The Dolphins 2010 season ended Sunday afternoon with as many questions as answers, as they were trounced by the Patriots 38-7 to wrap up the season at 7-9. It’s the second straight year the team has finished two games under .500.
“I told them we never want to be in this position again,” coach Tony Sparano said. “We don’t want to be in this position again and we shouldn’t forget what just happened to us out there. It’s not a good place to be and we did it to ourselves.”
Tom Brady engineered three touchdown drives in limited action and Julian Edelman returned a punt 94 yards for a score in the final minute of the first half, as the Patriots wrap up the year at 14-2.
Brady played into the second quarter before taking a seat after directing two scoring marches, then came back out to start the third quarter and led the Patriots to another touchdown. He completed 10-of-16 passes for 199 yards with a pair of scores to complete a potential MVP campaign with 36 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis added a touchdown run for the Patriots, who had previously clinched the AFC East title and the top seed in the playoffs. They will head into the postseason with an eight-game winning streak, having last tasted defeat on November 7 at Cleveland.
“You go out there all week and you know the situation and you know what’s at stake and what you’re playing for and then to come out like this it’s just terrible,” outside linebacker Cameron Wake said. “You’ve got to stop the bleeding and that’s the mentality (as the score is mounting). You try to go out there and make a play or stop the ball but that didn’t happen.”
New England will have a bye next week before opening the playoffs in Foxboro on the weekend of January 15-16. The Patriots have not lost at home in the regular season since 2008, although they were beaten by Baltimore in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium last January. They won at least 14 games for the fourth time since 2003 and will enter the playoffs as the top seed for the third time in franchise history.
“It’s good to end the season on this note, but right now we’re just like everybody else; everybody is 0-0 at this point in the playoffs, so it’s time for us to get focused on the next target,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said.
The Dolphins (7-9) ended the season with a three-game losing streak to finish with a losing record for the fourth time in five years. It was just Miami’s second road loss of the season to go along with a disastrous 1-7 home mark that could put head coach Tony Sparano’s job in jeopardy. Sparano led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East crown in his first season of 2008, but the team was just 7-9 with a three-game slide to close last season as well.
“We don’t want to be in [this] position again and we shouldn’t forget what just happened to us out there,” Sparano said. “[It’s] not a good place to be. We did it to ourselves coming into this game, having nothing to play for, other than the pride thing and all those good things…It’s not what we aspire to be. We have a lot loftier goals than that.”
Chad Henne struggled again under center for Miami, throwing for just 71 yards on 6-of-16 passing. He was spelled at times in the first half by Tyler Thigpen, who finished the contest 10-of-21 passing for 169 yards and a late touchdown.
The Dolphins managed just 250 total yards in defeat and yielded a whopping 502 on defense. Miami dropped both games to the Patriots this season by a combined score of 79-21.
It didn’t take long for the Patriots to move in front. Devin McCourty picked off Henne on the first offensive series of the game and Brady needed just six plays to find the end zone, hitting Rob Gronkowski with a 13-yard scoring pass to cap the 47-yard march.
Miami had an opportunity to take advantage of New England’s first turnover since the Week 9 loss against Cleveland when Danny Woodhead fumbled on the Patriots’ next series. The Dolphins recovered at the New England 34, but Dan Carpenter missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.
The Patriots followed with a four-play, 70-yard drive for a 14-0 lead. Brady and Edelman hooked up on consecutive passes for 62 yards before Green-Ellis powered into the end zone from the one-yard line.
After a series of punts, Ricky Williams coughed up the ball at the New England 41 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the half and the Patriots converted the turnover into a 28-yard Shayne Graham field goal for a 17-0 advantage.
Edelman then sent New England to the break with a 24-point cushion after he fielded a punt at his own six-yard line, eluded one tackler and wove his way through the rest of Miami’s coverage team for a touchdown. The 94-yard return was the longest in Patriots history, eclipsing the previous mark of 89 yards set by Mike Haynes in 1976.
The Patriots took the second-half kickoff and drove 78 yards in seven plays for a score, as Brady found Alge Crumpler with a 10-yard TD toss.
Brian Hoyer threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Tate later in the third and New England turned it over on downs twice inside the Miami 20 during the fourth quarter. The Dolphins finally reached the end zone with 2:11 to play when Thigpen hit Davone Bess with a 21-yard scoring pass after a 32-yard pass interference penalty wiped out a potential interception.