Patriots

Patriots

Here are a few quick-hit impressions from the Patriots' 35-14 rout of the Dolphins on Sunday, which locks up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

PATRIOTS 35, DOLPHINS 14

* There were some who wondered just how much Julian Edelman would play in the season finale, myself included. The thinking was that he is so important to the Patriots' postseason chances that keeping him healthy might be even more important that home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Well, not only did Edelman play, he played a lot . . . and he ended up with a career day. His 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run gave him career highs in three different categories: Longest catch, most receiving yards in a game and most receiving yards in a season. He finished with 8 catches for 151 yards on 12 targets, and he cracked 1,000 yards receiving for the second time in his career. 

* Edelman got through the day, it seemed, with his health intact. But he took a handful of big shots over the course of the afternoon; He was dropped on a long incompletion in the first quarter that left him a little bit bloodied, and after the play he drew an unsportsmanlike penalty; on a punt return late in the third quarter he absorbed another hard hit; and after a third-down completion in the third, Edelman came to the sidelines jesturing toward his right leg. He remained in the game, however, and appeared no worse for wear. 

* Tom Brady finished the game hitting 25-of-33 passes for 276 yards and three scores for a quarterback rating of 130.4. On the season, he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 28-to-2, which is the best all-time, better than the mark set by Nick Foles (27-to-2) in 2013.

 

* Trey Flowers continues to be one of the most dominant defenders the Patriots have on their roster. He had a dominant first series of the game, stuffing two runs and recording a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion on third down. In total, he had three run-stuffs and two quarterback hits. Chris Long said recently that Flowers may be the best defensive player on the Patriots, and he only built on his cause for that title in the season-finale.

* Michael Floyd was expecting to see a larger workload with Malcolm Mitchell banged up this week, and he did. He was used in three-receiver packages and made his presence felt with his physicality. He caught a slant for 14 yards and fought through six Dolphins defenders to plow into the end zone for his first touchdown catch as a member of the Patriots. He also made a nice toe-tapping nine-yard catch near the sideline in the second quarter. But the most impactful play he made -- literally and figuratively -- was on a block he made on defensive back Tony Lippett to help spring Edelman free for his long score. Floyd recognized that Edelman had wriggled free, followed the play and de-cleated Lippett with a clean hit where he led with his shoulder. That's the type of play that will help the newcomer garner some respect from his teammates and the Patriots coaching staff. 

* The Patriots defense continues to create turnovers at an alarming clip after a slow start to the season when it comes to that category. Logan Ryan's interception and Devin McCourty's fourth-quarter strip (and Shea McClellin's scoop) gave the Patriots 14 turnovers since Week 12. From Weeks 4-11 they forced just two.