New England finished 14-2 and is the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Despite the fact that Sunday’s game didn’t mean anything, the Patriots played with a purpose and looked phenomenal while doing it.
Here are the grades from the regular-season finale.
Tom Brady had his third-best passer rating of the season despite playing without his three leading receivers, and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer threw the first touchdown pass of his career. All the while, BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 80 yards and a score, and he finished the season with a career-high 1,008 yards.
The Patriots had five sacks, one interception and one fumble, and they kept the Dolphins out of the end zone until garbage time. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich had another big game against his old team, notching two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Julian Edelman set a franchise record with a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, Shayne Graham nailed his only field-goal attempt and Scott O’Brien‘s crew outclassed the Dolphins’ special teamers yet again.
Bill Belichick‘s staff got its players to show up and put forth a dominant performance in a game that meant nothing in the standings. That’s not an easy thing to do at this point in the season, evidenced by a number of other eggs that were laid around the league Sunday.
After the Patriots geared the brunt of their coverage toward Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall in Week 4, it appeared as though they shifted their attention to slot receiver Davone Bess on Sunday. Bess torched the Pats in the first meeting of the season — a price the Patriots were willing to pay in order to contain Marshall — but he was held to three catches (on nine targets) for 35 yards and a touchdown this time around. That 21-yard touchdown really boosted the stats with two minutes to go in regulation.