Patriots secure home field throughout postseason
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Tom Brady passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns as the New England Patriots clinched home field throughout the AFC playoffs, beating the Miami Dolphins 35-14 on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
Brady completed 25 of 33 passes and was not intercepted or sacked. Wide receiver Julian Edelman caught eight of Brady's passes for 151 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown.
The Patriots (14-2), who have won the AFC East Division in 14 of the past 16 years and have also taken four Super Bowls during that span, will get a first-round playoff bye.
Miami (10-6), which had already clinched its first playoff berth since 2008, will be underdogs in its first-round playoff game next week at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since 2000.
New England took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 13 plays, including a two-yard TD pass from Brady to tight end Martellus Bennett. The drive took nearly eight minutes (7:32).
The Patriots made it 14-0 on their next possession, driving just 45 yards on five plays, including Brady's 14-yard pass to Michael Floyd, who broke a would-be tackle by middle linebacker Kiko Alonso. Floyd pushed past two other defenders and barely got into the end zone.
New England scored again on the first play of the second quarter, a 40-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The score was set up by cornerback Logan Ryan's interception.
Another Gostkowski field goal, this time from 26 yards, extended New England's lead to 20-0 with 3:21 left in the half. Gostkowski's kick capped a 15-play, 82-yard drive that took 8:19.
Miami finally got on the board with just 28 seconds left in the half. The Dolphins drove 75 yards on 10 plays, scoring on an eight-yard pass from Matt Moore to Jarvis Landry. After the catch, Landry broke a tackle attempt by Dont'a Hightower.
The Dolphins cut their deficit to 20-14, opening the third quarter with a 12-play, 76-yard drive that chewed up 6:21. The drive ended with Moore's 25-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills.
But New England answered quickly, getting a 77-yard touchdown pass toss from Brady to Julian Edelman. The route was a short one by Edelman, but he got free toward the middle of the field after a huge crack-back by Floyd.
The player Floyd hit, cornerback Tony Lippett, had to be helped off the field.
Miami still had a chance, trailing 27-14 and with a second-and-goal at the New England 9-yard line. Moore hit backup running back Damien Williams in the left flat. But safety Devin McCourty forced a fumble, and linebacker Shea McClellin recovered it and rumbled 69 yards.
That set up a one-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. After a two-point conversion, the Patriots had a 35-14 lead.
NOTES: The Patriots were without WRs Malcolm Mitchell (knee), WR Danny Amendola (ankle) and CB Cyrus Jones (knee). ... Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower (knee) and special-teams captain Matthew Slater (foot) were active after missing last week. ... With Mitchell and Amendola out, Patriots WR Michael Floyd was a bigger part of the game plan, along with WRs Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Floyd had a DUI arrest last month and was picked by New England after he was waived by the Carolina Panthers. ... The Dolphins were without several starters, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee), DE Mario Williams (ankle), CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) and LB Jelani Jenkins (knee). Other starters who had previously been ruled out for the rest of the season include C Mike Pouncey; TE Jordan Cameron, LB Koa Misi, S Reshad Jones and S Isa Abdul-Quddus. ... The Patriots were nine-point favorites.