Pats D shuts down Fiedler, Fins

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots shrugged off the
snow, then watched their hardy fans fling it in celebration of the
team's AFC East title.

Question on the Dolphins: How do the Dolphins block out talk of another December collapse?
The Dolphins can't ignore the fact they have choked the past few seasons when the games count. Sadly, choking in December has become this team's modus operandi. What it all comes down to is this team isn't good enough. The collection of guys the organization has put together over the past few seasons isn't good enough to win games when they count.

Question on the Patriots: So, have the Pats now become the favorite in the AFC?
After the Chiefs' loss, the Patriots are definitely the team to beat in the AFC. This team has won a Super Bowl with essentially its current offensive pieces. Also, home field advantage is especially helpful to the Patriots because the stadium can turn into a New England version of the frozen tundra.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"You couldn't miss that. That was pretty cool," quarterback
Tom Brady said. "Hopefully, there's more excitement down the

The Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins 12-0 Sunday, but didn't
take control until Tedy Bruschi returned an interception 5 yards
for a touchdown that made it 10-0 with 8:55 left. It was the fourth
TD of his career.

"It seems like every time he catches it he ends up in the end
zone," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I should put him on

Bruschi ran into the end zone and dropped to his knees as
teammates swarmed around him. Then, many of the 45,738 fans who
braved the cold clutched fistfuls of powdery snow and flung them
into the wind, giving the stadium a festive and frosty air.

The Patriots (11-2) won their ninth consecutive game and tied
Kansas City for the NFL's best record. Two of those wins were
against division rival Miami (8-5), which would give them an edge
in a tiebreaker.

A Nor'easter had dumped at least 28 inches of snow on the
Foxboro area from late Friday night until it ended midway through
the second quarter. The field had been protected, and there was
only a light coating of snow for most of the game. But it was soft
and muddy.

"It didn't matter," Miami defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said.
"Snow, mud, blood, who cares. It doesn't affect blocking and
tackling. They just did it better."

The shutout was New England's second in four weeks, both 12-0,
and the first sustained by Miami in 32 games.

With Ricky Williams leading their running game, the Dolphins
were expected to benefit more from the sloppy field. Instead, they
struggled to move the ball all game, getting outgained 228 yards to
134. Williams finished with 68 yards on 25 carries.

The Patriots won their fourth straight home game without
allowing a defensive touchdown, outscoring those opponents 53-9.

"The wind was pretty heavy early in the game, but it died
down," Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler said. "They have a good
defense, one of the best in the league."

The last Patriots home game played in snow was their
controversial 16-13 second-round playoff win over Oakland on Jan.
19, 2002. Vinatieri's 45-yard field goal through heavy snow forced
overtime and he won it with a 23-yard field goal as New England
moved closer to its only Super Bowl championship.

The game began in a temperature of 28 degrees with the wind from
20 to 25 mph. It was a sellout, but there were 23,058 no-shows.

The Patriots took a 3-0 lead on Vinatieri's 29-yard field goal
late in the first quarter. Then Bruschi intercepted Fiedler's pass.

"I just put my hands up and, fortunately, I got a good
bounce," Bruschi said after his second interception return for a
touchdown this season.

New England finished the scoring with a safety when Jarvis Green
sacked Fiedler in the end zone with 1:13 to go.

"It's obvious the division title is over," Miami coach Dave
Wannstedt said. "but our ultimate goal (the playoffs) is still

Matt Turk punted on 10 of the Dolphins' first 11 possessions and
they lost a fumble on the other. And the Patriots won without an
offensive touchdown.

Large sections of the seats remained covered with snow through
the game. Other fans chose to sit on the snow rather than bother
trying to move it.

The closest the Dolphins came to scoring was late in the third
quarter when they moved from their 37-yard line to a third-and-3 at
the Patriots 10. Then a blitzing Rodney Harrison jarred the ball
loose from Fiedler and Mike Vrabel recovered for New England at the

Notes: The Patriots have won 24 straight games when leading
after the third quarter. ... The Dolphins fell to 5-2 on the road.
They're 3-3 at home. ... Turk's 11 punts set a Miami record for one
game. Three other Dolphins had 10, the last being Klaus Wilmsmeyer
in 1998. ... Brooks Barnard, signed by the Patriots last Tuesday to
replace ineffective punter Ken Walter, had 10 punts and Brady had
one on a quick kick. That tied the club record of 11 punts in a

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