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New England Patriots secure home field throughout postseason

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange 

The New England Patriots (14-2), who have won the AFC East Division in 14 of the past 16 years, beat the Miami Dolphins 35-14 on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The New England Patriots' charter flight to Miami had fueling issues and was delayed by three hours.
But once the Patriots landed in Miami, everything went smoothly, especially for quarterback Tom Brady, who wasn't sacked, wasn't intercepted and wasn't even touched.
It was simply too easy for Brady, who passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots clinched home field throughout the AFC playoffs, beating the Miami Dolphins 35-14 on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
"Getting off to a good start was important," Brady said of New England's 20-0 first-half lead. "This is a place where we have struggled in the past."
Brady completed 25 of 33 passes. Wide receiver Julian Edelman caught eight of Brady's passes for 151 yards and one touchdown.
The Patriots (14-2), who have won the AFC East Division in 14 of the past 16 years and have also won four Super Bowls during that span, will get a first-round playoff bye.
Miami (10-6), which had already clinched its first playoff berth since 2008, will be underdogs in its first-round playoff game next week at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since 2000.
The Dolphins cut their deficit to 20-14 midway through the third quarter when the Patriots commandeered the momentum back on their side. Brady hit Edelman with a short pass that became a 77-yard touchdown after fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd hit cornerback Tony Lippett with a big crack-back block.
"That's just me doing the little extra stuff -- getting the job done for my teammates," said Floyd, who was signed after being dropped from the Arizona Cardinals last month following his arrested and being charged with DUI. "It looked like Lippett might be able to catch (Edelman).
"I wanted to make sure it was a legal hit so I wouldn't get that piece of paper in the mail (an NFL fine) for 10 grand."
New England took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 13 plays, including a two-yard TD pass from Brady to tight end Martellus Bennett. The drive took nearly eight minutes (7:32).
The Patriots made it 14-0 on their next possession, driving just 45 yards on five plays, including Brady's 14-yard pass to Floyd, who broke a would-be tackle by middle linebacker Kiko Alonso. Floyd pushed past two other defenders and barely got into the end zone.
New England scored again on the first play of the second quarter, a 40-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The score was set up by cornerback Logan Ryan's interception.
Another Gostkowski field goal, this time from 26 yards, extended New England's lead to 20-0 with 3:21 left in the half. Gostkowski's kick capped a 15-play, 82-yard drive that took 8:19.
Miami finally got on the board with just 28 seconds left in the half. The Dolphins drove 75 yards on 10 plays, scoring on an eight-yard pass from Matt Moore to Jarvis Landry. After the catch, Landry broke a tackle attempt by Dont'a Hightower.
The Dolphins cut their deficit to 20-14, opening the third quarter with a 12-play, 76-yard drive that chewed up 6:21. The drive ended with Moore's 25-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills.
That's when Brady hit Edelman for the game-changing touchdown and a painful blow for Lippett.
"(Floyd) got me when I wasn't looking," said Lippett, who was checked for a concussion but returned to the game. "It was a good hit."
After that, Miami still had a chance, trailing 27-14 and with a second-and-goal at the New England nine. Moore hit backup running back Damien Williams in the left flat. But safety Devin McCourty forced a fumble, and linebacker Shea McClellin recovered it and rumbled 69 yards.
That set up a one-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. After a two-point conversion on a pass to Edelman, the Patriots had a 35-14 lead.
"I felt good about where we were headed on that series," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of the drive that ended with Williams' fumble. "We were going to go for it so we had two downs to try to figure out a way to get in.
"You just can't turn the ball over there."
-- The Patriots were without WRs Malcolm Mitchell (knee), WR Danny Amendola (ankle) and CB Cyrus Jones (knee).
-- Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower (knee) and special-teams captain Matthew Slater (foot) were active after missing last week.
-- The Dolphins were without several starters, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee), DE Mario Williams (ankle), CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) and LB Jelani Jenkins (knee). Other starters who had previously been ruled out for the rest of the season include C Mike Pouncey; TE Jordan Cameron, LB Koa Misi, S Reshad Jones and S Isa Abdul-Quddus.
-- The Patriots were nine-point favorites.

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