FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — So much for the Patriots’ problems.
Rebounding from a rare slump, Tom Brady and his teammates earned a playoff bye with a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday after two mediocre performances.
Stevan Ridley ran for two touchdowns as New England used a ball-control offense and a defense that racked up a season-high seven sacks.
Now, seeded second in the AFC, the Patriots have an extra week to savor the win and prepare for their postseason opener.
The Patriots (12-4) led 21-0 at halftime on Brady’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker and Ridley’s runs of 1 and 2 yards, capping drives lasting 14 and 13 plays. They ended the scoring on Brady’s 23-yard scoring pass to Rob Gronkowski, who missed the previous five games after breaking his left forearm.
The Dolphins (7-9) finished with a losing record for the fourth straight season.
The victory came after the AFC East champion Patriots started poorly in their previous two games, losing to the San Francisco 49ers 41-34 before beating the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars 23-16.
And after each touchdown, fans tossed into the air some of the snow that was left over from an overnight accumulation of about 6 inches.
The Patriots began the day seeded third, but gained one of the AFC’s two byes when they won after the AFC South champion Houston Texans lost and fell from first to third in the conference standings.
New England had trailed San Francisco 31-3 and Jacksonville 10-0 and sputtered at the start again on Sunday, turning the ball over on downs on its first possession and punting on its second.
Then it got a break and rolled the rest of the half.
Under heavy pressure, rookie Ryan Tannehill’s pass was intercepted by Steve Gregory, who returned it 13 yards to the Miami 28. Gronkowski gained 19 yards on the first pass thrown to him. On the second play of the series, Brady connected with Welker over the middle for a milestone completion.