Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won the AFC East in Miami on Sunday
The stadium formally known as Joe Robbie stadium has always been the New England Patriots “little shop of horrors”. No matter how good the New England Patriots are, or how bad the Miami Dolphins are, it always plays out as a game that the Patriots will find some way to choke away down the stretch. Today could have been one of those days, especially with how well the Dolphins were getting after Tom Brady. Over the years, that has been a sign of success for the Dolphins and failure for the Patriots.
Instead, it became one of their most encouraging wins of the season for two relatively simple facts.
They won a game where they clearly were not at their best.
They proved that they can win a game with their defense and running game.
Fact number one was obvious to see from the naked eye. Tom Brady was okay, having more in common with the Tom Brady of 2004 then the Tom Brady who has since won two MVP award including the only unanimous one in NFL history. He hit all his short throws, helped move the ball down the field and made few errors, the only one being an interception that was on account on fantastic coverage. Was the final statistical line a fantastic line that won the Patriots the football game? Not at all, and that is why the Patriots weren’t at their best offensively. Even the running game was stagnant until the final quarter of the game, and yet they won the football game. That is a good sign for the future of this team.
Perhaps more importantly, the defense came up big again and again. After plenty of offensive drives stumbled for the New England Patriots, the defense was there to hold the Dolphins to only 16 total points on the day. It was the front seven who stole the show with their tough physical play and slowly but surely, the defense is becoming less of an afterthought on this football team. If this defense played at the level they were at three weeks ago, they lose this game by a touchdown. Not today.
Next week is the real litmus test. A date with the AFC leading Houston Texans may decide this team’s playoff fate. They need a win against a quality opponent on their resume to justify their place among the NFL’s elite teams. A win next week could change this team’s fortunes for the rest of the season.
One last thing. The Patriots are AFC East champions. It may be the ninth time in ten years, but it never gets old. It’s also the first step towards the ultimate goal. Only two more championships and they are champions of the NFL.