns (both twice). **keep in mind the TE position did not exist before 1960
The Patriots sent 4 or fewer rushers on 47 of Ryan Tannehill's 51 dropbacks Sunday (92% of dropbacks), the highest percentage in a game for both the Patriots defense and Tannehill this season. Tannehill is 3-5 this season when facing standard pressure on more than 75% of his dropbacks (4-2 when below 75%).[+]
Ryan Tannehill Passing vs 4 or Fewer Rushers This Season
Tom Brady was 21-of-35 for 287 yards, 2 TD and an Int in Sunday's win, and was not sacked. Brady was sacked a season-high 4 times in Week 1 against the Dolphins, twice as many as any other game this season. Brady was a combined 16-for-26 (61.5%) for 250 yards (9.6 yards per att) targeting Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell Sunday. In Week 1, Brady was 10-for-26 (38.5%) for 135 yards (5.2 yards per att) targeting the trio.
ESPN Stats & Information