Patriots' total penalties: 66
Patriots' total accepted penalties: 57 (tied for second-fewest)
Dolphins' total accepted penalties: 55 (fewest in the NFL)
NFL team with fewest accepted penalties: Dolphins (having overtaken the Colts this past week)
NFL team with most accepted penalties: Buccaneers, with 106. Seahawks (104) and Rams (100) next on the list.
Most frequent Patriots penalty: Offensive holding (12), false start (10), defensive holding (6).
Key stat: Cornerback Aqib Talib was penalized three times Sunday, moving him into a tie for most-penalized Patriot.
Most penalized Patriots: G Logan Mankins (7), CB Aqib Talib (7); CB Kyle Arrington (3), G Marcus Cannon (3), G Dan Connolly (3) WR Julian Edelman (3), DE Chandler Jones (3), LT Nate Solder (3).
Summary: Tony Corrente is assigned to referee Sunday's game between the Patriots and Dolphins. His crew previously worked the Patriots-Saints game on Oct. 13. If the league-wide stats stay true to form, there shouldn't be a lot of penalties between the teams. ... Tom Brady's intentional grounding penalty marked his first this season. He technically has two penalties this year, as a delay-of-game is "credited" to him. ... The Patriots have two 12-men-on-the-field penalties this year, the latest coming Sunday against the Browns. Those are "credited" as a team penalty, not to an individual player. Likewise for an illegal shift in the second quarter.
Solder did not miss any snaps during the Patriots' Week 14 win over the Browns, and it is unclear when the injury took place.
He was one of two Patriots to miss practice on Wednesday, as rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson missed his seventh consecutive practice after suffering a foot injury during a Week 12 win over the Broncos.
Solder will need to pass NFL concussion protocols to return to practice. His status for this Sunday's game in Miami is not known at this time.
Tackle Marcus Cannon was limited in his return to practice, as he's sat out two weeks due to an ankle injury that has thrust Will Svitek into a starting role.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who has been previously limited by a knee injury, was also limited by a shoulder injury, which he suffered on Sunday against the Browns.
Cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Kyle Arrington (groin) and Marquice Cole (shin) were also limited, as was quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder). Brady has been limited in practice during previous parts of the season, though the issue has not seemed to limit him at all during games.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Six weeks into the 2013 NFL season, the Patriots stood at 5-1, atop the AFC East.
The record was good.
The offense wasn't quite as good, as it was just 22nd in scoring, down from first the season before.
But… There was a but.
Rob Gronkowski, the team's game-changing tight end, was due to return. It was a matter of when, not if.
Seven games later, the Patriots are now sixth in the NFL in scoring. Unsurprisingly, Rob Gronkowski was active and dressed for all seven of those games, catching 39 passes and impacting the offense in ways that were easy to see.
But now the Patriots are without Gronkowski once again, and the timetable for his return is 2014.
For three regular-season games and a potential postseason run, the Patriots will play with what they have -- a group that no longer includes their best pass-catching option.
Quarterback Tom Brady understands that reality, but says now isn't the time for sweeping changes to the team's approach.
"I would say our offense is pretty much our offense, so the other guys that are going to be in there filling that role and playing tight end for us have to do a great job," he said on Wednesday. "We always try to find ways to use a guy's skill set, and we run it decent at times, we throw it decent at times... We still have confidence that we can go out and win games."
Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com first reported the news.
Law, a 25-year-old out of Southern Miss, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks in 2012. After being released by the Seahawks, Law signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in October of 2012.
He starred during the 2013 season, totaling 14 sacks, third most in the CFL for the season.
Law is 6-foot-2 and 262 pounds, projecting into the mold of either a defensive end or outside linebacker role.
The Patriots have previously tapped into the CFL for defensive linemen, as they signed both Armond Armstead and Jason Vega this past offseason. Vega was let go and has subsequently landed with the Cowboys, while Armstead has missed the entire season due to surgery late last summer to remove an infection.
Williams was actually headed to New England because his plans were to attend the game before a flight delay thwarted his attempt. But that made the next day easier, as the Patriots -- who had released him Dec. 4 after an eight-day stint with the club-- called to re-sign him to a two-year contract, through the 2014 season.
“I was just hanging around, seeing what would happen,” Williams told reporters today.
The third-year pro was disappointed that his opportunity came at the expense of Gronkowski.
“It was unfortunate. I was only here for a week, but I understood how great of a guy he is already,” he said. “Talk about a guy who has been through so much with injuries. I wasn’t like ‘I’m going to get a spot.’ I genuinely felt upset for him and hope the best for him in the future.”
Williams, who adds depth at tight end behind Matthew Mulligan and Michael Hoomanawanui, admitted to being surprised when the Patriots released him last week. The decision came only a few hours after he had been interviewed by reporters for the first time.
“It was a little bit unexpected, but I understand they have to do what’s best for the team,” he said. “It’s nothing personal. I wasn’t bitter or sore at all about it and boom, now I’m back. I’m glad I didn’t leave pissed off or anything.”
Williams had considered staying in New England after being released, but instead returned home.
“I thought about it, just to see what was going to happen, but I didn’t have my car or anything here, and was going to get bored,” he said. “So I figured I’d go home, enjoy some good weather, and I got caught in an ice storm down there in Arkansas.”
While the Patriots were without one starting offensive tackle in Solder, Marcus Cannon, who has stepped into a starting role with Sebastian Vollmer on injured reserve, returned to practice for the first time since a Week 12 ankle injury.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), who both missed Sunday's game, were also at practice.
Tight end D.J. Williams, re-signed on Monday, has switched uniform numbers and is now wearing No. 45, the number he wore during an All-American career at Arkansas.
The Patriots practiced in shells and helmets.
Boyce, who had played a total of 71 snaps all season up to last Sunday's 27-26 win over the Browns, finished with three catches for 49 yards while also serving as the team's primary kickoff returner. He also was named one of the team's practice players of the week, an honor given to those who are deemed to have best prepared the Patriots in the days leading up to a win (he probably played the role of Josh Gordon).
"Josh is a smart guy who works hard," coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday when asked what traits/skills Boyce has going for him other than his notable speed. "He definitely has some position flexibility -- he knows a lot of assignments, different positions -- he's a versatile guy. He's always ready to go. On the scout team, he plays the other team's best receiver, that type of thing, and he gets a lot of balls in some of those weeks in practice. You can see him getting better on the practice field, which has eventually here led to some playing time -- in the kicking game first, then offensively. He's been able to, to a certain degree, take the ball and run with it.
"There's a long way to go here, but it's certainly progress and positive results that have shown up now for a couple weeks."
It could happen Sunday, as a win against Miami would give them their fifth straight AFC East title, while a Baltimore loss (against Detroit) would secure a playoff berth for the Patriots.
Below is a look at the AFC playoff picture, with remaining opponents and statuses for each team that is in the mix.
1. x-Denver (11-2) -- vs. San Diego, @ Houston, @ Oakland
2. New England (10-3) -- @ Miami, @ Baltimore, vs. Buffalo
3. Cincinnati (9-4) -- @ Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota, vs. Baltimore
4. z-Indianapolis (8-5) -- vs. Houston, @ Kansas City, vs. Jacksonville
5. Kansas City (10-3) -- @ Oakland, vs. Indianapolis, @ San Diego
6. Baltimore (7-6) -- @ Detroit, vs. New England, @ Cincinnati
7. Miami (7-6) -- vs. New England, @ Buffalo, vs. New York Jets
8. San Diego (6-7) -- @ Denver, vs. Oakland, vs. Kansas City
9. New York Jets (6-7) -- @ Carolina, vs. Cleveland, @ Miami
Notes: x = playoff berth clinched; z = division title clinched
Beyond a division title or playoff berth, the Patriots also can secure one of the top two seeds in the conference. They hold the tiebreaker over the Broncos but not the Bengals (based on head-to-head play).
With two games left against teams vying for a spot in the postseason and a finale against a division foe, the home stretch won't be easy for the Patriots, but they can put themselves in a very good spot entering the postseason with a strong finish.
Jake Ballard (Cardinals)
Reserve tight end plays 13 offensive snaps and five on special teams in a 30-10 home win over the Rams. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Has been with the Cardinals for five games since signing Nov. 4, playing 66 of 349 snaps and totaling two catches for 44 yards.
Patrick Chung (Eagles)
Safety starts and plays 58 snaps in a snowy 34-20 home win over the Lions. Totals three tackles and recovers a fumble.
Season snapshot: Has started seven of 13 games and is credited with 39 tackles.
Jermaine Cunningham (Jets)
Outside linebacker is inactive in a 37-27 home win over the Raiders.
Season snapshot: Spent the month of October with the 49ers but never appeared in a game. Signed with the Jets on Nov. 20.and has played in one game (6 snaps, no stats).
Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 27-20 home win over the Texans on Thursday Night Football.
Season snapshot: Has played 288 total snaps, totaling eight tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.
A.J. Francis (Dolphins)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 34-28 road win over the Steelers.
Season snapshot: Signed off the Patriots' practice squad Nov. 26, he has been inactive in his two games with Miami.
Greg Salas (Jets)
Receiver plays 11 of 58 snaps in a 37-27 home win over the Raiders. Does not register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: In five games with the Jets since making his debut Nov. 3, he has seven catches for 137 yards. Has played 129 of 289 offensive snaps in those games.
Zach Sudfeld (Jets)
Tight end plays six snaps on offense and eight on special teams but doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Tight end has played 109 offensive snaps in eight games. Has four catches for 56 yards.
Jeff Tarpinian (Texans)
Linebacker doesn't play on defense but totals 22 special teams snaps in a 27-20 road loss to the Jaguars.
Season snapshot: After signing with the Texans on Oct. 28, has played in five games, totaling 12 tackles on defense. Has played 92 of 335 defensive snaps.
Leon Washington (Titans)
Wearing No. 26, he is the primary kickoff returner and punt returner in a 51-28 road loss to the Broncos. He totals five kickoff returns for 209 yards (41.8 avg.), with a 95-yard effort, and has two fair catches as a punt returner. He doesn't play on offense.
Season snapshot: Released by the Patriots on Nov. 23; signed with the Titans on Nov. 26. and has played in two games as the team's primary kickoff and punt returner.
Wes Welker (Broncos)
Receiver finishes with five catches for 61 yards and one touchdown in a 51-28 home win over the Titans, before leaving the game with a concussion. Plays 48 of 95 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has played 770 of 1,001 offensive snaps (76.9 percent), and has 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Danny Woodhead (Chargers)
Running back has seven carries for 42 yards and adds four catches for 52 yards and one touchdown in a 37-14 home win over the Giants. Plays 22 of 72 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has 65 receptions for 534 yards and six TDs, and has carried the ball 84 times for 330 yards and two TDs. Has played 406 offensive snaps.
Others: Colts starting guard Donald Thomas landed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 2. ... Defensive end Trevor Scott played four games (54 snaps) with the Buccaneers before he was released Oct. 24. ... Punter Zoltan Mesko was released by the Steelers on Oct. 29 after appearing in seven games and ranking 31st in punting average (42.5) and 29th in net punting average (36.7). ... Quarterback Brian Hoyer started two games for the Browns, leading them to two wins, before tearing his ACL in his third start and landing on season-ending injured reserve. ... Linebacker/defensive end Marcus Benard hooked on with the Cardinals and has played in nine games, with one start, totaling 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. ... Defensive tackle Kyle Love spent training camp with the Jaguars, was released before the season opener, before signing with the Chiefs on Nov. 19. Love appeared in one of two games with the Chiefs, playing two snaps, before being waived Dec. 3.
Down by 10 or more points in the second half means the margin for error on both offense and defense is slim, and the same can be said in the kicking game.
These kicks have been the latest in what has been a terrific season for the eighth-year pro, who has missed just two of 32 field goals and already has 125 points.
One could even argue that these two weeks have been as clutch as Gostkowski has performed at any point in his career, and they earned him heavy praise from coach Bill Belichick during a Tuesday conference call.
"He’s had a couple of pretty clutch weeks," he said. "I think it would be hard to be much more clutch than that. I think you hit it on the head. So much of whatever a kicker does is just based on opportunity. You don’t know -- you have to be ready but you don’t know when you come to the stadium whether you’re going to be kicking field goals, kicking extra points, not kicking at all, onside kicking and so forth. Some of that is just by opportunity. You get into game-winning situations or onside kick situations -- when is the last time we’ve onside kicked like that?
"So, it’s infrequent but when it comes up, it means everything," Belichick continued. "That’s really all the more impressive. I think part of it for Steve is just not only did he get it done, but it was a very infrequent play and it was at the most critical time and without it, we wouldn’t have won. All those things are impressive."