But they still came out and played perhaps their best football of the season in all three phases of the game, and that made the post-game locker room a much happier place. "It's my favorite hat right now. Feels great," rookie cornerback
"This is our goal, from Day 1, the day I was drafted, they told us they wanted to win the division. I'm happy we were able to accomplish that today. We want to control our own destiny. We know if we keep winning, things will be looking up for us. We weren't paying much attention to that [Dolphins-Bills] game. We wanted to come out here and make a statement like we did.
"I feel great. I feel proud of the team as a whole, I feel proud about being part of the defense. We had a great showing."
"It feels good. Great actually," echoed defensive end
Offensively, the Patriots controlled the game from the get-go, giving the ball early and often to
"We came in the game with the mindset to run the football and that's what we did. We ran as much and as effectively as possible," Blount remarked.
"It was big for us," special teams captain
A win next week at home against Buffalo would give New England at least the second seed in the AFC playoffs and a much-needed bye on Wild Card Weekend.
"It was an amazing feeling. I haven't been part of a team that has been this successful," added Blount. "It just drives you to do more to make sure the success continues.
"We're not going to go out there to lose the game, even though we clinched. We wanted to win. A big part of that was the defense getting two touchdowns and our offense being productive. It felt like one of our better wins, yeah. There are still things we have to work on and get ready for Buffalo."
Other observations from M&T Bank Stadium Sunday evening:
…LeGarrette Blount continues to emerge as a force at running back for New England. He's been running with power and shiftiness these past few weeks, since Steven Ridley's fumbling has reduced him to a backup role.
…As well as they played in the first half, the Patriots' secondary dropped three would-be INTs.
…In the first half, the reshuffled left side of the o-line did a fairly good job of protecting
…Rookie CB Logan Ryan continues to impress. He had an INT in each half and a pass breakup on 4th down.
…The Patriots coaching staff showed some solid trust in Ridley late in the game, giving him the ball several times while the team clung to a 20-7 lead. That's the kind of confidence boost that the struggling Ridley needs as the Patriots prepare for the playoffs.
…This just might be the best game the Patriots have played, in all phases of the game, this season. The offense started strong, the defense held and nearly pitched a shutout, and special teams units did their jobs. Good overall team effort on a day when New England clinched its latest AFC East title.