Brandon Lloyd fell to the ground after recovering an onside kick late in the fourth quarter sealing a 23-16 Patriots victory over the Miami Dolphins.
On a day that seemed to flip the script on the Patriots' season, the Dolphins miscues turned out to be their undoing. A botched punt, roughing the kicker penalty, and a fumble led to 17 Patriots points.
After New England jumped out to a 17-3 lead, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill lead his team on an 80 yard touchdown drive to close out the first half. The Patriots, who came into the game 6th in the NFL in rushing yards, accumulated only ten first half yards on the ground. They came out in the second half looking to pound the ball but the tough Miami run defense continued its solid play and forced three consecutive Patriots punts.
Brady was under pressure for much of the game. The Dolphins recorded four sacks and Brady threw his first interception in his last 203 attempts and only his fourth all season. His passer rating of 74.8 was a season low.
But with 8:28 to go in the fourth quarter and leading by seven, the Patriots engineered a masterful 16 play 77 yard drive that ended with a Stephen Gostkowski 19 yard field goal to put the Patriots ahead 23-13 with only 1:10 to go. After struggling to run the ball all day, Stevan Ridley carried the ball ten times for 46 yards during part of a drive that included twelve runs and only 4 pass attempts. The drive ate up 7:18 seconds as well as the all three Dolphin timeouts.
Although this was one of New England's worst statistical offensive games, they gained a season low 321 yards, the offense did the one thing it had struggled with all year, closing out the game down the stretch.
With the win the Patriots now move to 9-3 and have clinched a playoff birth as well as the AFC East. The Dolphins fall to 5-7 and are all but eliminated from a playoff birth. The two teams will meet again in the last week of the regular season in Foxboro.
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