The New England Patriots came into today's game as heavy favorites against their division rival Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots have made it a habit of putting a lot of points on the board in their 5 game winning streak, scoring a combines 219 points while giving up only 107.
That fact alone spawned the prediction that we would see another blow-out in Miami.
But the Dolphins had other ideas; they have been one of the biggest thorns in the Patriots' side in recent years, accounting for nearly half of their losses on the road.
The first half was somewhat lopsided, seeing the Patriots do most of the scoring (despite a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in the first quarter) until the Dolphins managed a sustained drive culminating in a touchdown with only 34 seconds left in the half.
The third quarter can best be described as stagnant, as the two teams traded field position, but little else for 15 minutes.
The fourth quarter saw the Patriots' 10 point lead suddenly in jeopardy as the Dolphins struck gold first with a field goal, only to allow Tom Brady and the Patriot offense return the favor and reestablish the lead to 10 points.
The best that Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense could do was 1 last field goal before the Patriots smothered the last-gasp, on-side kick to seal the fate of the Dolphins.
Neither team had outstanding numbers, although Wes Welker went over 100 yards for the 17th time in his career, the New England defense forced 3 fumbles and also sacked Tannehill 3 times, while Miami's defense intercepted Brady once and sacked him 4 times. In fact, Brady was under pressure all day, while Ridley and company had difficulty running the ball.
The long and short of it is that in the absence of any other big threat for the Patriot offense, Wes Welker came through big for Mr. Brady with 1 TD on 103 receiving yards, making him the Hero of the Game. Especially with Gostkowski still showing some inconsistency, Welker's performance was huge.
And on the other side, when your defense holds Brady under 300 yards, you have to put points on the board. Failing to score touchdowns makes Ryan Tannehill the Zero of the Game in my book. The offense starts and finishes on his arm. A botched punt notwithstanding, Miami needs to see more sustained drives by their rookie QB.
The Dolphins can kiss this season goodbye, but the Patriots are going to have to get back to balanced football to win their next 2 games and keep the momentum going into the playoffs. Beating the Broncos and losing a close one to the Ravens earlier this year makes upcoming games against the Texans and Niners a true test of their ability to take it to the next level.
They won the division, now they have to set their sights on finishing big.