Thanks to the Houston Texans, who lost earlier in the day to the Indianapolis Colts, entering their game with the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots only needed to win so they could clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. Although most things of that nature are easier said than done, the way in which the New England Patriots dominated the Miami Dolphins on Sunday gives evidence that there are some occasions where it is just as easy to do a thing as it is to say it. In winning the contest 28-0, the Patriots left no doubt as to which was the superior team on the field.
The victory was a total team effort for the New England Patriots, which was best exemplified by the way in which the team scored its first points of the afternoon as the defense set up the offense with prime field position. On the second drive of the game for the Dolphins, Patriots safety Steve Gregory intercepted Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's pass and returned the interception 13 yards to the Dolphins' 28-yard line. From there, the Patriots offense only needed two plays to score a touchdown, delivered via a nine-yard touchdown pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Wes Welker.
Had the scoring stopped after just the first touchdown, the Patriots would have emerged victorious, but from there, the Patriots offense scored touchdowns on their next two drives, sustained drives during which the Patriots gained 92 and 69 yards successively, bringing their lead to 21-0. The offense finally added a final touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring their winning margin to a robust 28 points.
While the Patriots offense did suffer through efficiency droughts, six of their ten drives ending in either a punt or a turnover on downs, the unit still finished the game boasting efficiency numbers of which to be proud. The passing attack brought the Patriots 7.5 net yards per play while the running game netted the team 4.4 yards per carry. Furthermore, the Patriots were able to convert eight of their 16 third downs into first downs and scored a touchdown on all three of their trips into the red zone. When the team needed to make a play on Sunday, the Patriots usually made it.
Meanwhile, as the offense was putting together its usual display of effectiveness, the Patriots defense was keeping the Dolphins offense under submission, as evidenced by the fact the Dolphins were only able to manage a paltry 4.5 yards per play for the game. No matter what the Dolphins offense attempted to do to gain yards, whether passing or running the ball, the Patriots defense was there to stifle their attempts in addition to outright taking the ball from the Dolphins with an interception and fumble recovery.
With the way in which the Patriots played on Sunday, the game's outcome was never in doubt with the Patriots' victory all but sewn up after the first quarter and a fait accompli by the time halftime arrived.
In the playoffs, the Patriots will be facing a much superior quality of opponent, but after two weeks in which the team played disappointing football, it was important for the Patriots to regain the successful form they have played with the majority of the season. Now that the team will have a bye and home-field advantage in their first playoff game, the next step for the Patriots in their road to the Super Bowl is to take advantage of their advantageous position in the AFC playoff picture.