The Patriots will try to secure the seventh division title in club history this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, hosting the Miami Dolphins in a divisional showdown with no shortage of storylines. New England brings an eight-game winning streak into the game, having gone undefeated in the months of October and November while setting a franchise mark for consecutive wins in a single season. New England has the longest current winning streak in the NFL. During their streak, the Patriots have shown a flair for the dramatic, with five of their last six wins coming by six points or fewer and three of their last four wins by four points or fewer.
Standing in New England's way are its chief rivals, the 8-4 Dolphins. Miami has won three games in a row, including a convincing 40-21 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. The Patriots and Dolphins have needed overtime to settle each of their last two matchups, including a 19-13 New England win in Miami on Oct. 19. The last time Miami paid a visit to Gillette Stadium, the Patriots rallied from an 11-point deficit in the last five minutes of the game to claim a 27-24 overtime win in the 2002 season finale. Considering the magnitude of the game and the recent history of wild games between the two teams, this Sunday's matchup at Gillette Stadium promises to be a hard-fought clash between two playoff-caliber clubs.
This week's game will be televised by CBS. The game can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Kevin Harlan will handle the play-by-play duties and Randy Cross will provide analysis. Immediately following the game, the Fifth Quarter postgame show can be seen on WSBK-TV Channel 38 in Boston.
WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 27th season as the voice of the Patriots and calls the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. In 2003, Santos and Cappelletti celebrate their 20th season as a broadcast tandem.
This week's game will be broadcast nationally on Westwood One. Bob Fitzgerald and Jack Ham will call the game on a nationwide network of stations.
The Patriots can clinch the AFC East title with a win over the Dolphins this week. New England has won six division titles in its 43-year history, winning AFC East crowns in 2001, 1997, 1996, 1986 and 1978, and claiming the AFL East title in 1963. The Patriots could also clinch a playoff berth with a tie and a Denver loss or tie, plus a loss by either Cincinnati or Baltimore.
SETTING THE MARK
The Patriots have established the best start in franchise history with a 10-2 record through 12 games. The Patriots' previous best 12-game start was in 1964 when they began the season with a 9-2-1 mark. New England is currently on an 8-game winning streak, setting a club mark for consecutive wins in a single season. If New England wins this week against Miami, it will tie the overall club record for consecutive wins (9, from Nov. 25, 2001 to Sept. 22, 2002).
MILESTONE SELLOUT STREAK
This week's game against the Dolphins will be the Patriots' 100th consecutive home sellout. New England has sold out every preseason, regular-season and postseason game since the first game of the 1994 regular season – the first regular-season home game under the ownership of Robert Kraft. In those 99 previous games, the Patriots recorded a 66-33 (.667) record in front of the Foxborough faithful.
The Patriots' 38-34 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday was well-received in the Boston television market. The game earned the Patriots' highest rating of the season, a 32.6 rating (63 share). It was the best rating for the Patriots since last season's game at San Diego earned a 33.2 rating (58 share) on Sept. 29, 2002. Each of the Patriots' last five games have been the highest-rated TV programs in Boston in their respective weeks.
NOTE: One ratings point is equal to one percent of the Boston TV market's 2.1 million homes.
The Patriots and Dolphins will meet for the 74th time in their history. New England will make a bid to sweep the season series from Miami for just the fifth time in franchise history and for the first time since 1997. The last two meetings between the teams have gone to overtime, where the Patriots have been victorious on both occasions. New England trails in the overall series, 44-29, but has split the season series with Miami in each of the past two years. In all, the teams have managed 19 season series splits in the 35 seasons in which they have played twice. The Patriots have defeated the Dolphins in five of their last seven meetings in New England and have defeated the Dolphins in Foxborough two years in a row. The Patriots' greatest success over the Dolphins has come in the playoffs, where the Patriots own a 2-1 advantage, including wins in the 1997 Wild Card round and in the 1985 AFC Championship at the Orange Bowl.
THE LAST TIME
Patriots 19, Dolphins 13 (OT) – October 19, 2003
The Patriots came up with one of the most dramatic endings in the NFL this season, defeating the Dolphins 19-13 in overtime at Pro Player Stadium. Tom Brady found a streaking Troy Brown for an 82-yard touchdown with 5:45 left in the extra frame to give the Patriots their first win in Miami since 1997. The victory broke a five-game skid against the Dolphins in Miami and moved the Patriots into first place in the AFC East.
The first three quarters were a back-and-forth affair, with New England taking an early 3-0 lead and Miami bringing a 10-6 advantage into halftime. A third-quarter field goal gave Miami a 13-6 cushion, but as the fourth quarter loomed, the Patriots tied it up. David Givens hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Brady to make the score 13-13 going into the fourth.
Each team exchanged two punts to start the quarter before Miami put together a 73-yard drive to give kicker Olindo Mare a shot at a 35-yard field goal to put the Dolphins in front with two minutes to go. But Richard Seymour came up with a big play, blocking the field goal to send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, the Dolphins won the toss and drove down the field to give Mare another shot at a 35-yarder to win the game. But the Miami kicker pushed the ball wide right and the Patriots took advantage of their new opportunity. After a Patriots punt gave the Dolphins the ball back, Miami was again driving just past midfield when Tyrone Poole intercepted a Jay Fiedler pass to give the Patriots the ball again. On the very next play, Brady threw the bomb to Brown, who beat Miami safeties Sammy Knight and Brock Marion to scamper into the end zone and send the Patriots home victorious.
The Patriots are 10-3 (.769) at Gillette Stadium since their new home opened in 2002, including a 5-0 record this season. New England is 5-0 at home for the first time in team history. The Patriots have won eight of their last nine home games and are 16-5 (.762) at home since 2001. Foxborough has proven to be a very hospitable place for the Patriots since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. Since that time, the Patriots hold a 68-33 (.673) record at home, including preseason, regular-season and postseason games.