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Julian Edelman finally takes it to the house

01.02.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — This time there was no dirty laundry to clean up.

Julian Edelman returned Brandon Fields‘ second-quarter punt 94 yards for a score, setting a new record for the longest punt return for a touchdown in Patriots history. The score put his team up, 24-0, before halftime and the Patriots went on to roll the Dolphins, 38-7, Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Just four weeks earlier at snowy Soldier field, Edelman thought he had a TD on a 71-yard punt return and raced through the end zone in jubilation – only to realize that rookie Dane Fletcher had been flagged for holding, nullifying the return.

“I’m not going to lie,” Edelman smiled and admitted. “I was actually thinking about that. l was thinking I’m going to look like an idiot going up into the stands if there’s a flag out there. We didn’t fortunately and we got the touchdown finally.”

This time, the return set up perfectly with the Patriots holding their blocks legally after Fields booted a booming 61-yard punt to the Patriots’ 29.

“It was late in the half and we had a “middle” return called,” Edelman said. “The kicker, we knew we were going to get some chances this week with this punter because he was prone to out-kick his coverage. He gave us a shot.

“The middle of the field, our guys held them up real well and as a punt returner, you’re supposed to make at least one guy miss and we were fortunate enough to do that and guys held on their blocks and we executed the play. It was a good play.”

The return broke the record previously held by Mike Haynes when he returned a punt 89 yards for a TD in his rookie season of 1976.

“I knew once when I was pressing back and I was going to put my foot on the ground and cut back I knew we were going to hit the house right there,” Edelman said.

Read More: Julian Edelman, Miami Dolphins, Mike Haynes, New England Patriots

Sparano: Patriots ‘beat the pants off us’ twice this season

01.02.11 at 6:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In Sunday’€™s regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the Patriots made their final statement before entering the 2011 postseason by dismantling the Dolphins, 38-7. The Dolphins, a team that many thought would make a serious postseason push after adding star wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason, fell to a subpar 7-9 regular season finish.

The Patriots head into their first-round bye week on a high note, receiving production from all over the roster. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer connected with Brandon Tate on a 42-yard touchdown in the third quarter that served as Hoyer’€™s first career NFL touchdown.

After the game, Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, whose job may fall in jeopardy after the disappointing season, sang New England’€™s praises, commending them as the benchmark for the rest of the league.

‘€œThese guys do a great job spreading you out and Tom does a great job of getting them the right play,’€ Sparano said. ‘€œThey’€™re a good football team; well coached, and as long as that guy’€™s behind center, they’€™re a very good football team.’€

He added that the thing about New England he’€™s been the most impressed with while watching tape this season is their cornerbacks. Sparano said that they have made great improvements and that they compete at a high level.

‘€œI have seen great growth since the last time we played,’€ Sparano said.

Marshall’€™s first season in Miami ended well short of spectacular, as the former fourth round draft pick finished off the 2010 campaign with just three touchdown catches. It was clear of his frustration in the first quarter against the Patriots, when quarterback Chad Henne threw the ball well behind Marshall on a sideline rout, and the receiver stormed off the field, not returning for the next play. When asked about the relationship between Henne and himself, and if the two could coexist on the same field next season, Marshall declined to comment.

The Patriots defense once again built up its reputation as a clutch unit, stepping up to the challenge of shutting down playmakers such as Marshall, and holding a typically potent Dolphins running game to under 100 total yards.

Running back Ronnie Brown said after the game that the defense his team faced was an up-tempo, fast-paced unit.

‘€œAgainst a team like this, obviously you have to capitalize on the opportunities,’€ Brown said. ‘€œYou got to be clicking on all cylinders. They are just fundamentally fast and they don’€™t make a lot of mistakes, and they have guys in the right places. They can make plays when they need to.’€

The game was essentially meaningless for the Patriots, who clinched a first round bye and home field advantage all in previous weeks. But the game meant much more than just the final regular season home matchup, and a great start to the new year. Tom Brady‘€™s regular season home winning streak was on the line, since Brady was named the team’€™s starter in week 17. His understudy Hoyer made sure the game was sealed when he entered the game for good in the second half.

Highlighting another offensive achievement for the Patriots was running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who became the first 1,000-yard rusher in a Patriots uniform since Corey Dillon did so back in the 2004 season. Green-Ellis’€™ 10-yard carry at the start of the fourth quarter put him over the century mark, making him just the second running back in the NFL this season to go over 1,000 yards with at least 175 carries while not fumbling the football.

The Patriots forced the Dolphins, who have had inconsistency all season long at the quarterback position, to switch who was behind center three times on Sunday. Henne started the game, but was replaced by Tyler Thigpen in the first half after the Dolphins were already in a hole points wise. Henne reentered the game in the third, but suffered a head injury that left him sidelined for the duration. Thigpen said after the game that he was prepared to see maybe a series or two, but didn’€™t expect to get the time that he actually saw.

‘€œCoach had said be ready to go in,’€ Thigpen said. ‘€œI didn’€™t know I would get that extensive amount, but being the backup, you’€™ve always got to be prepared. I went in there for one play, I think in the second series, and then they made a decision right after that; I think it was two series later or something they decided to go with me.’€

The Patriots head into their bye week on a high note, maintaining their prolific offensive status by continuing a streak of at least 31 points scored in each of their last eight games, and will be closely watching the first round of the AFC playoffs one week from now.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Marshall, New Englang Patriots,

Tom Brady on streak: ‘I’m glad my night is not ruined’

01.02.11 at 6:08 pm ET
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It was a record-setting season for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. His team had only five passes intercepted, tied for the fewest in NFL history. He has thrown 335 straight passes without an interception, the longest such streak in NFL history.

The fact that he continued the streak through the final game of the season was meaningful to the quarterback, though perhaps not in the way that anyone would expect.

“Interceptions pretty much ruin my night,” he said in his postgame press conference. “I’m glad my night is not ruined.”

He deflected credit for the historic run, which dates to the team’s Oct. 17 victory over the Ravens.

“I wasn’t thinking about [the streak] much to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate over the course of this season. When the defense drops a ball, if they could catch it, they’d be playing offense. That’s why they’re defensive players. I’m just trying to make good reads and good throws. Guys have done a hell of a job catching the ball in traffic. Our offensive line has been protecting. We’ve been playing with a lead a bunch, too, so you don’t really have to force the ball in situations.”

Here are highlights from the rest of Brady’s comments following his team’s regular season finale, a 38-7 mauling of Miami: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady,

Postgame Notes: Patriots 38, Dolphins 7

01.02.11 at 5:39 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes from Sunday’s contest:

New England head coach Bill Belichick has guided the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 record this season.  Belichick is the first head coach ever to win at least 14 regular-season games in four separate seasons. Only four other coaches ‘€” San Francisco’s George Seifert (3), Washington’s Joe Gibbs (2), Chicago’s Mike Ditka (2) and Miami’s Don Shula (2) ‘€” have more than one 14-win season.

The Patriots had just 10 turnovers in 2010 (5 interceptions and 5 fumbles), setting an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. The previous NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season was 12 by Kansas City in the strike-shortened 1982 season. The previous record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season was 13 by the Giants and Dolphins in 2008. The former Patriots record for fewest turnovers in a season was 15 in 2007 (9 interceptions and 6 fumbles).

The Patriots had just five passes intercepted in 2010, tying the NFL mark for fewest interceptions in a single season. New England attempted 507 passes in 2010, with just five resulting in interceptions. The other teams to have only five interceptions in a season were the 1960 Cleveland Browns, the 1966 Green Bay Packers, the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1990 New York Giants.

The Patriots finished with a perfect 8-0 regular-season record at Gillette Stadium for the second consecutive season. New England has now finished perfect at home five times in team history (2003, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010). The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to finish undefeated at home in 2010. New England has won 17 straight regular-season home games, with its last home loss coming on Nov. 30, 2008 against Pittsburgh. The Patriots’€™ 17 straight home wins marks the longest current streak in the NFL and the second longest in franchise history, trailing only the Patriots’€™ 18 straight home wins from 2002-2005. The Patriots own a 60-12 regular-season record at Gillette Stadium since the facility opened in 2002.
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Danny Woodhead

Bill Belichick: ‘Good to end the season on this note’

01.02.11 at 4:37 pm ET
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It was a historic occasion for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who became the first coach in NFL history to guide four different teams to a 14-win season following his team’s 38-7 romp past the Dolphins as the final note in a 14-2 season. But Belichick likely was uninterested in that milestone — just as he admitted that some of his players’ personal accomplishments, such as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark, were far from focal points for the Patriots.

“The most important thing is just the team playing well,” said Belichick. “Individual stats aren’t our primary focus around here. We’re trying to win games.”

Highlights of Belichick’s postgame press conference are below:

Opening remarks:

I give our team a lot of credit. I think they did a great job here today. They’ve really been focused. I thought they played well in all three phases of the game today. We had big plays on offense, defense, special teams. We had some guys step up and make big plays for us who hadn’t played a lot. Good to end the season on this note. Right now, though, we’re just like everybody else. Everybody’s 0-0 at this point in the playoffs. It’s time for us to get ready for the next target, but nice way for us to end the season. I was proud of the way that everybody played. They stepped up and played like the AFC East Champions that they are.

On BenJarvus Green-Ellis reaching 1,000 yards:

The most important thing is just the team playing well. He’s done a good job for us all year. Individual stats aren’t our primary focus around here. We’re trying to win games. But he’s done a lot to help us win.

On the decision not to play Branch, Welker, Hernandez:

I would say primarily that it was (injuries).

What did you see from players such as Taylor Price?

Some guys got to play more in today’s game than they had in other games.That was good for them. We’ll take a look at the film, see how they came out. It was good to give some guys an opportunity to play. They may be playing later in the season. Who knows? That’s always good experience.

Why did you put Brian Hoyer in the game for a couple snaps in the second quarter?

That could easily happen in a game, where that comes up and a quarterback has to come in. That’s what he did.

With the three top receivers out, any question about playing Brady?

The decisions we made were the same as they always are: What’s best for the football team. We did what we felt was best for the football team. Everybody else may not see it that way. But that’s what we try to do. We try to do what’s best for the team.

Are you pleased to emerge with relatively few injuries?

It was a physical game. Some guys will have bumps and bruises coming in here tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

What have you seen in term’s of Green-Ellis’ growth this year?

He’s been pretty solid for us all the way through. I think that’s one of the biggest things about Ben: consistency. Training camp, regular season, preseason, all the way through, I think he’s been really consistent.

On the defensive effort:

We had our moments on defense. We gave up a few plays that we’d rather not give up. They have some quality receivers: Bess, Marshall. Good backs. I thought our defense competed well. Some things could have been better, but overall, we played pretty well.

On Tom Brady’s performance, particularly his remarkable touchdown-to-interception rate:

He’s playing well. He’s done a good job for us. The guys who are catching, they’re doing a good job of it too. The guys who are blocking, they’ve done a pretty good job. The guys who are running. When you have a good offense, it’s usually because the whole team is playing well and not just one guy. I think that’s the case on offense for us. We get good play out of multiple players. That’s what makes it run.

On Julian Edelman making plays in space:

I think he’s quick. He’s strong for his size. He breaks a lot of tackles. He has good balance. Guys hit him, he’s able to stay on his feet and keep moving.

On Rob Gronkowski’s impact in the red zone:

Rob has done a good job for us all year. He’s blocked well. He’s caught the ball, he’s scored touchdowns. He’s a big guy. Hard guy to overthrow. He’s got a big catching radius and he does a good job of positioning himself on the defender to get the ball where he can get it and the defender can’t. He’s done a nice job. He’s an instinctive receiver.

On the team’s willingness to compete in a game where the outcome had no bearing on the playoffs:

That’s what competitors do: They compete, regardless of the score or situation. You don’t control those things as a competitor. You just control your opportunity to compete, whether you have the ball on their one-yard line or your one-yard line, whether the score is 30-0 one way or the other, whether it’s the first game or the last game. When you’re a competitor, you compete. When you’ve got competitors on your team, they go out and compete. We’ve got a lot of them on this team. I’m proud of them. Glad we got ‘em.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski

Snap judgments: Patriots 38, Dolphins 7

01.02.11 at 3:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots hammered the Dolphins on Sunday, closing out the regular season with a 38-7 victory over a hapless Miami team that most likely played its final game for head coach Tony Sparano.

The Patriots finish the season 14-2, and Bill Belichick is now the only coach in NFL history with four different seasons with at least 14 wins. A week off awaits, and then a divisional playoff battle vs. either the Chiefs (who would fall to a four seed with a Colts win over the Titans), Colts, Ravens or Jets.


Another INT for Devin McCourty: The Pro Bowl cornerback snared his seventh interception of the season (and seventh in the last 11 games) in the first quarter, as McCourty wrestled a Chad Henne (who was brutal) pass away from Brandon Marshall. McCourty also broke up a first-quarter, third-down pass in the end zone intended for Marlon Moore. Dan Carpenter missed a 40-yard field goal on the following play. It was a superb finish to an outstanding season for McCourty, who won’t win Rookie of the Year but has done everything to earn the award.

Rob Gronkowski sets a record: Gronkowski hauled in a 13-yard Tom Brady pass for a first-quarter touchdown. That was the 10th TD of the season for the rookie tight end, which breaks Ben Coates‘ Patriots TE seasonal record (nine, 1996). Among all first-year tight ends in NFL history, only Mike Ditka (12 in 1961) can claim more TD receptions. Gronkowski finished the game with six catches for 102 yards, his first career 100-yard game.

Julian Edelman: Until Sunday, the 2010 season has been an absolute washout for Edelman, who showed so much promise in his rookie campaign of 2009. Edelman had just four catches in the first 15 games this season, but he was the story in the first half of the regular-season finale, catching a pair of passes for 62 yards on the Patriots’ second TD drive and then setting a franchise record with a 94-yard punt return for a TD at the end of the first half. And that Edelman score continued the New England dominance over the Dolphins in special teams this season — the Patriots now have a 101-yard kickoff return for a TD, a blocked field goal for a TD, a blocked punt and the Edelman record-setting punt return.

Tom Brady closes strong: Still not sure why he was in the game in the second half (he was knocked down twice in the opening drive of the second half), but Brady was terrific in his two-plus quarters of work on Sunday, completing 10-of-16 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. His NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception now stands at 335. Brady has also thrown at least two TD passes in nine straight games and at least one TD toss in all 16 games this season (just the sixth player in history to throw a TD pass in all 16 games).

A grand for the Law Firm: With the Patriots up 38-0, any shred of drama left was reserved for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his quest for 1,000 yards on the season. The back reached the total with a 10-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. He finished the 2010 season with 1,010 yards on the ground and 13 rushing TDs (he scored on a one-yard rush in the first quarter Sunday). He’s now the 11th back in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards (and the first since Corey Dillon in 2004).

Defense steps up again: This group continues to improve, holding an opponent to seven points or fewer for the fourth time in five weeks (or one more time than the entire 2009 season and the first 11 games of the 2010 season combined). An active pass rush on Sunday might be the headliner for the defense, as both Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich picked up a pair of sacks.


The streak is over: The Patriots went a remarkable 435 offensive plays without a turnover until a Danny Woodhead fumble brought an end to the streak in the first quarter. It was the first New England turnover since the Week 9 loss to the Browns. The Patriots, however, did set an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season with just 10 giveaways.

Woodhead injured: On the fumble, Woodhead was hit hard by Kendall Langford and left the game with a head injury. He did not return to the game and it appeared that he was being checked out by the Pats medical team for a concussion. The bye week is clearly a bonus in terms of Woodhead’s recovery, but this will be a story to watch over the next couple of weeks.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman, Miami Dolphins

Halftime analysis: Patriots 24, Dolphins 0

01.02.11 at 2:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots are in complete command, leading an awful Miami team, 24-0.

Biggest story so far is that Tom Brady played roughly a quarter-and-a-half before getting yanked in favor of backup Brian Hoyer in the middle of a drive, only to be re-inserted briefly later in the half. (It’€™s something the Patriots have done on several occasions in the preseason, testing a players’€™ ability to come into the game cold ‘€” they appeared to do the same thing with Quinn Ojinnaka, putting him in briefly for left tackle Matt Light.) Brady finished out the second quarter for New England, and ended the half 7-for-12 for 123 yards and a touchdown. Most of the other starters have played the bulk of the first half for New England.

Early on, the Patriots moved the ball without a problem, and have stopped the Dolphins on their only serious scoring opportunity ‘€” after a rare New England fumble from Danny Woodhead (that ended a consecutive string of 435 offensive plays without a turnover, a streak that included seven complete games), Miami steered the ball down to the New England 22, but Dan Carpenter missed a 40-yard field goal attempt. (The Dolphins would get no closer to the end zone for the rest of the first half.) Other than that, it’€™s been nothing but misery for the Dolphins, who pulled Chad Henne in favor of Tyler Thigpen. (Henne re-entered the game at the end of the first half.)

The scoring drives for the Patriots have been quick and to the point: In the first, they had a six-play, 47-yard drive (which featured a 19-yard carry by Woodhead on a direct snap) that ended with a 13-yard scoring strike to Rob Gronkowski to take a 7-0 lead. That was followed by a four-play, 70-yard series (highlighted by a 40-yard pass play from Brady to Julian Edelman) that concluded with a one-yard plunge from BenJarvus Green-Ellis to make it 14-0.

New England added a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter from Shayne Graham to make it 17-0, and to close out the first half, Edelman delivered a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, the longest in franchise history. In two games against the Dolphins this year, New England has a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, a blocked field goal for a touchdown and a blocked punt. That’€™s what you call a favorable special teams matchup.

As for milestones, Gronkowski is two behind the all-time NFL rookie record for tight end touchdowns (he has 10, and the record belongs to Mike Ditka, who had 12). In addition, Patriots rookie corner Devin McCourty had one pick of Henne, putting him one behind the franchise all-time rookie record for interceptions (he has seven, and the mark is eight, set by Mike Haynes in 1976). And Green-Ellis needs 38 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brian Hoyer, Devin McCourty, dolphins
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