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Second-quarter notes: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0

12.30.12 at 5:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The second quarter is done here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 21-0 halftime lead. Here are a few notes from the second quarter:

‘€¢The first drive of the second — which began at the end of the first — ended for the Patriots when Stevan Ridley snuck in underneath the pile from one yard out (on a fourth-down play) to make it 14-0 with 10:26 left in the quarter. It was a drive that took 7:28 — the second-longest of the season for the New England offense, and one that looked an awful lot like the one that took 7:18 and closed out the Dolphins back on Dec. 2. (The longest of the season was 7:39, and came on Thanksgiving against the Jets.)

‘€¢The Dolphins’ offense had its finest sequence of the game to this point midway through the quarter when Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill guided the Dolphins into New England territory, getting help from a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty kept a Miami drive alive on third down. The Dolphins couldn’t cash in, however, as Nate Kaeding missed a field goal from 41 yards out, giving the ball back to the Patriots and allowing New England to hold on to the 14-0 lead.

‘€¢The biggest loss of the second quarter came when linebacker Rob Ninkovich suffered a hip injury midway through the quarter. (The team announced that he is questionable to return.) Ninkovich was down on the field for several minutes, and had to be helped off the field and to the locker room. The loss of Ninkovich for an extended period would be a blow, as the versatile Purdue product has distinguished himself over the last few seasons as a vital defender for New England.

‘€¢The Patriots opened and closed the quarter in impressive fashion. The Patriots had a nice drive to open the second, and put the capper on the first half with another impressive scoring sequence. Tom Brady engineered a 14-play, 69-yard drive for New England that took 5:24 and was finished off by a Ridley touchdown (this time from two yards out), and was highlighted by a 14-yard pass play to Danny Woodhead, to make it 21-0 with a minute left in the second quarter.

‘€¢The Patriots offensive line, which has struggled over the last few weeks, hasn’t allowed a sack in the first half. (The Dolphins sacked Brady four times on Dec. 2 in Miami.)

First-quarter notes: Patriots 7, Dolphins 0

12.30.12 at 5:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The first quarter is in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 7-0 lead. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢Miami won the toss and deferred.

‘€¢The Patriots’ offense opened with both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski on the field together, and they made an immediate impact, as Gronkowski cleared out the right side, allowing for Hernandez to pick up a 14-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. That was followed by a 24-yard pass play to Danny Woodhead as New England quickly crossed midfield. However, New England stalled out at the Miami 24, and was unable to pick up a 4th and 6, turning the ball over on downs as Tom Brady attempted a pass to Wes Welker in triple coverage.

‘€¢The New England defense opened with its usual set, but had Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington start the game at cornerback and Steve Gregory and Pat Chung open the game at safety. Derrick Martin came on as part of the Patriots’ nickel coverage. There was no sign of Aqib Talib in the first quarter.

‘€¢After a pair of punts, the Patriots forced their first turnover of the day when they put together an impressive display of team defense. Rob Ninkovich came flying up the middle unblocked, forcing a quick throw by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill deep in his own territory. Steve Gregory was there to pick up the interception, and he took it all the way back to the Miami 28-yard line. The offense made the most of a short field — it only took two plays for them to punch it in. First, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on a 19-yard pass play (his first reception after coming back from injury), and that was followed by a 9-yard scoring strike to Welker to give the Patriots their first lead of the day, a 7-0 advantage midway through the first quarter.

‘€¢Brandon Deaderick and Justin Francis picked up sacks in the first quarter.

Robert Kraft surprises Gil Santos with a HOF reward

12.30.12 at 4:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Gil Santos joked he had never been driven to tears. But what Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced at the end of a pre-game ceremony made the hardened veteran announcer tear up and break down.

During a pregame ceremony to honor Santos and Gino Cappelletti, Kraft announced that Santos, the legendary voice of the Patriots, would be a 2013 inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Santos will become the 20th person to be inducted and just the second non-player to earn the honor as a contributor for his off-field contributions to the team. It is the highest honor the team can bestow an individual.

Santos, who overcame life-threatening health complications early in 2012 to return to the broadcast booth this year, announced his intention to retire after the 2012 season earlier this year. For 36 seasons, spanning five decades, he has earned the moniker ‘€œVoice of the New England Patriots.’€ Santos is currently tied with Philadelphia’€™s Merrill Reese as the longest tenured broadcaster for a team in the NFL. In 36 seasons, he missed just one game, a preseason game in 1971. Today, Santos is calling his 743rd career Patriots game, including his 73rd game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins.

‘€œThere will never be another tandem like Gil and Gino,’€ said Kraft. ‘€œThey are two Patriots icons and legendary broadcasters. I am proud to say that they will both be known as Patriots Hall of Famers. Gil has always had such a great voice. We are lucky that his radio calls will be indelibly linked to the most memorable moments in our franchise’€™s history and we are happy to preserve his legacy in The Hall for generations to come.’€

Santos began calling games for the Boston Patriots at Fenway Park in 1966. For the first five seasons, he provided color analysis alongside veteran play-by-play man Bob Starr. When the team moved to Foxborough in 1971, Santos moved into his current role as play-by-play voice of the Patriots (1971-79). WBZ lost the Patriots radio rights in the 1980s, but got them back in 1991 and returned Santos to his natural position as Voice of the New England Patriots, a position he has held for the last 22 seasons.

The veteran play-by-play broadcaster was also the sports director of WBZ News Radio in Boston, where he earned dozens of awards and honors for his reporting, sportscasting and play-by-play excellence. He retired from WBZ after 38 years in 2009 and was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame that year. In addition to his work at WBZ, the skilled play-by-play broadcaster also called basketball games for the Boston Celtics and Providence Friars, as well as football games for the Penn State Nittany Lions, Boston College Eagles, Brown Bears and Boston Breakers of the USFL.

Read More: Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Merrill Reese, New England Patriots

Live Blog: Tom Brady, Patriots take on Dolphins in regular season finale at Gillette Stadium

12.30.12 at 3:44 pm ET
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Patriots/Dolphins Live Blog

Poll: Should Gronk play?

12.30.12 at 1:34 pm ET
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Should Rob Gronkowski play in season finale?

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Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Gronkowski

Setting the scene: Patriots-Dolphins

12.30.12 at 1:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bitter cold and blustery conditions are expected for Sunday’s regular season finale between the Patriots and Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

The forecast called for temperatures in the mid-20s with a wind chill of 12 degrees for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but was moved back by the NFL last week when it became clear that the Patriots would be playing for a possible playoff bye.

The Colts are hosting the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in the return of head coach Chuck Pagano to the sidelines. The Colts have never lost at home to Houston. If the Colts win in the 1 p.m. game, the Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch a No. 1 seed if the Colts beat the Texans and the Chiefs upset the Broncos in Denver, a game that will be played simultaneously with the Patriots-Dolphins contest.

The Patriots may have the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first time since Nov. 18, as reports surfaced Saturday that Gronk was on schedule to return. However,’s Tom Curran reported Sunday morning that the Patriots were having serious second thoughts and the decision to activate him for the season finale had not been finalized.

The final decision won’t likely be known for sure until inactives are released at 2:55 p.m., 90 minutes before kickoff.

The Patriots will have the services of defensive end Jermaine Cunningham for the first time since New England’s Thanksgiving night massacre of the Jets. Cunningham was suspended the following Monday for four games for violation of the NFL PED policy. The Patriots officially activated Cunningham to the 53-man roster Saturday, waiving defensive lineman and former second-round pick Ron Brace to make room.

The Patriots also signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken and defensive back Malcolm Williams off the practice squad and they will be eligible to play in the regular season finale if active.

Some nuggets for today:

The Patriots need just one first down to set a new NFL record as they come into the game with 416 first downs on the season, 139 by rushing, 241 by passing and 36 by penalty. They enter the game sharing the mark with the 2011 New Orleans Saints. Patriots opponents have just 324. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Denver Broncos, Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Indianapolis Colts

A look at the 2009 draft: Who the Patriots could have had over Ron Brace

12.30.12 at 12:37 pm ET
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The Patriots waived defensive lineman Ron Brace on Saturday after the Boston College product recorded just four tackles in 10 games played this season. Brace was drafted in 2009 in the second round by the Patriots ‘€“ part of a New England draft class that, for the most part, didn’€™t last long with the organization.

In fact, there are only three Patriots players from that 2009 draft class — the Pats made 12 selections — still with the team: Sebastian VollmerJulian Edelman and Patrick Chung.

Brace was the Patriots’€™ second selection in 2009 at 40th overall, just six picks behind Chung.

His numbers with New England peaked during the 2010 season, when he recorded a combined 23 tackles ‘€“ 15 solo ‘€“ and two stuffs in 13 games played. His next highest tackle total was eight during his rookie year. Rounding things out, he forced one fumble in 2011, and did not have a sack with the Patriots in any of his four years.

With this latest release of a player by the Patriots from the 2009 draft class, here’€™s a quick look at some other names New England could have selected over Brace.

Defensive linemen:

Connor Barwin (Round 2, Pick 46) ‘€“ The Texans took Barwin from Cincinnati six picks after Brace. In Houston, Barwin has excelled as both a linebacker and defensive end, notching 105 career tackles with 18 sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and 16 passes deflected.

Paul Kruger (Round 2, Pick 57) ‘€“ Kruger has had a steady career with the Ravens, recording 68 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, 14.5 sacks, and 12 passes defensed. Kruger was part of a Ravens defense that terrorized the league back in 2009 and 2010.

Michael Johnson (Round 3, Pick 70) ‘€“ Johnson was a freak athlete on the defensive line coming out of Georgia Tech, and has had a stellar career with the Bengals thus far, with 144 career tackles, 21 sacks, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and 16 passes defensed. Johnson has gotten progressively better each season, with 15.5 of his 21.5 career sacks coming in his last two seasons.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, Ron Brace,
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