Final

Dolphins 24

(5-10, 2-6 away)

Patriots 27

(12-3, 6-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 24, 2011

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
MIA 3 14 0 724
NE 0 0 17 1027

Top Performers

Passing: T. Brady (NE) - 304 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: R. Bush (MIA) - 22 CAR, 113 YDS

Receiving: B. Marshall (MIA) - 6 REC, 143 YDS, 1 TD

Patriots erase 17-0 deficit, clinch first-round bye

ESPN.com news services

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots emphasize playing well for 60 minutes every game. On Saturday, 30 was enough -- barely.

Rallying from their worst half of the season, the Patriots scored on their next five possessions and clinched a playoff bye with a 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

"You don't want to, certainly, make a habit of this," said Tom Brady, who scored on two 1-yard sneaks and threw for a 1-yard touchdown. "We showed some resiliency."

New England (12-3) won its seventh straight game. After the Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, the Patriots needed a win or a tie to lock up one of the top two spots in the AFC.

"It's good to clinch," said Deion Branch, who caught the touchdown pass from Brady, "but not by the way we played. It's not the way you want to do it."

Miami (5-10) lost for the third time in eight games after opening at 0-7 and is 1-1 under Todd Bowles, who took over when Tony Sparano was fired.

"First half we came out and played our tempo and our ballgame," Bowles said. "The second half they made us play theirs."

The AFC East champions trailed 17-0 at halftime but made the necessary adjustments and went to their no-huddle offense more, keeping the Dolphins from making defensive substitutions. And Brady was on target after a first half in which heavy defensive pressure against a makeshift offensive line affected his accuracy. He completed just 7 of 19 passes for 87 yards and was sacked three times in the half.

But in the second half, he completed 20 of 27 passes for 217 yards, finishing at 27 for 46 for 304 yards and leading one scoring drive after another -- a 45-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, the scoring pass to Branch, his own sneak that tied the game, Gostkowski's 42-yard go-ahead kick after Devin McCourty's first interception of the year, and the other sneak with 2:56 to go, making it 27-17.

The Dolphins made it closer on Matt Moore's 15-yard scoring pass to Davone Bess with 1:48 to play. They had three timeouts left, but their hopes faded when Brady hit Wes Welker for a 6-yard gain and a first down.

"We had (Brady's) number in the first half, but in the second half he came out and made a lot of plays," Miami linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "He is a coach on the field."

The Dolphins seemed headed for a victory and got a break even before the game started when Patriots left tackle Matt Light hurt his ankle in warmups and didn't play. Left guard Logan Mankins took his spot, but he left with a knee injury suffered on New England's second series.

"There's always things that are going to go wrong in a football game and things aren't going to work out the way you want them to all the time," said Welker, who finished with 12 catches for 138 yards after managing just two for 20 in the first half. "The main thing is just playing a full 60 minutes and never giving in and understanding that one drive and one score (can) get things going."

The Patriots punted on their first six series of the first half then missed a field goal on the other. The Dolphins struggled in the second half when Moore fumbled the snap at his 38-yard line and Vince Wilfork recovered, starting the drive capped by Branch's touchdown.

"They committed penalties in the first half," Dolphins guard Richie Incognito said. "We turned the ball over and committed penalties in the second half. That is never a good recipe."

Reggie Bush had another outstanding game for Miami with his fourth straight rushing day of at least 100 yards. He finished with 113 on 22 carries one week after gaining a career-high 203 yards.

His latest performance gave him 1,086 yards rushing for the season, the first time in his six years, the first five with the New Orleans Saints, that he passed 1,000.

"It really doesn't mean anything right now," he said. "This one's pretty tough."

The Dolphins had taken a 3-0 lead on Dan Carpenter's 47-yard field goal 4:01 into the game and made it 10-0 with 1:15 gone in the second quarter on Moore's 19-yard pass to Brandon Marshall.

They stretched that to 17-0, the Patriots biggest deficit of the season, on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Moore to Charles Clay. The 89-yard drive was helped by two defensive pass interference penalties on third down.

But the Patriots remained calm in the locker room at intermission.

"There wasn't a bunch of yelling," Wilfork said. "We just came in and said we've got to play better, we've got to make more plays."

They did. The Dolphins didn't.

"Our guys fought," Bowles said, "but we didn't finish."

Game notes

Dolphins left tackle Jake Long tore his biceps during the game, a source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen. Long left the game early in the second quarter and did not return, according to multiple reports. ... Welker set a franchise record for one season with 1,518 yards receiving. He broke the mark of 1,493 set by Randy Moss in 2007. ... Bush was checked by medical personnel on the sideline late in the game. "Something in my leg just didn't feel right," he said. "I'm walking. If it was serious, I wouldn't be walking." ... Moore completed 17 of 33 passes for 294 yards, his highest total as a Dolphin. He threw for more than that with the Carolina Panthers once in 2009 and once in 2010. ... The victory was the largest comeback by the Patriots from a second-half deficit since Nov. 10, 2002 when they beat the Chicago Bears 33-30 after trailing 27-6 in the third quarter.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
MIA
NE
1st Downs2026
Passing 1st downs
1316
Rushing 1st downs
510
1st downs from Penalties
20
3rd down efficiency
5-138-17
4th down efficiency
0-01-1
Total Plays6581
Total Yards374400
Yards per play5.84.9
Total Drives1313
Passing253281
Comp - Att
16-3227-46
Yards per pass
7.96.1
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks - Yards Lost
5-284-23
Rushing121119
Rushing Attempts
2831
Yards per rush
4.33.8
Red Zone (Made-Att)3-33-4
Penalties6-395-50
Turnovers20
Fumbles lost
10
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession29:0430:56

Passing Leaders

MIAC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Moore16/322818.8315-28
NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady27/463046.6104-23

Rushing Leaders

MIACARYDSAVGTDLG
Bush221135.1012
Marshall11313.0013
NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Ridley13644.9018
Woodhead4205.008

Receiving Leaders

MIARECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Marshall614323.814711
Hartline47218.00398
NERECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Welker1213811.504219
Gronkowski77811.10229

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERMIANE
miaFG10:59Dan Carpenter 47 Yd 30
SECOND QUARTERMIANE
miaTD13:45Brandon Marshall 19 Yd Pass From Matt Moore (Dan Carpenter Kick) 100
miaTD06:31Charles Clay 1 Yd Pass From Matt Moore (Dan Carpenter Kick) 170
THIRD QUARTERMIANE
neFG11:39Stephen Gostkowski 45 Yd 173
neTD07:10Deion Branch 1 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 1710
neTD02:17Tom Brady 1 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 1717
FOURTH QUARTERMIANE
neFG08:55Stephen Gostkowski 42 Yd 1720
neTD02:56Tom Brady 1 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 1727
miaTD01:48Davone Bess 15 Yd Pass From Matt Moore (Dan Carpenter Kick) 2427

Research Notes

In the 27-24 victory over the Dolphins Wes Welker set the single season Patriots record for the most receiving yards in one season. Wes Welker also caught 123 receptions in 2009, the most catches in a single season in New England franchise history. He has a chance to break that with eight more receptions against the Bills next Sunday.
  [+]
The Patriots rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to beat the Dolphins 27-14. It's the 1st time Brady has ever rallied from at least a 17-point halftime deficit. In doing so Brady joins Rich Gannon as the only quarterback 34 years or older to have ten 300 yard passing games in one season. Brady has a chance to break this mark versus the Bills on New Years Day.
  [+]
Tom Brady threw for 304 yards vs the Dolphins, his 10th 300-yard passing game this season. That is tied for the 2nd-most such games in NFL history, and one behind the record that Drew Brees set this year already.
  [+]
From Elias: The Patriots have won 11 straight games in December, tied for the 4th-longest streak all-time.
  [+]
This is the 2nd time that the Patriots have been shut out in the first half at HOME this season. The last time the Patriots were shut out in the first half at HOME at least twice in a season was 1993, when it happened 4 times. They went 5-11 that season.
Reggie Bush went over 1,000 yards rushing today. Brandon Marshall entered today's game with 1,021 receiving yards. This is the first time in Dolphins history they have had a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver in the same season.
The Patriots rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Dolphins, 27-24. It's the first time the Patriots have overcome a 17-point halftime deficit to win a game since overcoming a 28-7 halftime deficit to defeat the Colts 31-28 in 1999.
The Patriots trail the Dolphins 17-0 at halftime. It's their biggest halftime deficit in a regular season home game since Week 10 in 1999, when they trailed the Jets, 21-3.

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