Wizards

Pats clinch AFC East title by beating Miami 23-16

201212021224446532116-p2.jpeg

Pats clinch AFC East title by beating Miami 23-16

MIAMI (AP) Savoring victory in the visitors' locker room, the New England Patriots wore division champion caps and T-shirts. Lately they get new ones every year.

With a quarter of the regular season still to go, the Patriots clinched their fourth consecutive AFC East title Sunday by beating familiar foil Miami 23-16.

The Patriots (9-3) improved to 5-0 in the division this year and defeated the Dolphins for the fifth time in a row. They won their 12th consecutive December game, and they're assured of their 12th winning season in a row.

They believe they're just getting going.

``This is when the best teams really start to separate themselves,'' quarterback Tom Brady said. ``You have to continue to get better and better and better.''

While a playoff berth is assured, the Patriots trail Houston by two games in the race for the No. 1 conference seed.

``We have a bigger goal than this,'' tight end Aaron Hernandez said. ``This is a start, but we've got to keep going.''

New England's on a roll with six consecutive victories, but there was nothing dazzling about the latest win.

Instead, Dolphins mistakes proved pivotal. A botched punt, a roughing-the-punter penalty and a fumble by Miami resulted in 17 New England points, and another penalty negated a Dolphins touchdown. In addition, Ryan Tannehill twice missed an open Brian Hartline deep.

As a result, the Dolphins (5-7) hurt their already slim playoff chances.

``Too many mistakes,'' coach Joe Philbin said. ``To beat a good opponent in December, you have to play better.''

The Patriots finished with a season-low 321 yards. Brady went 24 for 40 for 238 yards with four sacks, and even threw an interception for the first time during the winning streak.

But with New England nursing a 20-13 edge midway through the fourth quarter, Brady led a 16-play drive that took more than seven minutes and set up Stephen Gostkowski's third field goal.

``It's always good to win,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ``It's not about the stats, it's about wins.''

The drive that sealed the victory included 10 rushes by Stevan Ridley for 46 yards.

``We pounded away on a great defense, and they finally gave in a little,'' Ridley said.

Miami defensive ends Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick spent an extended time together on the sideline during the decisive drive. They declined to second-guess their coach.

``There was a different rotation this game, just the way we scheduled it,'' Odrick said.

Brady was intercepted for the first time in 203 attempts, and for only the fourth time this season. His passer rating was a season-low 74.8.

``We got after him, just not good enough,'' Odrick said.

Trevor Scott led New England's stout defensive effort with two sacks, including one to force a fumble that set up a field goal. Jerod Mayo sacked Tannehill on third down midway through the fourth quarter, forcing the Dolphins to settle for a field goal.

The Patriots' Wes Welker tied Jerry Rice's NFL record by making at least 10 receptions for the 17th time. He had 12 catches for 103 yards and a score.

Tannehill went only 13 for 29 for 186 yards, and twice he failed to connect with Hartline for potential long gains.

``We just didn't hit the shots that were there,'' Tannehill said. ``I'm still kicking myself.''

NOTES: Dolphins T Jake Long left the game in the first half with a left triceps injury. ... Patriots G Dan Connolly left in the first quarter with a back injury. ... Welker has 1,064 yards receiving. He surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone with the Patriots for the fifth time, a team record. ... Ridley rushed for 71 yards and has 1,010 this season. ... Dolphins reserve S Jonathon Amaya was inactive after being charged with battery Monday in a confrontation with a taxi driver.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

With another low shot total for Otto Porter, Coach Brooks says Porter needs to do more to help himself

otto_shooting.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

With another low shot total for Otto Porter, Coach Brooks says Porter needs to do more to help himself

After a night in which Otto Porter Jr. only took nine total shots, just two of them in the second half, many questions from Wizards reporters in the postgame locker room centered on how the team can get him more involved. This came on the heels of a seven-shot, zero-three outing for Porter against the Heat on Thursday and a preseason in which getting him more attempts was a persistent storyline.

It sounds like some are tired of talking about it. Point guard John Wall, who is part of the equation as the team's main distributor and highest usage player, put it in relatively strong terms.

"This will be the last time I talk about Otto Porter getting threes," Wall said. 

Wall went on to explain how it's a combination of defenses taking away the three-point line for Porter and the flow of the game creating better shots for others. It's a common explanation Wall has given on the matter in recent weeks, and it's understandable.

Head coach Scott Brooks has admitted his own role in Porter not getting enough shots, how more plays could be called for the small forward. But after the loss to Toronto, one in which Porter played just south of 25 minutes, he was a bit more blunt in his assessment.

Brooks believes Porter can be doing a lot more to help himself.

"Gotta get yourself open," Brooks said. 

When asked about Porter playing fewer minutes than usual, Brooks went on about the need for guys to play hard. That warranted a follow-up, as it seemed Brooks was questioning Porter's hustle.

Brooks explained what he meant by that in detail.

"You've got to move. You've got to set yourself up. You've got to run the floor. We got a fast point guard. I don’t know if you guys know that but he’s fast and if our wings aren’t running, what good is it when you’re going to have a one-man break? What makes teams play with pace is guys running." 

"I love Otto. You guys know that. But he has to play faster. He has to. Physically, he’s not going to jump over anybody and dunk over everybody, but he has to get himself into position. He’s a big-time player for us. He’s a glue guy. He makes winning basketball plays. He gets in plays but he has to do that consistently for us. He can’t do it for a half. He has to do it for the entire game. The guy can do it. I’ve seen it. He didn’t do it tonight but he’s going to bounce back. He didn’t do it the first two games but he’s going to bounce back and do it. And we need it.”

Porter, 25, was the Wizards' most efficient player last season, but averaged only 11.5 shots per game. With one of the best three-point shots in the NBA, the numbers suggest he should have a larger role.

The Wizards insist they are trying to get him more involved. In their eyes, it's time for Porter to do his part.

Quick Links

Bradley Beal honored to pass Gilbert Arenas on all-time three-pointer list

Bradley Beal honored to pass Gilbert Arenas on all-time three-pointer list

Saturday night produced a link between some of the best players in recent Wizards/Bullets franchise history.

With a fourth-quarter three, Bradley Beal surpassed Gilbert Arenas on the franchise list for career triples

Beal, an All-Star last season, has already established himself as one of the best to play for Washington in decades. Afterwards, he paid homage to the man whose record he broke.

"I was always a fan of Gil. He was Agent Zero," Beal told NBC Sports Washington. 

"I loved everything about him; his confidence, his swagger on the floor. Granted, everyone talks about his off-the-court stuff, but what he did on the court is just untouchable. It's untouchable. He's a legend, for sure. Part of me wishes I could have played with him and just learned from him in a lot of ways. That's an accomplishment for me. I'm happy I was able to surpass it because he is a legend, in my opinion anyway."

Arenas' tenure with the Wizards was epic for its highs and lows. At his peak, he was arguably the most dangerous scorer in the NBA. But his downfall both on the court and off has left him as a notorious figure in the game's recent history.

John Wall, who has assisted on many of Beal's three-pointers, played with Arenas back in the 2010-11 season as a rookie. He is happy for his current teammate, who now has a distinct place in the team's history books.

"He's probably the best shooter I've ever played with in my eyes, so it's great to see him accomplish that," Wall said. "He's going to keep setting the bar higher and higher."

Beal passed Arenas in just the second game of his seventh NBA season. He's only 25 years old, so odds are he will keep adding to his franchise record for many years to come.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: