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Patriots - Dolphins: Game Notes

NON-KICKER KICKSDoug Flutie's drop-kick extra point was the first successful kick (field goal or extra point) by a non-kicker for the Patriots since 1976, when linebacker Steve Zabel booted an extra point in the fourth quarter of a 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tampa Stadium on Dec. 12, 1976.

DROP KICK FLUTIEQuarterback Doug Flutie dug into his bag of tricks when he used the drop kick technique to convert an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter. The kick came after Cassel's 9-yard touchdown pass to Dwight, and brought the Patriots within five points of the Dolphins, making the score 25-20. According to the NFL Hall of Fame web site, Ray McLean of the Chicago Bears was the last player to successfully convert a drop kick in the NFL. He converted an extra point following Ken Kavanaugh's 42-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown during the Bears' 37-9 win over the New York Giants in the 1941 NFL Championship Game. The drop kick came in the fourth quarter of the title game played on December 21, 1941. In the NFL's official rule book. Rule 3, Section 8 defines the dropkick as, "a kick by a kicker who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground."

TEN WINSThe Patriots finished the season with 10-6 record, marking their fifth straight season with nine or more wins and the fourth time in five years that they have recorded a double-digit win total. The last time the Patriots were 10-6 was in 1997, when they won the AFC East.

START ME UPCornerback Hank Poteat earned the first start of his regular-season career today, becoming the 45th different starter to open a game for the Patriots this season. New England has now used 23 different starters on defense and has used 22 different starters on offense. Poteat becomes the 13th different player to start in the secondary for New England this season. In 2003, New England used 42 different starters, setting a then-record for an NFL division champion. Last season, the Patriots used 40 different starters.

CENTURY MARKWith his 33-yard field goal in the third quarter, Adam Vinatieri brought his season total to an even 100 points, breaking the century mark for the 10th consecutive season. Vinatieri and Jason Elam are the only kickers in NFL history to record 100 or more points in each of their first 10 NFL seasons. Vinatieri is the Patriots' all-time leading scorer, having recorded 1,158 points in a Patriots uniform. He passed Gino Cappelletti's old record of 1,130 points on Dec. 4.

AUTOMATIC ADAMAdam Vinatieri's 49-yard field goal at the end of the first half ties the longest field goal in Gillette Stadium history. Vinatieri's 49-yarder in the closing seconds of the first half today ties his 49-yarder against the N.Y. Jets on Dec. 22, 2002 as the longest boots in stadium history.

CASSEL SCORESRookie quarterback Matt Cassel threw his first touchdown of his NFL career when he completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tim Dwight with 6:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. The touchdown was the first for Cassel since his days at Chatsworth (Calif.) High School. While serving as the backup to quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, Cassel completed 20 of 33 pass attempts, but did not throw a touchdown pass. Cassel later added his second career touchdown when he connected with Benjamin Watson with four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to bring the Patriots within two points of the Dolphins before a failed two-point conversion attempt at the end of regulation.

CAREER HIGHS IN 2005* Tom Brady finished the regular season with 4,110 passing yards, besting his previous season high of 3,764 set in 2002. That mark ranks second in Patriots franchise history, behind Drew Bledsoe's team-record 4,555 yards, set in 1994. Brady completed 334 of 530 passes to finish with a completion percentage of .630, a mark second only to his .639 percentage (264 of 413) in 2001, his first year as a starter. Brady averaged 7.8 yards per completion in 2005, setting a new career high.

  • Deion Branch finished the 2005 season with 998 total receiving yards, beating his previous career high of 803 yards set in 2003. His 78 receptions also notched a career high, with his previous best being 57 catches, also in 2003.
  • David Givens' 59 receptions bested his previous career high of 56 receptions set in 2004.
  • Josh Miller's net punting average of 38.3 surpassed his previous career high of 38.1 set in 1999.
  • Mike Vrabel's three touchdown receptions bested his previous career high of two, set in 2004.

NEON DEIONDeion Branch grabbed an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter to tie the score at seven. The touchdown was Branch's fifth receiving touchdown of the season, setting a new career high (4, 2004). With his fifth overall touchdown of the season, Branch moves ahead of Mike Vrabel and into second place on the Patriots' touchdowns list for the year (Corey Dillon, 13).

RETURN MANAndre' Davis' 65-yard kickoff return in the first quarter was the longest kickoff return by the Patriots this season and the longest since Dec. 4, 2004, when Bethel Johnson returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown at Cleveland. For Davis, the long return was his first kickoff return since the 2003 season when he was a second-year pro with the Cleveland Browns. Davis' kickoff return kick-started a Patriots scoring drive that ended in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Deion Branch.

STREAK BREAKERRicky Williams' 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the first touchdown the Patriots allowed at Gillette Stadium since Nov. 20, when New Orleans' Donte Stallworth hailed in a 12-yard scoring pass from Aaron Brooks in the fourth quarter. Williams' touchdown broke a string of eight consecutive touchdown-free quarters for Patriots opponents at Gillette Stadium. In their last two home games heading into today's action, the Patriots had allowed a total of just three points.

EIGHT IS ENOUGHTom Brady started his 87th consecutive game for the Patriots today (78 regular season games and 9 playoff games). He attempted just eight passes today, the fewest number of pass attempts in his career in a game where he has started. Brady's previous career low was 19 passes, which has happened twice - both times coming against the Dolphins (12/22/01 and 10/10/04).

QUICK HITS* Rookie wide receiver Bam Childress, who was signed to the active roster from the practice squad and is making his NFL debut today, recorded his first career reception on a 7-yard grab from Matt Cassel in the second quarter. Childress is the 17th player to record a reception for the Patriots this season.
* Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain recorded his first sack of the season and upped his career total to 3.5 sacks when he dropped Gus Frerotte for a 4-yard loss in the second quarter.
* Linebacker Matt Chatham recorded a 5-yard sack of Frerotte in the third quarter. The sack was Chatham's first since the 2003 season and gives him 2.5 sacks for his career.
* Quarterback Matt Cassel entered the game for the Patriots' fourth offensive possession.
* Wide receiver Andre' Davis grabbed a game-long 36-yard pass from Cassel on a second-and-15 play with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter. The pass was Davis' second longest of the season. His longest reception was a 60-yard touchdown grab from Tom Brady against New Orleans on Nov. 20, 2005.

SELLOUT STREAKToday's game was the 125th consecutive home sellout for the Patriots including preseason, regular season and playoff games. The 2005 season is the 12th consecutive season that has been completely sold out. Every Patriots game in Foxborough has been sold out dating back to the 1994 season opener - Robert Kraft's first regular-season game as owner of the Patriots. Additionally, today's game was the 259th consecutive Patriots game to be televised locally. New England fans have not had a TV blackout since Kraft purchased the team.

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