With the Houston Texans losing to the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the afternoon, the Patriots needed to take care of business against the Dolphins in order to move into the second seed of the AFC and earn a first round bye. They did so in convincing fashion, riding two touchdowns a piece from both Tom Brady and Stevan Ridley to a 28-0 route.

Rob Gronkowski returned in this game, sporting a cast on his previously broken forearm. It was his first game back since sustaining the injury in Week 11, and while he was obviously limited, he made an immediate impact. He ended the game with 2 receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker had a standout performance among the receivers, with eight receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown while also adding one rush for 11 yards.

The Patriots jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and while their offense wasn't necessarily explosive, just being efficient was good enough in this game. The Patriots defense suffocated Miami, sacking quarterback Ryan Tannehill seven times. Rookie defensive end Justin Francis had three of those.

After two lackluster games against the 49ers and Jaguars, this was just the kind of game the Patriots needed to build some confidence and momentum heading into the playoffs. An added bonus is that they'll get a week off as the second seed in the AFC.

The Patriots will now host either the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens or Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round.

Michael Saver 12/30/2012 08:20:00 PM Edit

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