Brady caps record year as Pats beat Dolphins 38-7By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer Monday, Jan 3, 2011
Now he wants to go 3-0 and win the most meaningful game—the Super Bowl— for the fourth time.
The Patriots have momentum, with four blowout wins in their last five games, and an eight-game winning streak.
“We talked about it all week,” Brady said after his 11th straight game without an interception. “We’d hate to come out here and not finish the season the way we all expected to.”
They did it with their three top receivers—Wes Welker(notes), Deion Branch(notes) and Aaron Hernandez(notes)—all inactive and with rarely used Brian Hoyer(notes) taking over for Brady on the Patriots’ second series of the third quarter when they already led 31-0.
Julian Edelman(notes) fielded punts instead of Welker and returned one 94 yards for a touchdown 18 seconds before halftime for a 24-0 lead. Brandon Tate(notes) scored on a 42-yard pass play as a replacement for Welker and Branch. Hoyer threw it, his first touchdown pass in two NFL seasons.
Bill Belichick became the first coach with four seasons of 14 or more wins, Brady extended his NFL record to 28 straight regular-season home victories as a starter, and the Patriots tied the record of eight consecutive games of at least 30 points that they already shared with the St. Louis Rams.
“None of it matters at this point,” said Brady, who extended his NFL record to 335 straight passes without an interception after completing 10 of 16 for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots must wait until next weekend’s wild-card round to learn their next opponent.
Much better than the Dolphins, who lost for the fourth time in five games. With their second straight 7-9 record, they may have played for the last time under coach Tony Sparano, who has one year left on his contract. He has said that he is scheduled to meet with owner Stephen Ross to discuss his future and that he looks forward to sharing his ideas for improving the team.
It didn’t help.
Devin McCourty’s(notes) interception on Miami’s first series led to Brady’s 13-yard scoring pass to Gronkowski, his 10th touchdown of the season and second most by a rookie tight end behind Mike Ditka’s 12 in 1961.
“The mindset today was we weren’t shutting it down at all,” Gronkowski said.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) scored on a 1-yard run on the Patriots’ third possession and finished with 1,008 yards rushing, the first time he’s gained more than 1,000. Shayne Graham’s(notes) 28-yard field goal made it 17-0.
“We knew we were going to get some chances this week with this punter because he was prone to outkick his coverage,” Edelman said, “and he gave us a shot.”
Miami had none.
Miami was outgained 502 yards to 250.
Still, the Dolphins nearly finished the season with the fewest points in the AFC for the first time in their 45-year history. Their 273 points were just two more than Cleveland’s total. They edged out the Browns by scoring with 2:11 left in the game on a 21-yard pass from Tyler Thigpen(notes) to Davone Bess(notes).
Much too little, much too late for Sparano’s badly beaten players.
“I told them you never want to be in this position again,” the coach said. “I never, ever, ever do.”
He may not get a chance once Ross makes a decision on his future.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are looking ahead to a lighter workload than usual this week and a chance to get healthier before preparing for the first team in the way of their championship goal.
“It’s time to move on now. One loss now and you’re out,” Wilfork said. “We just have to continue to play good football and get better.”