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Matchup Winners: Second-half shutout key to AFC East clincher




Miami came into the game taking on water when it came to stopping the run. Over the previous three weeks the Dolphins had allowed 661 yards rushing, and the Patriots figured to keep that going. At first it seemed the Patriots were unwilling to even try, and then they simply couldn't. New England managed only 108 yards on 29 carries for a 3.7-yard average, and 17 of those yards came on a Tom Brady scramble. Not exactly the type of dominance many expected heading into the game. LeGarrette Blount was ineffective in his eight carries, picking up just 17 yards. Shane Vereen was even worse, managing just 5 yards on his six attempts. Each did notch a rushing touchdown, however. Jonas Gray came out of exile and mopped up effectively after the outcome had long since been determined, running hard for 62 yards on his 11 carries for a rock solid 5.6-yard average. Other than his late burst, though, the Patriots had a difficult time moving the ball consistently on the ground.  EDGE: DOLPHINS



The Patriots run defense is almost unrecognizable from the group that opened the season. Miami gashed New England all afternoon in the opener, but on Sunday Lamar Miller didn't find nearly as many openings. Miller was bottled up effectively with 47 yards on 16 carries for a 2.9-yard average. Ryan Tannehill found some openings on some read option plays but had just 21 yards on three attempts. Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower were immense all game long, shooting into the backfield to find Miller almost as soon as he received the ball. Chandler Jones was active up front in his return from a hip injury, and big Vince Wilfork was his normal stout self along the interior. As a team Miami picked up just 76 yards on 23 attempts. Contrast that with the 191-yard effort the Dolphins turned in to win the opener and it was night and day. EDGE: PATRIOTS



For long stretches of the day this matchup wasn't going all that well either. Brady had at least four passes batted down at the line, including one that was intercepted on the first drive of the day, and missed on a number of chances to make big plays down the field. The offense was limited to an 8-yard touchdown drive in the first half, and Brady was clearly struggling. The defense continued to set things up nicely, however, and Brady and Rob Gronkowski eventually got into a groove. Gronk caught all three of his passes in the second half, and each resulted in a big play. He racked up 96 yards and a touchdown on those three grabs as Miami was powerless to prevent him from getting down the seam. Julian Edelman also picked up a touchdown and led the receivers with seven catches for 88 yards. Brandon LaFell chipped in with six catches for 66 yards as Brady bounced back from a slow start to complete 21 of 35 passes for 287 yards – good not great.  EDGE: PATRIOTS



This was sort of the opposite of when the Patriots passed. There were times throughout the game when Tannehill looked quite comfortable. He picked up a huge play on the first snap when he hit Mike Wallace for 50 yards down the left sideline. Wallace beat rookie Malcolm Butler and safety Devin McCourty on the play, a curious personnel decision that had Darrelle Revis on rookie Jarvis Landry and Brandon Browner on Brian Hartline. Kyle Arrington and later Logan Ryan eventually replaced Butler as Revis soon was on Wallace, but there were some hiccups throughout. Wallace finished with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, again beating Butler and McCourty. Landry impressed against Revis, catching eight balls for 99 yards, although not all against the former All-Pro corner. When the game was still competitive, Tannehill had plenty of time to throw and generally found open receivers. He completed 29 of 47 throws for 346 yards and a touchdown, but he did throw two picks and each was quite costly. The second came when Browner hit Miller as the ball arrived, narrowly avoiding a penalty in the process. That led to the Patriots second touchdown of the third quarter and put the game away. But Miami moved the ball effectively through the air for long stretches of the game.  EDGE: PATRIOTS



For the second week in a row the Patriots special teams came up with a huge play. Collins blocked a Caleb Sturgis 41-yard field goal attempt and Arrington returned it 62 yards for the games first points. Had that field goal succeed, the Patriots would have gone to the locker room trailing 16-7 instead of leading 14-13. Big difference. Stephen Gostkowski became the franchise's all-time scoring leader, passing Adam Vinatieri with a third-quarter field goal, and also delivered six touchbacks. There was a significant blip on the radar, however, as the punt team allowed Landry to take Ryan Allen's kick back 32 yards in the waning seconds of the first half to set up Wallace's touchdown. Given the situation that was an inexcusable mistake, and one the unit will no doubt hear about during the week. Otherwise, neither side managed much in the return game and Allen enjoyed a better afternoon than his counterpart, Brandon Fields. No way to overstate the importance of the blocked field goal TD.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

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