New England beat the Miami Dolphins 23-16 on Sunday, clinching the Patriots' fourth straight AFC East title. New England grabbed the win despite Tom Brady and the prolific Patriots offense being held somewhat in check. Brady only managed 238 yards with one touchdown and one interception, good for a season-low quarterback rating of 74.8.
With their offense struggling, New England needed a big performance from their defense, and that's exactly what they got. Greg Knopping of SB Nation's Patriots blog Pats Pulpit had nothing but good things to say about the defensive performance:
Of course, the main reason the Patriots won this game was because of the way the team played on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots flat out brought it today on defense, playing what was arguably their best 60 minutes of football this year. As the second half began, and each Patriots' drive stalled, the defense held strong and allowed the team to maintain their narrow lead. In total, the unit racked up three sacks and held the Dolphins to 3.7 yards per carry, 277 total yards, and allowed Ryan Tannehill to complete just 13 of his 29 passes. Not to mention they also allowed the Dolphins to convert just three of 13 third down tries.
New England entered the game with the 27th-ranked defense, allowing 390.2 yards per game. The pass defense had been especially bad, as the Patriots were 30th in that department prior to Sunday. But those issues did not show up against Miami.
Now that New England has clinched the division, the team will fight for playoff positioning. The Patriots, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens are all 9-3, two games behind the Houston Texans in the AFC. The Patriots and Texans square off next Monday night.