It was ugly, but it was a win.
The Patriots on Sunday defeated AFC East foe Miami, 35-17, at Gillette Stadium to notch their seventh straight victory and hand the Dolphins their fifth conecutive loss.
But it was a sloppy affair that saw several players suffer injuries.
“I wish we’d be playing perfect football, but it’s not the case all season long,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “It was a good win today. Thirty-five points, and the defense, they made a bunch of plays. We’ll stay after it.”
After committing just five turnovers in their first 10 games of the season, the Patriots did not have their usual level of ball security against the Dolphins. Brady threw his third interception of the season and Ted Karras botched a snap that was returned for a Miami touchdown.
“It was just a bad decision,” Brady said of his interception. “Third down. I tried to kind of stuff it in there to Danny [Amendola]. He was running an in cut and they played a coverage that was pretty good for covering those plays and I just forced. Try not to do that very often.”
New England was whistled for seven penalties for 70 yards after drawing just three flags for 15 yards in its last two contests; road games against the Raiders in Mexico City and the Broncos in Denver.
And although Brady was sacked just once, he was hit eight times, an indication that the injuries along the offensive line of late have caught up with the unit.
“I definitely took some shots,” Brady said. “They’re a tough D-line. I mean, they obviously made a lot of investments in that group, and those guys play really hard. They got some good shots on me today, but I’ll be back at it and be ready to go Wednesday.”
Special teamer Nate Ebner left with a knee injury after a successful fake punt on the game’s opening possession. Linebacker Trevor Reilly suffered a head injury at the start of the second half and did not return. Trey Flowers and Marquis Flowers each limped off after sacking Matt Moore in the third quarter, although Trey Flowers eventually returned in the fourth quarter. Offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (leg) left the game in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the nature of football, guys going down,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Guys will come back in here tomorrow and do everything they can to get back out there on the field. All tough guys who understand football. As [Jerod] Mayo used to say, it’s 100 percent injury rate. We’ll all work on it and try to stay out there.”
Despite the uncharacteristic sloppiness, the Patriots still churned out some highlights.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski set the franchise record for multi-touchdown games with 16, surpassing Randy Moss’s mark of 15. Brady found Gronkowski for two touchdowns, the 72nd and 73rd times they have hooked up for a score, moving the pair ahead Drew Brees and Marques Colston for fifth most in NFL history.
Dion Lewis piled up 112 rushing yards on 15 carries (7.5 yards per carry), the first time in his career he surpassed the 100-yard mark on the ground. In typical Lewis fashion, his performance included several runs where he dashed, juke, and darted away from, around, and between defenders. He also gained yards in big chunks with runs of 13, 22, 25, and 25 yards.
“He runs with so much confidence and he runs with anger at times. I think a lot of people think because he’s a little guy, you can get a hand or two on him and you’ll be able to bring him down. But for me, since college, I played him, he’s always been tough to bring down,” McCourty said. “Not just juking guys, but getting angles on guys and trying to make them make tackles with one arm. He’s going to run through those arm tackles and he was big for us today and really all year, in the running game and the passing game.”
With Lewis and Burkhead doing the heavy lifting, the Patriots rolled up a season-high 196 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
“When you can hand the ball off and make big chunks of yards, it alleviates a lot. We made a bunch of those plays today. We got some really good backs who are running hard, finding holes and creases and turning smaller gains in to big gains. If you can do that, and obviously pass the ball well, we’re going to be a pretty good offense.”
The Patriots’ defense forced three turnovers, an interception in the end zone by Stephon Gilmore, a forced fumble by Van Noy that was recovered by safety Patrick Chung, and an interception by safety Duron Harmon late in the fourth.
The pass rush came on in a major way in the second half. Linebacker Elandon Roberts recorded the first two sacks of his NFL career, defensive lineman Eric Lee — making his Patriots debut — tallied one, cornerback Jonathan Jones got to Moore once, Trey Flowers added two, and Van Noy chipped in with one.
“It was an aggressive game,” Brady said. “They’ve got an aggressive defense, but we made enough plays. It was good to win a division game at home. So, 9-2. Just keep grinding. Isn’t it fun?”
4th quarter: Patriots 35, Dolphins 17
Tom Brady threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, finding Brandin Cooks for a 5-yard score to extend the Patriots’ lead.
The touchdown was set up by a 25-yard run by Dion Lewis, which put him over 100 yards on the ground for the first time in his career.
New England capitalized after Miami had turned it over on downs at its own 38-yard line.
Earlier in the quarter, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (leg) left the game and are questionable to return.
4th quarter: Patriots 28, Dolphins 17
Miami’s Matt Moore found running back Kenyon Drake for an 8-yard touchdown to cut New England’s with about 12 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Dolphins’ drive, which began after the Patriots failed to convert on fourth and 1 from the Miami 25-yard line, was eight plays and 73 yards.
Both Flowers hurt
New England’s Trey Flowers and Marquis Flowers combined to sack Matt Moore on a second and 13 from Miami’s 17-yard line, but both came up dinged on the play.
Trey Flowers eventually jogged off the field and appeared OK while Marquis Flowers stayed on the ground before limping to the sideline with the help of a trainer. Marquis Flowers had a short stint in the medical tent before rejoining teammates on the sideline.
Trey Flowers returned to the game at the start of the fourth quarter.
Another turnover for Miami
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy forced running back Kenyon Drake to fumble near midfield on the Dolphins’ second possession of the second half. Safety Patrick Chung recovered it, his second fumble recovery of the season, and got it to the Miami 45-yard line, where Tom Brady & Co. took over.
On the Dolphins’ drive, running back Damien Williams went down with a shoulder injury and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
3rd quarter: Patriots 28, Dolphins 10
For the second time in the contest, Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown, this one for 15 yards.
It was Gronkowski’s seventh touchdown catch of the season, and Brady’s 25th touchdown pass of the year.
Want a TD?— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 26, 2017
Who ya gonna call?
ROB. GRONK. OWSKI. pic.twitter.com/rVfvXnqYsp
Gronkowski now holds the franchise record for most multi-touchdown outings (16), surpassing Randy Moss (15).
Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain has been ejected for throwing a punch at Danny Amendola.
McCain intercepted Brady in the second quarter.
Reilly, Perry shaken up on second half kickoff
Dolphins backup running back Senorise Perry and Patriots linebacker Trevor Reilly collided helmet-to-helmet on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Reilly, who was with the Dolphins earlier this season, walked off slowly with trainers and went straight to the locker room. A cart was brought out for Perry, but he instead walked with trainers to the locker room.
Reilly was downgraded to out after initally being ruled doubtful to return with a head injury. Perry was evaluated for a concussion. He was ruled out.
Total yards: NE 282, MIA 126
Plays: NE 34, MIA 31
Yards per play: NE 8.3, MIA 4.1
Third down: NE 2 of 4, MIA 1 of 5
Time of possession: NE 15:59, MIA 14:01
Tom Brady: 14-of-20 passing for 183 yards, 2 TD, INT
Matt Moore: 9-of-15 passing for 75 yards, INT
NE: Rob Gronkowski 4 catches, 67 yards, TD; Brandin Cooks 4 catches, 56 yards; Phillip Dorsett 1 catch, 39 yards; Danny Amendola 1 catch, 15 yards; Dion Lewis 4 carries, 41 yards; Rex Burkhead 6 carries, 34 yards, TD, 1 catch, 1 yard, TD.
MIA: Jarvis Landry 6 catches, 60 yards; Damien Williams 6 carries, 26 yards, 2 catches, 10 yards; Kenyan Drake 7 carries, 21 yards.
Gilmore gets his second INT as a Patriot
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore put a stop to a Miami trip to the red zone just before halftime.
Matt Moore underthrew it to Devante Parker in double coverage in the end zone, allowing Gilmore to make a play on it and leaving the Dolphins without any points on their final drive of the half.
Brady throws an interception
On third and 8 from the New England 48-yard line, Tom Brady threw his third interception of the season.
Targeting Danny Amendola at the Miami 35-yard line, Brady threw it up and cornerback Bobby McCain came down with it, making his second interception of the season.
Miami took over at its own 35.
The Patriots had five turnovers in 10 games coming into Sunday’s contest. They’ve given it away twice against the Dolphins.
It was Brady’s first interception since the one he threw to Buster Skrine against the Jets in Week 6.
2nd quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 10
Cody Parkey made a 28-yard field goal to trim the Patriots’ lead, capping off a nine-play, 65-yard drive.
Thirty-four of those yards were courtesy of a pass interference call on Malcolm Butler that gave the Dolphins the ball at the New England 10-yard line.
However, Miami couldn’t advance beyond the 10 and was forced to settle for a field goal.
2nd quarter: Patriots 21, Dolphins 7
Rex Burkhead notched his second touchdown of the game — and fourth of the season — on a 1-yard pass from Tom Brady.
It capped a nine-play, 78-yard drive for the Patriots that included a 37-yard pass from Brady to Brandin Cooks on third and 14.
On the season, Burkhead has three receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, and Cooks has eight receptions of 30-plus yards.
Brady is now 12-of-16 passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns and has connected with seven different receivers. The Patriots have 260 total yards and are averaging 9.0 yards per play.
2nd quarter: Patriots 14, Dolphins 7
On second and 4 from the New England 38-yard line, center Ted Karras — filling in for David Andrews, who is out with an illness — snapped the ball before Tom Brady was ready. The ball went by Brady with two Dolphins on his tail.
With Brady unable to secure it, Dolphins safety Reshad Jones scooped it up at the New England 14-yard line and made his way into the end zone for Miami’s first points of the contest.
1st quarter: Patriots 14, Dolphins 0
Two possessions, two touchdowns for New England.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected for a 5-yard touchdown, extending the Patriots’ lead.
It capped a nine-play, 88-yard drive that included four plays of 15 or more yards: 22-yard run by Dion Lewis, a 15-yard completion to Danny Amendola, and completions of 20 and 21 yards to Gronkowski.
Brady now has 23 touchdown passes on the year (to two interceptions) and Gronkowski has a team-high six touchdown receptions.
Gronkowski has now passed Kellen Winslow for 10th all-time in reception yards for a tight end. Brady and Gronkowski have connected for a touchdown 73 times, passing Drew Brees and Marques Colston for fifth most in NFL history.
1st quarter: Patriots 7, Dolphins 0
On the Patriots’ first possession, it looked like they would go three-and-out.
But they ran a fake punt on fourth and 8 from their own 27-yard line, and Nate Ebner broke off a 14-yard run for the first down.
Four plays later, Rex Burkhead plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out.
The drive was eight plays and 75 yards and included a 39-yard pass from Tom Brady to Phillip Dorsett and runs of 13 and 5 yards by Dion Lewis.
Ebner was hurt on the fake punt, was taken into the locker room, and ruled out for the rest of the game with a knee injury.
Obviously not a great sign for Ebner that the Patriots could rule him out so quickly. New England is now without him and Matthew Slater, both core special teamers.— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) November 26, 2017
The Dolphins won toss and deferred. The Patriots will start on offense.
For the Patriots, center David Andrews, receiver Chris Hogan, tackle Marcus Cannon, special teamer Matthew Slater, running back Mike Gillislee, tight end Martellus Bennett, and cornerback Eric Rowe.
Gillislee is inactive for the third straight game as Rowe misses his seventh consecutive contest. Defensive lineman Malcom Brown is active after being sidelined for the last three games. Bennett is out for a game for the first time as a Patriot.
For the Dolphins, quarterback Jay Cutler, safety Maurice Smith, cornerback Torry McTyer, guard Isaac Asiata, guard/tackle Jermon Bushrod, receiver Rashawn Scott, and defensive end Williams Hayes.
Welcome to Gameday
It’s Week 12 and the Patriots are back in the confines of Gillette Stadium after a 10-day trip to Denver and Mexico City.
In just their second division game of the season, New England hosts the Miami Dolphins. The two teams play again in two weeks.
The Patriots are trying to add their seventh straight victory while the Dolphins are aiming to snap a four-game losting streak.
Follow along here as we update this post throughout the game.
Here is Jim McBride’s thorough scouting report, which includes keys to victory and players to watch. Also for your pregame reading, Ben Volin examines the Patriots’ competition (or lack thereof) in the AFC, and breaks down the top NFL story lines heading into the final six weeks of the season. And Nora Princiotti penned a poignant and lovely feature on offensive tackle Nate Solder and how his family has coped with his son’s cancer diagnosis.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: CBS / WBZ 98.5.
A few notes on the Patriots and Dolphins
■ Tight end Martellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring) was listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game and was ultimately inactive.
■ Center David Andrews (illness) was ruled out for a second straight week, one of three Patriots who are certain to miss Sunday’s game. Wide receiver Chris Hogan (shoulder) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) will not play after, like Andrews, missing the entire week of practice.
■ Quarterback Tom Brady (Achilles’) declared himself fit to play Sunday and was taken off the injury report Friday.
“I feel great,” Brady said. “Yeah, ready to go, so I’ll be excited for Sunday. It was good just to get a little extra treatment, and I’m feeling great this time of year. So, it’ll be a fun week. Nothing to worry about.”
■ Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed practice Wednesday with an illness, but was also taken off the injury report Friday.
“Yeah, I’m good,” Gronkowski said. “Just a little illness that went by quick. Definitely thankful for that, that it was super-quick and back. I’m good to go. Had a good practice today.”
■ Wide receiver Danny Amendola (knee), defensive tackle Malcom Brown (ankle), safety Patrick Chung (ankle), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), and special teams captain Matthew Slater (hamstring) are all listed as questionable after being limited in practice.
— Nora Princiotti, Globe Staff
■ The Miami Dolphins ruled out quarterback Jay Cutler for Sunday’s game against the Patriots in Foxborough. Cutler remains in the concussion protocol, leaving Matt Moore to make his second start of the season.
■ Ndamukong Suh said this summer it would take a perfect game to beat the Patriots. Speaking with the New England media this week, the big Dolphins defensive tackle backed off those comments. Well, somewhat backed off. “I think you want to play a perfect game at all times, but understanding the reality is that nothing is going to be perfect,’’ he said. “So you do what you can to control and combat opportunities to not allow them to score points and different things of that nature, and go from there.’’
■ In Miami quarterback Matt Moore’s last 14 starts, he has completed 248 of 394 passes (62 percent) for 2,930 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He’s 0-3 vs. the Patriots in his career.
■ Since 2013, Rob Gronkowski and Miami’s Julius Thomas have 35 TD catches, tied for second behind Seattle’s Jimmy Graham (41) among tight ends.
■ Miami’s Cameron Wake has 88½ career sacks, second most for an undrafted player (John Randle, 137½).
■ David Harris is third among active players with 1,092 tackles while Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons (1,007) is sixth.
■ The Dolphins have lost eight straight in New England.
■ Here’s your chance to be a Secret Santa: Fans attending Sunday’s game are asked to bring new, unwrapped toys to the bins around Gillette Stadium or the Patriots Pro Shop. The toys will be delivered to children in need by Patriots players at upcoming holiday events.
— Jim McBride, Globe Staff
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Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.