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Patriots earn No. 2 playoff seed

Stevan Ridley scored two of the Patriots’ three touchdowns in the first half.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Stevan Ridley scored two of the Patriots’ three touchdowns in the first half.

Final, Patriots 28, Dolphins 0 — The Patriots (12-4) clinched the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs Sunday with a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots moved up to the No. 2 spot after the previously top-seeded Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts, 28-16, earlier in the day.

The Patriots were denied the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC by virtue of Denver’s easy 38-3 win over the Chiefs. The Broncos (13-3) will have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, meaning a potential AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Broncos would be played in Denver.

Here’s how the seeding of the AFC playoffs breaks down: No. 1: Broncos No. 2: Patriots No. 3: Texans No. 4: Ravens No. 5: Colts No. 6: Bengals In the wild card round of the playoffs, the No. 3 seed plays No. 6 and No. 4 plays No. 5.


The Patriots wrapped up the Miami Dolphins quickly with Stevan Ridley punching in two second-quarter touchdowns in with win to end the regular season.

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Ridley finished with 74 yards on 20 carries. Tom Brady was 22 of 36 for 284 yards passing with two touchdowns.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had suffered a broken left forearm Nov. 18, returned to much fanfare, catching two passes for 42 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown.

Gronkowski still appeared apprehensive with his arm, refusing to use that limb to engage defenders. But he managed to catch both passes over the middle.

Wes Welker caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown


6:30 4th quarter: Patriots 28, Dolphins 0 -- Justin Francis is cleaning up for the Patriots. He got his third sack of the game. Pretty good for a rookie free agent. Defensive back Derrick Martin also got a sack on the Dolphins’ last series, marking seven sacks in the game for the Patriots, a season high.

9:20 4th quarter: Patriots 28, Dolphins 0 -- The fans were awoken from their slumber with another monstrous spike by Rob Gronkowski. They hadn’t seen one of those in more than a month.

Tom Brady found Gronkowski over the middle of the field for a 23-yard touchdown to cap a 6-play, 47-yard drive. Fans at Gillette Stadium celebrated by throwing snow up in the air. Just a play prior, Brady hit Wes Welker for a 7-yard catch on fourth down to extend the Patriots’ drive.

11:47 4th quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 -- Armon Binns dropped a pass on fourth down as the Dolphins turned the ball over on downs. Sort of represents the Dolphins’ whole day. They can’t get back to the beach fast enough.

13:33 4th quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 -- The Patriots just went three-and-out, with Tom Brady targeting Danny Woodhead twice after getting a pass tipped on first down. Not a good drive.


End of 3d quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 -- I think both teams want to get out of this game at this point without any injuries. The Patriots for playoff purposes, and the Dolphins to properly enjoy their soon-to-be extended vacation.

Tom Brady is 17 of 29 for 231 yards and one touchdown

0:24 3d quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 — Justin Francis got his second sack of the day, taking down Ryan Tannehill for a 1-yard loss as the Patriots forced the Dolphins’ fourth punt of the night.

1:18 3d quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 — Despite a 20-yard pass to Wes Welker, and what appeared to be another catch he made in between his legs, the Patriots were unable to get their second drive of the third quarter past the 50.

A Tom Brady pass to Welker, that appeared to be caught in between his legs as he rolled over, was picked up by a Miami defender and returned for a touchdown. But after reviewing the play, Welker never made the catch and the play was overturned

4:13 3d quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 — Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. The Dolphins wer marching down the field on their best drive of the game, before Ryan Tannehill fumbled at the Patriots 3-yard line with Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower recovering.

Miami has slept through half of this game, but it looked like they were serious about making this competitive for at least one drive. That just went up in smoke.

7:49 3d quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0—- Miami’s Bryan McCann got loose on a cornerback blitz and picked up an 8-yard sack on Tom Brady to force the Patriots’ second punt of the game.

The Patriots appeared to come out lethargic in the second half. Let’s see if they pick it up.

Daniel Fells, who left the game with a hand injury, has returned

11:48 3d quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 0 -- Back to back sacks by Vince Wilfork and Trevor Scott forced the Dolphins to punt on their opening drive of the second half. Ryan Tannehill did complete a 19-yard pass to Reggie Bush. But Jerod Mayo tracked him down before he could get far.

End of the 2d quarter: 21, Dolphins 0 -- The first half comes to a close with the Patriots holding a firm lead over the Dolphins.

Tom Brady is 14 of 22 for 193 yards and a touchdown. Stevan Ridley has 10 rushes for 30 yards and two touchdowns.

The Dolphins have picked up eight first downs in the game have only 22 rushing yards. Ryan Tannehill is 7 of 13 for 95 yards with an interception.

1:00 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Dolphins 0 -- Stevan Ridley punched in a 2-yard touchdown run as the Patriots have now taken a three-touchdown lead over the Dolphins. The touchdown capped a 14-play drive that ate up 5:25 of game clock.

1:53 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Dolphins 0 -- Rob Ninkovich has a hip injury and his return is questionable. It was not a leg injury, as I previously indicated.

Also, Daniel Fells has a hand injury. His return is also questionable

6:28 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Dolphins 0 — Rob Ninkovich is being helped off the field after the Patriots forced a 41-yard field goal try by the Dolphins’ Nate Kaeding that was wide left. It looks like Ninkovich suffered a left leg injury. We’ll keep you posted with any updates

10:26 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Dolphins 0 -- On fourth-and-goal, at the Dolphins’ 1-yard line, Stevan Ridley punched in the touchdown as the Patriots took a two-touchdown lead over the Dolphins.

The Patriots finished a 13-play, 92-yard drive that spanned 7:28. There were a couple of big plays to Danny Woodhead (25 yards) and Wes Welker (23 yards) on the drive.

After the Patriots scored, fans in the stadium picked up the snow near their seats and began throwing it up in the air to celebrate. Definitely one of the more awesome scenes we’ve seen at Gillette all year.

End of 1st quarter: Patriots 7, Dolphins 0 — After one quarter of play, Tom Brady is 9 of 14 for 140 yards and a touchdown. The Dolphins have managed only three first downs with Ryan Tannehill tossing an interception, picked off by safety Steve Gregory.

The Patriots went up on a 9-yard touchdown by Brady to Wes Welker. Rob Gronkowski has a catch for 19 yards. He still looks a bit ginger, but better than he did in Super Bowl XLVI when he was coming off the ankle injury.

2:40 1st quarter: Patriots 7, Dolphins 0 -- Patriots defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick sacked Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill for a 7-yard loss as the Patriots forced the Dolphins to punt again. It was Deaderick’s first sack of the season.

6:40 1st quarter: Patriots 7, Dolphins 0 — It took only two plays to capitalize on Ryan Tannehill’s interception. First, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 19-yard pass across the middle. Then Brady followed it up with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker over the middle. Welker was wide open.

7:15 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 — Patriots safety Steve Gregory intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass that was thrown right into coverage. The Patriots took over at the Dolphins’ 28-yard line.

8:27 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 -- Tom Brady looks a little off, unable to connect on a number of passes today already. He missed normally easy throws to Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd and then a pass to Aaron Hernandez on third down was broken up by Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson leading to a 25-yard punt by Zoltan Mesko. Brady is 4 of 9 for 54 yards.

Because of the wind at Gillette Stadium today, expected to average 25 miles per hour, the Patriots have already made a couple of questionable calls in regard to the kicking game. They passed up on field goal opportunity on their first series to go for it on fourth down and then punted at the Dolphins 33.

10:35 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 -- Patriots defensive lineman Justin Francis came up with a coverage sack, a loss of four yards, on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill as Miami went three-and-out on their first drive.

11:43 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 -- Tom Brady threw two straight incompletions as the Patriots turned the ball over on downs just outside the Dolphins’ red zone.

Stevan Ridley, who rushed for 19 yards on four carries, crossed the 1,200-yard threshold on the season. He’s the fifth Patriots running back to reach 1,200.

15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 -- The Dolphins won the coin toss and elected to defer until the second half. The Patriots will receive the opening kickoff.

Game on!

Pregame: We’re about to get underway here at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots’ final game of the regular season.

With the Indianapolis Colts win over the Houston Texans earlier this afternoon, the Patriots can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win.

It’s 28 degrees here in Foxborough with temperatures expected to fall to 18 degrees. Wind is supposed to average 25 to 26 miles per hour, so that will definitely be a factor.

Stay tuned right here for all the updates, series by series.