New England Patriots Recap: Week 17 Shutout & AFC East Dominance
Sunday's game in Foxborough went just about the way everyone expected, as the New England Patriots shut out the Miami Dolphins 28-0 to put an exclamation point on an interesting season.
The game started a little slow, with the Patriots driving twice but putting no points on the board, while the Dolphins stalled on their first two sets of downs.
But Tom Brady wasn't about to allow a repeat of recent weeks develop. He calmly and efficiently drove them for their first touchdown of the game, and never looked back.
The Dolphins, on the other hand, looked like a team being led by a rookie quarterback, and the pressure was just too much. Any fear of Reggie Bush having a big day were quickly squelched by tough defensive play up front, leaving Tannehill vulnerable to a relentless pass rush.
The result: a seven-sack assault by the Patriots (three of those for Justin Francis), an interception and a fumble recovery, and ZERO points allowed.
Clearly, the Patriots got everything they wanted from all aspects of the game. Bill Belichick will, of course, say that there are still things they can do better... but Pats fans have gotten used to his ways.
The biggest result of the weekend was the gift of an opening for the No. 2 seed and a ticket to the bye week, which they stamped, courtesy of Indianapolis. Thanks guys, but don't expect a gift in return.
As for the season, let's call it a tale of two seasons. A shaky six game start resulted in the Patriots stuck in a four-way log-jam for nowhere within the division. But they were righting the ship, and rattled off a series of impressive wins, including a clean sweep of the AFC East, and tainted only by a gut-wrenching loss in the last minute to San Francisco.
To call the Patriots the class of the division is an understatement, total domination is more like it. We all know what's brewing in New York, and yet it looks like Rex Ryan will actually keep his job for now!
Buffalo is head coach hunting, coming off the biggest free-agency splash from last off-season (or was it the biggest disappointment). Perhaps if they can figure out how to maximize their potent runners they will stand a chance to improve next year.
Miami has the most positive and promising outlook going into 2013. They need to concentrate on developing Tannehill's confidence and start building the team around his talents.
For the Patriots, it's time to dig in and prepare for the fight of their lives; I won't sugar-coat it: they are facing some tough competition and need to keep the pedal to the medal. But for now, enjoy the Holiday and see you in the playoffs.