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New England Patriots

Brady’s two TD passes lead Pats over Dolphins, 28-0

  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch that he ran in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch that he ran in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. Gronkowski was active after missing five games with a broken left forearm. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. Gronkowski was active after missing five games with a broken left forearm. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves to fans as he leaves the field after an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The Patriots won 28-0.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves to fans as he leaves the field after an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The Patriots won 28-0. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, right, celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, right, celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) catches a pass in front of New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) catches a pass in front of New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • New England Patriots defensive end Trevor Scott (99) tries to tackle Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    New England Patriots defensive end Trevor Scott (99) tries to tackle Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) congratulates running back Stevan Ridley (22) after Ridley's second rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) congratulates running back Stevan Ridley (22) after Ridley's second rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Miami Dolphins cornerback Jimmy Wilson (27) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Miami Dolphins cornerback Jimmy Wilson (27) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, right, tackles Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, right, tackles Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch that he ran in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch that he ran in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch that he ran in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. Gronkowski was active after missing five games with a broken left forearm. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves to fans as he leaves the field after an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The Patriots won 28-0.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, right, celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) catches a pass in front of New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • New England Patriots defensive end Trevor Scott (99) tries to tackle Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) congratulates running back Stevan Ridley (22) after Ridley's second rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • Miami Dolphins cornerback Jimmy Wilson (27) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, right, tackles Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a catch that he ran in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Patriots are rolling again, right into a playoff bye.

Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, the defense had a season-high seven sacks and New England ended a rare slump by dominating the Miami Dolphins, 28-0, yesterday.

“Hopefully, this will be a good game that we can step off from and keep working to improve,” Coach Bill Belichick said.

Rebounding from two mediocre performances, the Patriots earned the second seed in the AFC and an extra week to savor the win and prepare for their postseason opener on Jan. 13. The Denver Broncos got the top spot by beating the Kansas City Chiefs.

Shortly before the game, the Patriots learned that Houston had lost to the Indianapolis Colts. That meant a win would vault the Patriots over the Texans, who began the day seeded first, and into one of the two byes.

“Coach Belichick just said, ‘Look, the only people that can improve our position are us, so, regardless what anyone else does, we have to win,’ ” Brady said. “And that’s what we did.”

Decisively.

Stevan Ridley ran for two touchdowns as New England used a ball-control offense and a defense that posted the team’s first shutout since a 59-0 rout of the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 18, 2009.

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.

“It felt good. I haven’t gotten hit in a while,” Gronkowski said. “I got limited reps (but) you always want to get some reps before heading into the playoffs.”

The Dolphins (7-9) finished with a losing record for the fourth straight season.

“We made progress in areas, but we have a ton of work to do,” first-year Coach Joe Philbin said.

Instead of going into the offseason with three straight wins, the Dolphins leave with the memory of their first blanking since losing 16-0 to the Chicago Bears on Nov. 18, 2010.

“We came in here with the mentality that we needed to finish the season strong,” said Reggie Bush, whose 26 yards rushing left him 14 short of 1,000 for the season. “We obviously didn’t do that.”

For the AFC East champion Patriots, the victory came after they started poorly in their previous two games, losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 41-34, before beating the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars, 23-16.

But after turning it around against the Dolphins, there are still plenty of mistakes for Belichick to point out.

“He never falls short of having a bunch of things that we need to fix,” cornerback Devin McCourty said. “There’s no coach that gets you better prepared to go into the playoffs.”

New England had trailed San Francisco, 31-3, and Jacksonville, 10-0, and sputtered at the start again yesterday, turning the ball over on downs on its first possession and punting on its second.

Then it got a break.

Under heavy pressure, rookie Ryan Tannehill threw a pass that 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.

Brady moved into second place in NFL history with a touchdown pass in 48 consecutive games, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas. And Brady became the first player to throw at least one scoring pass in all 16 games for three straight seasons.

Brady finished with 22 completions in 36 attempts for 284 yards. Tannehill was 20-for-35 for 235.

After each touchdown, fans tossed into the air some of the snow that was left over from an overnight accumulation of about 6 inches.

New England’s top-rated offense got plenty of help from an improving defense.

Rookie Justin Francis had three sacks. Another rookie, Dont’a Hightower, recovered a fumble at the Patriots 1 on a botched handoff from Tannehill to Bush.

On the ensuing drive, a pass to Welker popped loose and Miami’s Chris Clemons came up with the ball and ran about 60 yards for what officials ruled a touchdown. But the call was reversed and the play was ruled an incomplete pass upon video review.

Just another play that went New England’s way.

There were plenty in the first half when the Patriots had advantages of 279-106 in yards, 18-7 in first downs and 18:35 to 11:25 in time of possession.

“This is like our playoff game,” Miami center Mike Pouncey said, “and we didn’t go out and perform the way we should have.”

Notes

∎ The Patriots won their sixth straight game against the Dolphins and finished with 11 wins in their last 12 games.

∎ Tannehill set Miami rookie records with 282 completions, 484 attempts and 3,294 yards passing.

∎ The Patriots set an NFL record with 444 first downs after getting 28. They began the game tied with the 2011 New Orleans Saints at 416.

∎ Miami’s Anthony Fasano and Kevin Burnett left the game in the third quarter and were evaluated for concussions. No results were announced.

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