Final

Patriots 23

(9-3, 5-2 away)

Dolphins 16

(5-7, 3-3 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 2, 2012

Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL 

1 2 3 4 T
NE 7 10 0 623
MIA 3 7 0 616

Top Performers

Passing: T. Brady (NE) - 238 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: S. Ridley (NE) - 19 CAR, 71 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: W. Welker (NE) - 12 REC, 103 YDS, 1 TD

Patriots sink Dolphins, clinch 4th straight AFC East title

ESPN.com news services

MIAMI -- Two yards from a touchdown on third down, Tom Brady took the snap and fell to the turf curled around the ball, happy to settle for a field goal.

The high-scoring New England Patriots went conservative Sunday, and the approach paid off with another AFC East championship.

Brady stuck with short throws for much of the afternoon and was content to hand off during a clock-consuming drive in the fourth quarter that helped the Patriots beat Miami 23-16 to clinch their fourth consecutive division title.

"It's not supposed to be easy, and it wasn't easy today," Brady said.

Dolphins mistakes proved pivotal. A botched punt, a roughing-the-punter penalty and a fumble by Miami resulted in 17 New England points, and another penalty negated a Dolphins touchdown.

The Patriots (9-3) wore championship caps and T-shirts afterward.

"It's good to be back in the postseason," coach Bill Belichick said.

The Patriots have won six consecutive games and are assured of their 12th winning season in a row.

The Dolphins (5-7) hurt their already slim playoff chances and lost to New England for the fifth consecutive time.

"Too many mistakes," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "To beat a good opponent in December, you have to play better."

The Patriots finished with a season-low 321 yards, and Brady went 24 for 40 for 238 yards with four sacks.

But with New England nursing a 20-13 edge midway through the fourth quarter, he led a 16-play drive that took more than seven minutes.

After he curled up on the third-down keeper, Stephen Gostkowski kicked his third field goal to pad the lead.

"It's always good to win," Belichick said. "It's not about the stats, it's about wins."

Brady was intercepted for the first time in 203 attempts, and for only the fourth time this season. His passer rating was a season-low 74.8, but he had at least four passes dropped, including a throw to Wes Welker in the end zone.

And when the Patriots took over at their 20 leading by a touchdown in the fourth period, they produced their best drive of the day.

New England went 77 yards, keeping the ball on the ground on 12 plays, to set up Gostkowski's field goal with 1:10 left. Stevan Ridley carried 10 times for 46 yards to spark the drive.

"We pounded away on a great defense, and they finally gave in a little," Ridley said.

Trevor Scott led New England's stout defensive effort with two sacks, including one to force a fumble that set up a field goal. Jerod Mayo sacked Ryan Tannehill on third down midway through the fourth quarter, forcing the Dolphins to settle for a field goal.

Welker tied Jerry Rice's NFL record by making at least 10 receptions for the 17th time. He had 12 catches for 103 yards and a score.

Tannehill went only 13 for 29 for 186 yards, and twice he failed to connect with an open Brian Hartline deep.

"We just didn't hit the shots that were there," Tannehill said. "I'm still kicking myself."

Tannehill was most effective running the ball. He finished two keepers with brazen acrobatic leaps, vaulting over the goal line to elude linebacker Rob Ninkovich on a 2-yard touchdown run.

The botched punt on the Dolphins' opening series led to a New England touchdown. With the ball wet following a brief shower, punter Brandon Fields dropped a low snap and was tackled at his 12. The Patriots scored five players later on Ridley's 2-yard run.

The roughing-the-punter penalty on Miami's Jimmy Wilson gave the Patriots a first down deep in their territory, jump-starting a 75-yard drive that ended with Welker's 7-yard touchdown catch.

Miami's Reshad Jones made a one-handed interception and returned the ball 30 yards for a touchdown, but the score was negated by a penalty on Reggie Bush for an illegal block. New England then held, and Dan Carpenter kicked a 44-yard field goal.

Game notes


Dolphins T Jake Long left the game in the first half with a left triceps injury. He underwent X-rays after the game, but the team didn't release the results. ... Patriots G Dan Connolly left in the first quarter with a back injury. ... Ridley rushed for 71 yards and has 1,010 this season. ... Dolphins reserve S Jonathon Amaya was inactive after being charged with battery Monday in a confrontation with a taxi driver. ... Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was using crutches and wearing a walking boot when he briefly emerged from the locker room after suffering a foot injury in the fourth quarter.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NE
MIA
1st Downs2515
Passing 1st downs
147
Rushing 1st downs
77
1st downs from penalties
41
3rd down efficiency
7-153-13
4th down efficiency
0-01-2
Total Plays7659
Total Yards321277
Yards per play4.24.7
Total Drives1211
Passing213176
Comp-Att
24-4013-29
Yards per pass
4.85.5
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks-Yards Lost
4-253-10
Rushing108101
Rushing Attempts
3227
Yards per rush
3.43.7
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Penalties6-507-77
Turnovers11
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession33:2426:36

Passing Leaders

NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady24/402386.0114-25
MIAC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Tannehill13/291866.4003-10

Rushing Leaders

NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Ridley19713.7111
Woodhead6244.0013
MIACARYDSAVGTDLG
Bush15644.3016
Tannehill5193.819

Receiving Leaders

NERECYDSAVGTDLG
Welker121038.6114
Hernandez89712.1031
MIARECYDSAVGTDLG
Hartline58416.8028
Matthews12828.0028

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNEMIA
neTD11:59Stevan Ridley 2 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 12 yds, 2:04
70
miaFG0:06Dan Carpenter 44 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 8 yds, 1:44
73
SECOND QUARTERNEMIA
neTD9:26Wes Welker 7 Yard Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 75 yds, 5:40
143
neFG6:58Stephen Gostkowski 43 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 4 plays, 0 yds, 1:01
173
miaTD0:34Ryan Tannehill 2 Yard Run (Dan Carpenter Kick is Good)
Drive info: 12 plays, 80 yds, 6:28
1710
FOURTH QUARTERNEMIA
neFG13:21Stephen Gostkowski 32 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 66 yds, 4:36
2010
miaFG8:50Dan Carpenter 33 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 12 plays, 65 yds, 4:48
2013
neFG1:15Stephen Gostkowski 20 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 16 plays, 77 yds, 7:18
2313
miaFG0:36Dan Carpenter 42 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 5 plays, 56 yds, 0:39
2316

Research Notes

Tom Brady threw his 25th passing TD this season, his 8th season with at least 25 pass TD. That is tied with Drew Brees for the 3rd-most such seasons in NFL history.
  [+]
Ryan Tannehill struggled when the Patriots brought five or more pass rushers Sunday, completing just 2-of-9 passes for 24 yards. Tannehill had been good against added pressure in previous weeks, ranking fifth in the NFL with a 71.3 Total QBR. Since the Patriots defense acquired Aqib Talib, they have been a more aggressive and effective unit.
  [+]
Wes Welker caught 12 of his 18 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Dolphins. All 12 of Welker's catches came on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield. The only receiver with more catches on short throws in a single game this season? Wes Welker, who caught 13 in a Week 5 win against the Broncos.
Wes Welker has 10 catches (and counting) today, his 17th career game with 10 receptions, which ties Jerry Rice for the most in NFL history.
  [+]
Wes Welker recorded his 17th game with 10 catches more than twice as fast as Jerry Rice. While Rice did it in his 285th career game as a member of the Raiders, today marks Welkers 136th game.
  [+]

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