The New England Patriots secured their sixth straight AFC East title with a convincing 41-13 win over the Miami Dolphins in NFL Week 15. After a disappointing first half offensively, Tom Brady and Company went on a 27-0 run in the second half, highlighted by this perfect touchdown pass on a Rob Gronkowski seam route.
The Patriots defense and special teams each made a key play, enabling New England to take a slim one-point halftime lead into the locker room. First, Jamie Collins’ blocked field goal on Miami’s game-opening possession led to a 62-yard Kyle Arrington touchdown return. In the second quarter, Duron Harmon’s 60-yard return after intercepting Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill set up Shane Vereen’s 3-yard scoring run.
The New England first-half offense? Non-existent, with 102 total yards.
However, Tom Brady and his troops exploded in the final 30 minutes halftime for 27 unanswered points, including this perfectly executed 27-yard strike from Brady to Rob Gronkowski to extend New England’s lead to 18.
Taking over on the Miami 27-yard line following a Patrick Chung interception, Brady is under center with 12 personnel on the field and Gronkowski in the slot to the quarterback’s left. The Dolphins have their base 4-3 defense on the field with the secondary showing Cover 3. The tight end will run a simple go route down the seam:
The end-zone angle shows how Gronkowski enjoyed inside leverage on his route from the start. Safety Jimmy Wilson (#27) is in man coverage and utilizes an outside alignment. Free safety Reshad Jones (#20) lines up in the middle of the field directly over the football. The alignment of these two defenders gives the tight end the positioning he needs for his route:
Brady’s throw drops in perfectly, right between the two safeties, as Jones arrives a step late:
The pass impresses even more when considering how Brady stood in the pocket knowing he would take a hard shot from 300-pound defensive tackle Jared Odrick:
Placing the elements together, we see Brady hang in the backfield as Gronk runs free down the seam:
Brady finished the day 21 of 35 throws for 287 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception of a tipped pass. Gronkowski continued his strong season with 3 receptions for 96 yards and the one touchdown, giving the tight end 76 catches for 1,093 yards and 11 TDs on the year.
With yesterday’s triumph, the Patriots not only secured a division title but remain in control for the top seed in the AFC. New England finishes the season with divisional games against the Jets and Bills. With a victory next weekend at MetLife Stadium and a bit of help (a Bengals win over Denver in Cincinnati), the Patriots can secure home field advantage through the conference playoffs.
All video and images courtesy NFL, CBS and NFL Game Rewind unless otherwise noted.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.