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Patriots Must Find Success on the Ground, Stay Balanced Versus Seahawks

The New England Patriots could look to attack the Seattle Seahawks on the ground Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are less than a week away from kickoff.

While much of the attention has been aimed off the field in the past week, it’s time to focus back on the game. At first glance, many would look to Seahawks tailback Marshawn Lynch and how the Patriots will try to stop the league’s fourth leading rusher. And, yes, that’s a big task for New England this week.

However, New England’s ability to run Sunday could determine which team hoists the Lombardi Trophy at the end of season.

Seattle posted a 12-4 record during the regular season, adding two more victories in the post season versus the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers.

In their four losses this season, Seattle allowed an average of 139 yards on 33 rush attempts. Compare those numbers to their 14 wins, when their opponent averaged just 73 yards on 22 ground attempts.

Obviously, finding success against the Seahawks tough defense is easier said than done. After all, Seattle was second in the NFL this season in yards-per-carry allowed, averaging 3.4 ypc to opponents, behind only the Detroit Lions.

Seattle’s defense is a fast and swarming unit, illustrated by their league-leading 1.37 yards-after-contact to opposing ball carriers¬†this season. On the other hand, Pats running back, LeGarrette Blount, led the NFL this season with 2.57 yards-after-contact.

Something has to give.

Tom Brady cannot drop back 50-plus times Sunday. If the Patriots can generate some momentum on the ground, it will open up opportunities in the passing game and keep the unit balanced.

Seattle’s run defense has softened up in the post season, allowing 132 yards rushing to the Panthers and 135 yards to the Packers. If the Seahawks fail to tighten up their rush defense, New England will take advantage.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Game Rewind: Five Key Moments in Patriots Victory Over Colts

Tom Brady, LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots made a statement defeating the Colts 45-7 on Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. The Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 Sunday night, punching their ticket to Arizona.

New England dominated the game on both sides of the ball, winning their one-one-one match-ups consistently and Indy didn’t have any answers. The Patriots played one of their best all-around games of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time to this point.

Here are five key moments from Sunday’s contest. —

The Colts Blew It Early: The Pats were strong favorites heading into the contest, but Indy had some chances early on in the contest. New England won the toss, deferred and gave Andrew Luck the ball to start.

The Colts offense went three-and-out, after Luck missed Dwayne Allen and Reggie Wayne on consecutive passes following a two-yard run on first down by Dan Herron.

Then the Pats took the ball, but the Colts defense made a stop and did not allow New England to get a first down. Good start for the Colts, until Josh Cribbs fumbled the ensuing punt and gave Tom Brady the ball at Indy’s 26.

Six plays later, the Pats scored the first of their six touchdowns on the evening and never looked back.

Blount Goes Off… Again: Talk about deja vu. Last year in the divisional round, the Patriots defeated the Colts 43-22 behind running back LeGarrette Blount’s 24 carries for 166 yards and four touchdowns.

On Sunday evening, Blount took control of the game yet again, carrying the ball 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

Talk about stepping up in a big spot, Blount delivered this week.

His final touchdown run late in the third quarter summed up the contest. He ran up the middle, running through two Colts defensive backs at the five yard line and still got in the end zone to put New England up 38-7. What a performance by Blount and the Pats offensive line.

Pats Were Bigger, Stronger and Better: New England has handled Indy easily the past several meetings, and some things have not changed throughout each game. For starters, the Patriots are bigger, more physical and overall more talented in the trenches.

The Patriots controlled the line of scrimmage, something they struggled with the week prior against the Baltimore Ravens, bullying their way to a lopsided victory.

The Colts struggled to get off blocks and bring down New England ball carriers Sunday, allowing the Pats to rack up 419 total yards.

Watching Indy periodically¬†during the season, twice against the Pats, it’s clear they need to add more talent and size in the trenches. Until they do that, there’s a good chance they will not get “over the hump” and take the next step, even with the talented Luck under center.

Revis Takes Away Comeback Hope: Up 31-7, after Brady found Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown, the Patriots were in good shape with 18 minutes and 19 seconds to play Sunday.

Still, Luck and the Colts sixth-ranked offense has shown the ability to put up points in a hurry throughout the regular season.

Four plays later, Luck was faced with a third and five, looking for his No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton to make a play on a shallow out-route.

Revis was lined up on rookie wideout, Donte Moncrief, pressing him at the snap, but recognized Hilton’s route and stepped in front of Luck’s pass. Revis returned the interception for 30 yards, setting up the offense with 13 yards to go before the end zone. The very next play,¬†as aforementioned at the top, ¬†Blount powered up the middle for the score.

A bang-bang sequence of plays for New England and Gillette Stadium went crazy.

Brady’s Curtain Call was Well-Deserved: With the Patriots minutes away from victory, many were wondering why Brady trotted back onto the field with a 38-point lead.

Bill Belichick kept Brady on the field for the team’s first play on their last fourth-quarter drive with just under four minutes to play. Brady handed the ball off to Jonas Gray and trotted to the sideline as the stadium erupted with cheers.

The standing ovation was a great touch by Belichick and well-deserved for Brady, who had a great game and beloved by his fans. Brady got the crowd going even more, fist-pumping and screaming while on the jumbotron. Great moment for Brady, the team and fans.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Rob Gronkowski Wins PFWA Comeback Player of the Year

Rob Gronkowski was named the Comeback Player of the Year by the PFWA Friday afternoon. (USA TODAY Images)

New England Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski, was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year, voted on by the Professional Football Writers of America.

After a devastating knee injury ended his 2013 regular season, Gronkowski was one of two unanimous All-Pro selections in 2014 (J.J. Watt was the other) and had a terrific statistical year.

Gronk finished the regular season with 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. All three categories were the second-highest of his career, falling short of his 2011 season when he posted 90 receptions for 1,327 and 17 touchdowns.

The last member of the Patriots to win the award was Tom Brady in 2009. Randy Moss also won the award in 2007.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Game Rewind: Ravens and Patriots Trade Haymakers, Brady Leads Team to Victory

The New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium.

The Ravens came to play, putting the Patriots in two separate 14-point deficits throughout the game. New England did not quit, though, fighting their way back and made enough plays to advance in the postseason.

With both teams laying it all on the line, this will be one of the most memorable postseason games for some time. While Baltimore did their talking leading up to the contest, the Pats had the last laugh when it was all said and done.

Here’s a few thoughts on the game. —

Brady Out-Duels Flacco: Leading up to the game, the narrative was how good Joe Flacco has been in the playoffs. While that statement isn’t necessarily wrong, Tom Brady had something to say on Saturday night.

No.12 led the Patriots offense to one of their best offensive performances in weeks, completing 33-of-50 passes for 367 yards, three touchdowns an interception. With Brady spreading the ball around to seven different players, New England kept pace with a surprisingly efficient Ravens offense.

While recent history said Brady would struggled against the Baltimore defense, his competitive nature shined through in a strong performance. His 23-yard go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to Brandon LaFell was a thing of beauty.

Pats Defense Underwhelmed: Going into the contest, there was a fair amount of fans more confident in the defense than the offense based on recent weeks.

New England won the toss Saturday, deferred, then let the Ravens march down the field for a touchdown in less than three minutes of gameplay. The following Baltimore drive, the Ravens had more success and the Patriots defense looked reminiscent of a unit fans watched take the field in year’s past.

What happened? One of the biggest misleading stats from the contest, Baltimore was 1-of-9 on third down. So how did they do it? Success on earlier downs, starting with their ability to keep Flacco clean in the pocket (zero sacks allowed on the day) and Justin Forsett’s 5.4 yards-per-carry.

The Patriots lost the battle in the trenches on¬†defense. New England’s front seven was washed out of the play far too often and Chandler Jones, facing rookie James Hurst, was a non-factor. If the Pats hope to win a championship this season, the pass rush has improve.

Sour Grapes for Harbaugh:¬†John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the NFL, but he sounded more like his bother, Jim, after the loss Saturday night. The Ravens coaching staff was upset about the “deception” New England used on a few plays.

The formations featured four offensive linemen alongside a normally eligible receiver, Shane Vereen, who was lined up as ineligible. Vereen informed the referee before the snap that he was an ineligible receiver, but the Ravens complained that they weren’t given sufficient notice by the officials, allowing them almost no time to adjust.

Harbaugh thought the league would, “look into it”, but there’s not much to look into. The Patriots thought outside the box, followed the rules and the head referee even announced Vereen as ineligible before the play began.

After the game, Brady said, “Maybe those guys should study the rule book and figure it out. We obviously knew what we were doing.”

He’s right, but Baltimore wasn’t happy.

The Pass: Back in training camp, the Patriots worked on the same trick play the team executed flawlessly on Saturday. Brady threw to Edelman, Baltimore’s defense collapsed and Danny Amendola caught the pass in stride to tie up the game at 28.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t bookmarked for November, but they had it in their back pocket.

The Ravens scored a field goal shortly after, but this is certainly one of the plays of the game. Great call by Josh McDaniels, who did a tremendous job in the game’s entirety, but even better execution.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

First Take: Patriots Host Colts in AFC Championship Game

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski might have a little extra motivation this week as the team hosts the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium this Sunday.

The Colts traveled to Denver, pulling off the upset to defeat the Broncos 24-13. The Patriots took care of business Saturday, in a 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, setting up the second meeting between the teams this season.

These two teams last met Nov. 16, with the Patriots winning 42-20 behind a 201-yard rushing performance by Jonas Gray.

Here’s a few early thoughts on the contest. —

– The Patriots have handled the Colts with relative ease in their last three meetings, averaging 26 points-per-victory and outscoring Indianapolis 144-66.

– Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has struggled against New England: 70-for-130, 968 yards, 6 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and a 67.7 QB rating in his career.

– The running game for both teams is an obvious focus for this contest. New England has shredded Indy with the run over the past two meetings. Last year, the Pats and LeGarrette Blount ran the Colts into the ground, same story two months ago with Gray in the backfield.

The Patriots did not have LeGarrette Blount for November’s contest, as he was still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Colts on the other hand totaled four yards on 13 attempts with Ahmad Bradshaw, now on injured-reserve, and Trent Richardson, whose been an afterthought after a disappointing season. Dan Herron is now the starter, carrying the ball 23 times Sunday evening for 63 yards and a touchdown.

– The Jones brothers will be an easy storyline this week, as the Colts’ Arthur and Pats’ Chandler, were both unavailable for the last meeting.

– Remember when Colts defensive back, Sergio Brown, tweeted post-game that he “put straps” on Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski? Well he does, too. Needless to say, Gronk will be ready for this week’s contest as he, and the rest of Patriots Nation, remembers it a little differently. When the All-Pro tight end “threw (Brown) out of the club”, it cost him $8,268 in league fines.

Overall, it’s a given the majority of Pats fans will be highly optimistic this¬†week. Based on the last few meetings, it’s justified. With that being said, Bill Belichick will focus on getting the team locked in. It’s a one week season, and before you plan your trip to Glendale, AZ, ¬†we’ll see if New England can get the job done this Sunday.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Pregame Thoughts and Analysis: Patriots Host Ravens in Divisional Round Showdown

Rob Gronkowski is healthy and ready to take the playoffs by storm as the Patriots begin their playoff journey Saturday evening. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium Saturday as 4:35 EST.

The Patriots begin their playoff journey, after a strong 2014 campaign and locking up the top seed in the AFC along the way. This is the first meeting between these two teams this season.

After defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers last Saturday night, Baltimore will travel with a ton of confidence and a been-there-done-that attitude. On the flip side, New England has prepared and rested over the past two weeks, gearing up for this contest. 

Here are a few thoughts on the upcoming game.

Pregame Thoughts¬†—¬†

First Impressions:¬†The¬†Ravens have a top ten offense and defense.¬†With a strong front seven, the Ravens defense can be formidable. That being said, their secondary has been banged up and they lost two of their top three cornerbacks (Aaron Ross and Jimmy Smith) during the year. The team’s pass rushing ability — racking up 49 sacks throughout the year — helped cover up a 23rd ranked pass defense.

Joe Flacco has been terrific in the playoffs. In his last five post-season games, Flacco has put up 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. With Flacco as the signal-caller, he loves to push the ball downfield and throws one of the best deep balls in the league. Playmaking wide receivers, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, will be a tough match-up for the Pats secondary.

Protecting Brady is Biggest Key to Victory:¬†The Ravens¬†have an¬†attacking front seven on defense, making it hard for opposing quarterbacks.¬†Baltimore’s front seven is dangerous with players like¬†Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith. There’s no question will give New England‚Äôs shaky offensive line all they can handle.¬†

This is the key match-up for the contest. A big benefit for New England is the starting offensive line had the opportunity to get healthy the past few weeks. If the offensive line can give Tom Brady time in the pocket, Baltimore’s suspect secondary will likely be picked apart. If not, there’s a good chance this will be a dogfight that puts the game in jeopardy.

Pats May Shy Away from Balance, Pass to Win:¬†Even though Baltimore’s pass rush and interior pressure is the biggest concern for the Patriots Sunday, New England should pass to win this week. In part because the Ravens¬†have allowed 88.3 rushing yards-per-game to opposing offenses, fourth-best in the NFL.

With pressure from the Ravens defense inevitable, expect Brady and the offense to do a lot of quick passes, screen plays and up-tempo play calling to slow down the pass rush.

In that same vein, New England may use a spread offensive in this contest. Brady in shotgun, Shane Vereen in the backfield, with the passing options away from the pocket. With the Ravens secondary already depleted by injury, this could put the pressure on Baltimore on the backend of their defense.

Ravens Deep Passing Threats: As aforementioned, Flacco is one of the better downfield passers in the league. Torrey Smith is their biggest threat down the field. Even if he isn’t catching passes, he had more defensive pass interference calls against him than any other player in the NFL.

New England has to eliminate big plays and make the Ravens offense work for everything in Saturday’s contest. So how do the Patriots corner backs align against Baltimore’s receivers? This will be one of the most intriguing and important elements of the game.

At first glance, Darrelle Revis might be the better option for Steve Smith, because he could play on the outside or inside and led his team in receptions throughout the season. Although that would put Brandon Browner on Torrey Smith, which could put some penalties against the Pats and give the Ravens cheap yardage.

Revis should shadow Torrey Smith, who’s¬†the more dangerous weapon at this stage of he (and Steve Smith’s) careers at this juncture. When Steve Smith goes inside, put Kyle Arrington on him in the slot and let Browner stick to the sidelines when he can put his hands on his opponent more effectively.

You can make arguments for both sides, but however Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia decide to defend these receivers Saturday will be a big discussion point next week.

Final Thoughts: This will be an exciting game. These two teams have a history and there’s some bad blood between a few of the players…cough…Suggs and Brady… cough. While some New England fans fear Baltimore, which is understandable, the Patriots have no excuses and seem ready for post-season play.

The Pats are the better overall team, are playing at home and had time off to get healthy. While Baltimore won’t go easy, expect the Patriots to hold off the Ravens front seven long enough for Brady to march down the field and put pressure on the Ravens early. New England’s defense took a step forward this season and this could be the week they make a statement to the rest of the league.

Prediction: Patriots 27, Ravens 20

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

First Take: Opening Thoughts on Ravens at Patriots Showdown

Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium, Saturday Jan. 10 at 4:35 EST.

After defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night, the Ravens are once again headed to face the Patriots in the playoffs. New England and Baltimore did not play each other in the 2014 regular season.

Here’s a few opening thoughts on Saturday’s contest. —

The Ravens won’t go easy, but the Patriots should win this match-up. New England is the better team and have been more consistent throughout the season. Baltimore, however, has played good football at times and looked like a strong opponent in the Wildcard Round.

In his last five post-season games, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. While Flacco isn’t an elite QB, he plays well in the playoffs.

Many Pats fans have flashbacks to tough playoff contents over the last few years. These two teams are significantly different than in 2012, though, when the Ravens came away with a 28-13 victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game before going on to win the Super Bowl.

With the Ravens overhauling their defense, moving on from Hall of Fame talents like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, they’re defense isn’t quite the powerhouse it use to be, but the front seven still has a lot of talent. Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will give New England’s shaky offensive line all they can handle.

At first glance, this could be where the game is won or lost: Baltimore’s defensive front vs New England’s offensive line.

On the flip side, the Patriots are much improved and will be going into this contest as healthy as any NFL team can wish for at this juncture of the season.

New England was without All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski in the 2012 playoff match-up and defensive end Chandler Jones played only two snaps due to injury.

Darrelle Revis and the Patriots eighth-ranked defense has changed the way this team wins games. While many will look back at this 2012 playoff contest to try and draw comparisons, both franchises are very different and New England is a more well-rounded group.

Baltimore’s vertical passing attack will be a big talking point heading into the game. How will the Patriots defend Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr. and Jacoby Jones? All three proving to be home-run hitters and have the ability to make plays down the field. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will have to be cautious of the Ravens deep passing attack and eliminate big plays.

More on this game throughout the week, stay tuned.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Postseason Preview: Thoughts on Possible Patriots Playoff Opponents

The New England Patriots finished the 2014 season with a 12-4 record, earning the top seed in the AFC and a first-round bye.

With the Pats holding the top spot in the conference, they can only play three teams in the Divisional Round. Their possible opponents are the Indianapolis Colts (fourth seed), Cincinnati Bengals (fifth seed) or Baltimore Ravens (sixth seed).

Obviously, there are pros and cons playing any of these teams. New England’s next game is scheduled for Jan. 10 at 4:35 EST at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a few thoughts on each team the Patriots could face in the first round. —

Colts — The Patriots traveled to Indianapolis on Nov. 16, defeating them 42-20 behind a 201-yard rushing performance by Jonas Gray. New England forced the Colts to pass and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

If the Pats were to see the Colts again, they could use a similar game plan. Despite a talented signal-caller for Indy, they’re still a much weaker team than some of the others in the AFC playoff hunt.

Bengals — After an embarrassing Monday Night Football loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in week four, the Patriots returned home in week five to defeat the Bengals 43-17.

While Cincinnati can challenge an opponent on both sides of the ball, the defense is stout in the front seven. New England’s ability to protect Tom Brady would be key, but all eyes would be on Andy Dalton to see if he could finally perform in the postseason.

Ravens — Unlike the Colts and Bengals, the Ravens have not faced the Patriots in 2014. While Baltimore is a much different team than in year’s past, they still present fears from tough games a few seasons ago.

With a transformed defense and a balanced offense, the Ravens would be no easy out. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have led the team to success in recent years. While the other two team’s New England could play might be¬†better¬†overall teams, the Ravens have more experience at this point in the season.

Overall — No matter who the Patriots play, there’s no excuse for this team. New England is in good shape health wise, are playing at home and have been one of the best team’s in the NFL for the majority of the year.

The Colts might be the team with the most favorable match-up. Yes, Andrew Luck is a talented young QB for Indy, but the offense is one-sided and the Patriots defense had success against them earlier this season.

Either way, New England has about two weeks to rest up and prepare for the most critical juncture of the season. Brady and Bill Belichick have their eye on a fourth Lombardi Trophy, we’ll see if the team can finish strong down the stretch.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.


Patriots Clinch Top Seed in AFC, Will Have Home-Field Advantage in Playoffs

The Patriots have locked up the top seed in the AFC, giving them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. (USA TODAY Images)

The road to the Super Bowl comes through New England.

After the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Denver Broncos 37-28 on Monday Night Football, the New England Patriots officially locked up the No.1 seed in the AFC. They had already won the division and secured a first-round bye, but now the Pats have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Broncos must win next week against the Oakland Raiders in order to clinch a first-round bye. If the Broncos lose and the Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, then Cincinnati will sneak into the No. 2 seed.

Locking up the top seed in the AFC doesn’t guarantee the Patriots a trip to the Super Bowl, but it does give them a significant edge in the playoffs. The Patriots are 15-0 at home over the past two seasons. It’s officially Super Bowl or bust.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Game Rewind: The Patriots Clinch the AFC East, Dominating the Third Quarter

Tom Brady and the Patriots clinched the AFC East for the 12th time since 2000, blowing out the Miami Dolphins 41-13 Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 41-13 on Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots returned home after a two-week road trip, clinching the AFC East for the sixth-straight season thanks to a dominant effort in the second half. After getting embarrassed in some phases week one, New England was able to get revenge on their division foes.

After reviewing the game, here¬†are a few thoughts on Sunday’s victory. —

Defense Keeps Team in Game Again, While Offense Struggles: The defense continues to play well, putting the team in good position to win games. On Sunday the unit held Miami’s offense to 3-of-16 on third down, had two interceptions and compiled four sacks.

There were some rough moments, as Mike Wallace torched Malcolm Butler on the first drive and scored a touchdown as the second half came to a close. It’s a tough matchup for the undrafted rookie cornerback, and it’s fair to question why Darrelle Revis or a more qualified defensive back wasn’t put on Wallace.

The defense clamped down in the second half. While the Dolphins had 271 yards and 13 points in the first two quarters, they were held to only 90 points and shut out in the final two quarters.

New England has outscored their last four opponents (Detroit, Green Bay, San Diego and Miami) 54-6 in the second half. The defense has allowed only one second half touchdown since the bye week (six games) coming against the Colts in Indianapolis.

The Return of Chandler Jones: After missing six games and being sidelined for about two months with a hip injury, Chandler Jones returned to the field for the Patriots.

Jones recorded seven total tackles, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble in his first game action. Jones lined up in multiple spots, playing defensive end with his hand in the dirt and standing, also kicking inside to rush in certain situations.

He was on the field for 55-of-74 defensive plays, working his way back from the injury. While he wasn’t a full-go, Jones didn’t miss a beat. He looked explosive, moved well and his fresh legs could give a much-needed boost to the pass rush. Great sign moving forward.

Patriots End Troubling Trend, Dominate in Third: New England struggled in the third quarter heading into the contest. In the three games previous, the team scored just three total points in those games and had four-straight possessions to start the third quarter in San Diego, all resulting in three-and-outs for the offense.

On Sunday, Tom Brady and the offense flipped a switch. The Patriots scored 24 points, dominating Miami and crushing any hopes of another upset. In their four possessions this week, the team scored on every drive. Hopefully this continues after some shaky play coming out of the break in weeks past.

Brady’s Scramble¬†Boosts Team: On the first drive on the second half, New England was driving down the field. New England was on Miami’s 20, facing a third and 11. After the snap, Brady ran off right-tackle after the play broke down, picking up 17 yards and lowered his shoulder to the Dolphins defender.

The crowd went crazy, Brady was fired up and instead of settling for a field goal, the Patriots picked up the first down to score a touchdown on the following play. Any time Brady decides to run instead of throw, it’s usually a win for the defense, but his competitive spirit and toughness sparked the team’s dominant third quarter play.

Belichick Climbing All-Time Ranks: With yesterday’s win, Bill Belichick tied Curly Lambeau for fourth all-time, 229 wins, and passing Don Shula for most division titles as a head coach since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Patriots have now won 12 division titles since 2000, all with Brady as the starting quarterback.

New England’s dominance has been remarkable. Whether you’re a fan of the team or not, it’s incredible to see this team win year-in-and-year-out. The consistency and strong foundation inside the franchise is what every NFL team strives to achieve.

What’s Next:¬†The Patriots¬†travel to face the Jets in New York, wrapping up their road games for the 2014 regular season. New England has a 4-3 record on the road this season and defeated the Jets 27-25 Oct. 16 at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots could clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with a victory Sunday.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven

Listen to our “Patriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast” on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

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