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Photos: Patriots celebrate 6th straight AFC East title

12.14.14 at 6:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots won their sixth straight AFC East title with a convincing 41-13 win over the Dolphins Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The team took to Twitter and Instagram to show off their new AFC East Champion gear.

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Tom Brady on his 17-yard run: ‘I was pretty pissed off that time, so I figured I wouldn’t slide’

12.14.14 at 6:25 pm ET
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Tom Brady's 17-yard run ignited the Patriots offense into scoring 27 second half points. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady‘s 17-yard run ignited the Patriots offense into scoring 27 second half points. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — A message needed to be sent.

The Patriots were only ahead of the Dolphins 14-13 at the half, after allowing Miami to score 10 points in the final four minutes and change of the first half to get back in the game. The Patriots offense was sluggish, totaling just 102 years of net offense in the opening half, and only 82 passing yards.

On the opening drive of the second half, it was 3rd-and-11 on the Miami 20-yard line and Brady dropped back to pass, finding no receiver open in the Miami secondary. Brady, who rarely ever runs with the ball, took off and picked up the first down getting inside the 5-yard line up the right sideline. Instead of sliding, Brady took on Dolphins safety Walt Atkins head on and picked up a total of 17 yards to set up a LeGarrette Blount 3-yard touchdown run on the next play.

It was Brady’s longest run since 2007 and the third-longest of his career.

“I think it was a play that we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time,” Brady said after the game. “I was going to slide but I was pretty pissed off that time so I figured I wouldn’€™t slide. I wish I wouldn’€™t have gotten knocked down, but that’€™s the way it goes.”

Asked if his unusual running ability gave the team some momentum, Brady said it was more Blount’s touchdown, which put the team ahead 21-13 at the time.

“I think the touchdown did more so on the next play,” Brady said. “That was a great run. It’€™s just whatever it takes. I think that’€™s what matters. I think all our guys responded the way we wanted to and it was good to go in there and finish them off like we did.”

New England’s offense was an entirely different unit in the second half. After totaling 102 yards in the first half, they finished with 293 in the second half. Brady was 8-for-15 with 82 yards and an interception in the first half, but was 13-for-20 with 205 yards and two touchdowns, no interceptions in the second half. Brady finished the game 21-for-35 with 287 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. It was his tenth straight game of throwing for more than 245 yards.

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Mike Pouncey: ‘[Patriots] kicked our ass in the second half’

12.14.14 at 5:40 pm ET
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The Dolphins didn't score after Mike Wallace's touchdown with five second left in the first half in Sunday's loss to the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Dolphins didn’t score after Mike Wallace‘s touchdown with five second left in the first half in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — What a difference 14 weeks makes. After the Dolphins took it to the Patriots in the second half in Week 1 in South Florida, the Patriots returned the favor Sunday in Foxboro.

The Dolphins were feeling pretty good at halftime, entering the locker room trailing the Patriots 14-13, after scoring 10 points in the last 4:26 of the first half, including a touchdown with five seconds left.

Unfortunately, that those were the final points the Dolphins would score, as the Patriots took it to the Dolphins, outscoring them 27-0 in the second half, as the Patriots earned their sixth straight AFC East title with a 41-13 win.

This comes after Week 1 when the roles were reversed, as the Patriots were the ones who fell in the second half with Miami outscoring them, 23-0 for a 33-20 win in South Florida.

“They kicked our ass in the second half,” said Miami center/guard Mike Pouncey. “It felt like we had so much momentum going into halftime. Halftime speech was great. Guys were ready to go. They just beat us up in the second half. That simple.”

After totaling 271 yards of total offense in the first half, the Dolphins only had 113 in the second half. Over their first three drives — all in the third quarter — Miami totaled seven plays and 15 yards, including an interception. The Patriots scored 24 third quarter points, a franchise record, including 17 in the first 10:50 to blow the Dolphins right out of the water.

“Awful. It was an awful half, we didn’t come out to play,” wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “They whooped us from the first play to the last play. Bad. They dominated us in the second half, totally.”

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What we learned: Patriots clinch 6th straight AFC East title with 41-13 win over Dolphins

12.14.14 at 4:10 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell celebrate a second-half touchdown. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell celebrate a second-half touchdown. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots clinched their sixth straight AFC East title Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium on the strength of a 24-point third-quarter outburst, routing the Dolphins, 41-13.

Tom Brady led the way, going 21-for-35 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. In addition, Rob Gronkowski had three catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Ryan Tannehill was 29-for-47 for 346 yards with one touchdown and two picks. Mike Wallace had five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots improve to 11-3, and travel to face the Jets next week at MetLife Stadium. Meanwhile, the Dolphins fall to 7-7 and host Minnesota next week.

Here’s what we learned about the Patriots Sunday:

Tom Brady can move.

On New England’s first drive of the second half, the quarterback took off when the pocket started to break down, putting a nice fake on a Miami defender and getting all the way down to the Miami three-yard line before being bumped out of bounds. (According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 17-yard run was his longest since a 19-yarder in Week 9 of the 2007 season.) He also converted a third-and-short when he successfully executed a quarterback keeper midway through the third quarter. Brady wasn’t perfect — he had a number of bad throws early — but was able to do enough to help spark the New England offense.

Jonas Gray is ALIVE.

The running back, who slept in and showed up late for practice last month, finally got out of the doghouse long enough to get some significant snaps for the first time since his 201-yard performance against the Colts in early November. He was the go-to back of choice on a tone-setting drive to start the third quarter, jumpstarting the ground game and doing his part to set up an early third-quarter touchdown from LeGarrette Blount.

Rob Gronkowski can play well against the Dolphins.

The big fella had occasionally struggled against Miami over the course of his career — his average against the Dolphins entering Sunday’s game was four catches for 54 yards, a full catch and more than 10 yards lower than his career average against the rest of the league. (Miami also entered the game as one of the best teams in the league when it came to defending against tight ends.) After being held without a catch in the first half (he was targeted just once in that time), he broke out in the second half with three catches for 96 yards and a touchdown (a 27-yarder midway through the third that added to New England’s scoring onslaught).

Stephen Gostkowski is in the record books.

With his 35-yard field goal with 4:43 left in the third quarter, Stephen Gostkowski increased his career scoring mark to 1,160 points, surpassing Adam Vinatieri for the all-time franchise scoring record.

With Chandler Jones back, they offered some interesting looks up front.

Chandler Jones was back — it was his first action since he suffered a hip injury in a Week 7 win over the Jets — and his presence, combined with some of the versatility of some of the other defensive linemen and some good situational football allowed the Patriots to offer some unique looks up front. Jones was kicked inside on a few occasions, and lined up next to Akeem Ayers, who was on the edge. In addition, there were several instances where New England had Miami in 3rd and long and other passing downs (particularly in the second half) and the Patriots utilized just one or two down linemen. Something to look for as the postseason looms.

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Halftime analysis: Patriots 14, Dolphins 13

12.14.14 at 2:33 pm ET
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Shane Vereen celebrates his first-half touchdown against the Dolphins. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Shane Vereen celebrates his first-half touchdown against the Dolphins. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots have a 14-13 lead on a feisty Dolphins team that has managed to hang around. For New England, Tom Brady is 8-for-15 for 82 yards and an interception, while Julian Edelman has three catches for 37 yards.

On the other side of the field, Ryan Tannehill is 14-for-22 for 197 yards  with one touchdown and one interception. Tight end Charles Clay had four catches for 52 yards.

Here are a few quick notes:

— The Patriots opened in nickel, and the Dolphins went right after rookie corner Malcolm Butler — Tannehill and Mike Wallace hooked up on a 50-yard pass play to open the game. The Dolphins stalled out in New England territory, and had to settle for a field goal attempt, but as the group has done time and again consistently over the course of the season, special teams made a big play. This time, it was Jamie Collins, as the second-year linebacker blocked the 41-yard field goal attempt and Kyle Arrington raced 62 yards for a touchdown. The third field goal block of the season tied a franchise record.

— Brady had a ball tipped by Miami’s Jason Trusnik that was caught by the linebacker for a turnover on the Patriots’ first offensive possession. It was the eighth pick of the season for Brady, and the second in as many games. The Dolphins turned it around with a 24-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 59 seconds left in the first quarter, a nine-play drive that was highlighted by a 15-yard run from Tannehill. (It could have gone for a touchdown, but Devin McCourty had a really nice pass breakup in the end zone on a ball intended for Clay.)

— The Patriots presented a few interesting wrinkles defensively in the first half, as they used Chandler Jones on the interior on occasion in his first action back since a Week 7 hip injury against the Jets. He had multiple guys lined up on the outside on his hip, including Akeem Ayers and Dont’a Hightower. The best defensive moment of the first half likely came when Duron Harmon picked off a Tannehill pass midway through the second quarter on a ball that was slightly overthrown by the quarterback in an attempt to lead receiver Jarvis Landry a little bit ahead of Darrelle Revis. (It appeared Landry had a step on him off the line.) Harmon returned it all the way to the eight. Three plays later, Shane Vereen barreled in from three yards out to make it 14-3 with 7:59 left in the second quarter.

— Miami’s offense came alive at the end of the first half when Tannehill guided them on a seven-play, 38-yard drive. On that sequence, the biggest play of the drive came on a pass interference penalty on Brandon Browner, a questionable play that allowed the Dolphins to pick up 25 yards and get to the Patriots 36-yard line. It ended with a 53-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis that made it 14-6 with 4:26 left in the half. On that drive, Arrington went down with what the team announced as a hamstring injury — he’s questionable to return.

— The Dolphins then tacked on another score at the end of the first half when Miami took advantage of some boneheaded play-calling on the part of the Patriots. Backed up against its own goal line, New England ran three running plays deep in its own territory, and then punted the ball away with less than a minute to go. Then Tannehill found Wallace — who made an AMAZING catch in the end zone with five seconds left — on a 32-yard pass play to cut the Patriots’ lead to one with five seconds left in the half.

Live Blog: Tom Brady, Patriots take on Dolphins at Gillette Stadium

12.14.14 at 12:42 pm ET
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Live Blog Patriots vs. Dolphins, live blog

Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower active vs. Dolphins

12.14.14 at 11:36 am ET
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FOXBORO — The following Patriots players are inactive for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins: defensive end Zach Moore, defensive lineman Dominque Easley, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, offensive lineman Jordan Devey and Cameron Fleming, running back James White and linebacker Chris White.

Easley (knee) had been ruled out on Friday, and this will be the third game this season he has missed. Dennard (healthy inactive) had been active for two of the last three games, but he will be inactive for his eighth game of the season. Fleming (ankle) hasn’t played since injuring his ankle late in the Colts game.

The big news is both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are active. Jones will play for the first time since suffering his hip injury in Week 7 against the Jets, while Hightower (shoulder) missed last Sunday’s game in San Diego. It will be worth monitoring how much playing time each of them get.

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