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Stock Watch: Patriots top playmakers dispatch overmatched Dolphins

It was billed as a game of brains vs. brawn, consistency vs. new-age energy.

In the end Thursday night's battle between Bill Belichick's Patriots (7-0) and Dan Campbell's Dolphins (3-4) showed that it's going to take more than bluster to blow into Gillette Stadium and knock off the defending Super Bowl champions.

While Campbell's unique style and energy had led to two victories in two tries since he took over on an interim basis for the fired Joe Philbin, Miami never got the momentum, the lead or the big plays in this trip north to take on the undisputed king of its division.

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and a returning Dion Lewis did all of those things. Brady hit Gronkowski for a 47-yard catch-and-run to open the scoring.

A shotgun snap that zipped past Ryan Tannehill in the red zone led to a safety and even though the Patriots weren't exactly cruising through the first 30 minutes, New England went to halftime with the 19-0 lead after a Dion Lewis 16-yard catch-and-run of his own.

Miami marched down the field to open the second half, to get on the board on a Lamar Miller 1-yard run, which was basically the back's only contributions on the night. A defense that held Chris Ivory in check a week earlier was back to work holding Miami to just 15 yards on its 13 attempts, a crazy-low 1.2-yard average.

Brady would go on to add a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to Edelman and the Patriots pulled away to the 36-7 victory. The passer continued to cruise with his 69th career 300-yard game, a 356-yard effort with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 133.2 rating.

It was a struggle at times. Brady was sacked twice and hurried for much of the night by the likes of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. New England converted just three third downs on 12 tries (25 percent).

But it was more than enough to dispatch the previously upstart Dolphins.

Especially when the New England defense was shutting down Miami's run game and holding Dolphins to just a pair of third down conversions on 11 tries (18 percent).

On a short week against an opponent that presented a lot of unknowns under new leadership Belichick's team fought through to do the job.

"I thought it was a great job by the staff and the players this week. Two games, two division games in five days, it was tough," Belichick said. "They played hard tonight. I thought there was a lot of good things out there. That was a good win.

"There are still a lot of things we need to work on, but there were a lot of positive things out there too."

As the Patriots head into an extended break before another home game against the Redskins, here's a look at some of the individual highs and lows from the win over Miami:

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*Stephen Gostkowski - *This might as well be named the Gostkowski category. The kicker stayed perfect. He hit his two field goals from 52 and 36 yards. That pushed him to 26 straight, moving past Adam Vinatieri for a new franchise record. He also hit all four of his PATs to extend his NFL record streak. He even made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff return. Gostkowski is as good as there is right now in the kicking game.

*Rob Gronkowski - *With a Nike ice sculpture of his likeness melting in the Gillette Stadium parking lot, New England's tight end got things going early with a 47-yard touchdown on his first catch of the night to give the Patriots the 7-0 lead less than five minutes in. Even with a couple short catches mixed it, he notched 113 yards on his six receptions. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season and he went over 5,000 receiving yards for his career.

Chandler Jones - The New England defensive end entered the game leading the NFL with 6.5 sacks, including a pair of two-plus sack efforts. He hit double digits again against Miami. His second quarter rush to beat Jordan Cameron and then Brandon Albert on the way to a third-down sack of Ryan Tannehill was maybe the best single rush of his career. He finished with four tackles, including the two sacks for 14 yards lost.

*Dion Lewis - *The diminutive playmaker returned from missing a game to an abdomen injury and reclaimed his very key role in the middle of everything the Patriots did offensively against Miami. Lewis caught six passes for 93 yards and added five rushes for 19 yards, including an 11-yard long. He also added another opposing defender to his personal highlight reel, making Koa Misi look silly on swing pass. Lewis looked healthy and proved again he is very much a core of the offense with guys like Gronkowski and Edelman.

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Cameron Fleming - Making his second career start at right tackle, Fleming looked more like a practice squad call-up than comfortable fill-in. The former fourth-round pick gave up a sack to Wake in the second, then wiped out big first down gain with an illegal man downfield penalty. In the second half Fleming had a false start. The young tackle was a big part of one of the least impressive performances of the year as Brady was under pressure off and on throughout.

Sebastian Vollmer - While Fleming was struggling a bit on the right side, Vollmer was having his own issues with Olivier Vernon on the other end of the line. Vollmer is the most veteran, experienced leader of the front. But Vernon earned his sack and pair of QB hits in an impressive day against the Patriots right-turned-left tackle.

Malcolm Butler - A week after chasing Eric Decker all over the field, Butler once again struggled at times in coverage against the Dolphins Jarvis Landry and others. New England's No. 1 cornerback is still very much a work in progress, which is understandable given he now has a grand total of eight NFL starts under his belt as a former undrafted player out of Division II West Alabama. But as the trade deadline approaches, Butler's slow development and the lack of depth at cornerback could push Belichick to examine trade options even more closely.

What do you think of our lists coming out of yet another blowout win? Let us know with a comment below!

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