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PHOTOS: Patriots Sack Dolphins; Earn First-Round Playoff Bye

The New England Patriots closed out the regular season Sunday with a 28-0 shutout over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

The New England Patriots needed a win against the Miami Dolphins Sunday and a loss by either the Houston Texans or the Denver Broncos to earn a bye in next weekend's AFC Wild Card round.

The Indianapolis Colts took care of the Texans, knocking off Houston in head coach Chuck Pagano's return to the sidelines after a near-season long bout with Leukemia and the Patriots thrashed the Dolphins in a 28-0 win at Gillette Stadium.

Sunday's results mean the Patriots will enter the 2012-13 postseason as the number two seed behind the Broncos, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday to lock up the AFC's top seed. The Pats will rest up during next weekend's Wild Card round before hosting the winner of next Sunday's Indianapolis at Baltimore game or the Houston Texans if they defeat the Cincinnati Bengals next Saturday.

To get there, the Patriots needed to rebound from a lackluster win in Jacksonville last week and they did in a big way against Miami on a cold Sunday afternoon in Foxborough.

Snow from Saturday's storm still occupied many seats around the stadium as fans filed in for a 4:25 p.m. kick-off. Game time temperature was 28 degrees with a wind chill of 16 and 15 mph winds.

None of that matters when your quarterback is Tom Brady, who has built an impressive resume in cold weather games during his 13-year NFL career.

On Sunday, Brady threw two touchdown passes and reached several more career milestones enroute to the 28-0 victory. Running back Stevan Ridley added two scores on the ground to compliment an aggressive Patriots' defense that racked up seven sacks and forced two turnovers to preserve the shutout in the regular season finale.

Brady finished with 284 yards passing, Ridley finished with 74 yards rushing on 20 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and Wes Welker caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski, in his return after a five-week absence from a broken forearm, caught two passes for 42 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown.

Overall, Sunday's regular season finale at Gillette Stadium was a day filled with accolades and milestones for the Patriots as numerous team and individual records were set and the legendary broadcast duo of Gil Santos and Gino Cappalletti were honored before the game. Cappalletti retired in July and Santos announced this will be his last season calling games for the Patriots. Sunday's game against the Dolphins was Santos 743rd broadcast with the Patriots.

New England finishes the regular season 12-4 and will take a week off before preparing for the AFC Divisional Round on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in Foxborough against the Houston Texans or the winner of the Colts/Ravens game.

The following game notes are courtesy of the Patriots Media Relations Department:

PATRIOTS EARN NUMBER TWO SEED IN AFC PLAYOFF FIELD

With the victory over Miami, a Houston loss and a Denver victory, the Patriots earned the number two seed in the AFC playoff field. The Patriots have been the two seed four times previously, including following the 2001 and 2004 seasons in which they went on to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots also earned the two seed following the 1978 and 1996 seasons.

THE PATRIOTS HAVE EIGHTH SHUTOUT IN THE BILL BELICHICK ERA

The Patriots shut out Miami 28-0, recording their first shutout of the season and their first since downing the Tennessee Titans 59-0 on Oct. 18, 2009. The shutout is the eighth for the Patriots since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000. New England had three shutouts in 2003, one in 2005, one in 2006, in 2008 and 2009. It is the 25th shutout in team history.

PATRIOTS FINISH UNDEFEATED IN AFC EAST

With the victory over the Dolphins, the Patriots finish their slate of divisional games without a loss for the second time in team history. The Patriots were a perfect 6-0 in AFC East play in 2007. New England had just one loss in division play in 1986, 1997, 2003, 2004 and 2005, 2010 and 2011.

BRADY MOVES PAST JOHNNY UNITAS WITH THE SECOND LONGEST TOUCHDOWN STREAK

Brady has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 48 straight regular season games after his 9-yard touchdown pass to WR Wes Welker in the first quarter to move past Johnny Unitas (47) for the second longest touchdown streak in NFL history, behind Drew Brees (54).

PATRIOTS BREAK NFL RECORD FOR MOST FIRST DOWNS IN A SEASON

The Patriots set a new NFL record for most first downs in a season after gaining 28 first downs against Miami to give them a total of 444 in 2012.

TOM BRADY GUIDES PATRIOTS TO 7TH 12-WIN SEASON

Tom Brady guided the Patriots to their 12th win in 2012. Since entering the NFL in 2000, Brady’s teams have reached 12 regular-season wins in seven different seasons, tied with Brett Favre for second all-time, behind Peyton Manning.

GOSTKOWSKI HAS SECOND HIGHEST POINT TOTAL IN TEAM HISTORY

Stephen Gostkowski set a single-season career-high after gaining four points against Miami to push his season total to 153. Gostkowski’s previous best was 148 points in 2008. Gino Cappelletti has the Patriots record with 155 points in 1964.

GOSTKOWSKI FINISHES WITH SECOND MOST EXTRA POINTS IN A SEASON

With four extra points against Miami, Gostkowski finished 2012 with 66 extra points, tied for second in Patriots and NFL history to his 74 in 2007.

STEVE GREGORY SETS CAREER HIGH WITH HIS THIRD INTERCEPTION OF THE SEASON

Steve Gregory set a single-season career high when he intercepted Miami QB Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter for his third on the season. The pick helped set up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker. Gregory’s previous single season high was two interceptions in 2010 when he played for San Diego.

ROOKIE JUSTIN FRANCIS RECORDS FIRST THREE NFL SACKS

Rookie DL Justin Francis dropped Miami QB Ryan Tannehill for a 4-yard loss in the first quarter, a 1-yard loss in the third quarter and a 3-yard loss in the fourth quarter for his first three NFL sacks. Francis’ three sacks in a game are tied for seventh all time in franchise history with 30 others. The last three-plus sack game was Andre Carter, who had four at the Jets on November 13, 2011.

PATRIOTS RECORD SEVEN SACKS

The Patriots recorded seven sacks against Miami, which is a season-high. Rookie Justin Francis led the way with three, and Vince Wilfork, Brandon Deaderick, Trevor Scott and Derrick Martin each had one. The seven sacks is the most in a game for the Patriots since they had seven against Miami on December 23, 2007.

WELKER FINISHES WITH 1,354 RECEIVING YARDS

Wes Welker finished the season with 1,354 receiving yards, the fourth highest in franchise history and the second highest total of his career. He had a franchise record 1,569 in 2011.

PATRIOTS SCORE TOUCHDOWNS IN 2012

The Patriots are first in the NFL in 2012 with 67 touchdowns, which is second in team history and tied for fourth in NFL history.  

PATRIOTS FINISH FIRST IN THE NFL WITH 557 TOTAL POINTS

The Patriots finished first in the NFL with 557 points in 2012, which is second in team history to the NFL record of 589 points set by the 2007 team and third in NFL history. The Patriots finished with an average of 34.8 points per game in 2012.

WELKER EXTENDS STREAK TO 110 CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH AT LEAST ONE RECEPTION

Wes Welker extended his streak to 110 straight regular season games with at least one reception, including his time with the Miami Dolphins. He has a streak of 93 straight regular-season games with at least one reception as a member of the Patriots to extend his franchise record. Welker has caught at least one pass in each of his 100 games with the Patriots, including seven postseason games. The last time that Welker did not catch a pass in a game was December 24, 2005 when he was with Miami. He is one of 39 NFL players to have a streak of at least 100 games with one reception. 

PATRIOTS FORCE TURNOVERS

With Steve Gregory’s first quarter interception, the Patriots have forced a turnover in 27 straight games, dating back to 2011 and including the first 16 games of 2012. The last team to have at least one forced turnover in all 16 regular season games was the 2010 Atlanta Falcons. The streak of 27 straight games with a turnover is the longest streak for the Patriots since going 30 straight games with at least one takeaway from 1986 to 1988. The Patriots have now had at least one interception in nine of the last ten games.

2012 PATRIOTS DEFENSE FORCES TURNOVERS

The 2012 Patriots’ defense finished with 421 turnovers in 2012 (20 interceptions and 21 forced fumbles. The Patriots team record is 50 turnovers in 1976. The most forced turnovers under Bill Belichick’s reign with the Patriots are 41 by the 2003 team and 41 by the 2012 team.

WELKER FINISHES THE SEASON WITH 118 RECEPTIONS.

Wes Welker finished the season with 118 receptions, the third highest of his career.

PATRIOTS TWO YARDS SHY OF TEAM MARK IN TOTAL YARDS

The Patriots finished the season with 6,846 net yards through, the second highest in team history and the fifth highest in NFL history.

BRADY THROWS AT LEAST ONE TD PASS IN ALL 16 GAMES FOR THIRD STRAIGHT SEASON

Since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, Tom Brady is the only quarterback to have thrown for at least one touchdown pass in each game for three consecutive seasons. Since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, only eight quarterbacks have thrown for at least one touchdown in each game. Brady and Peyton Manning are the only quarterbacks to do so in 2012.

BRADY MOVES PAST DREW BLEDSOE INTO 9TH PLACE ON THE ALL-TIME PASSING LIST

Brady (44,806) moved past Drew Bledsoe(44,611) into ninth place in NFL passing yards, Drew Brees is in 8th place with 45,523 passing yards entering today’s games.

BRADY MOVES PAST VINNY TESTAVERDE INTO 8TH ON ALL-TIME COMPLETION LIST

Tom Brady (3,798) moved past Vinny Testaverde (3,787) into 8th place in completions. Drew Bledsoe is in 7th place with 3,839 completions.

PATRIOTS SCORE ON THE GROUND

After scoring two times on the ground tonight, the Patriots lead the NFL with 25 rushing touchdowns in 2012. The 25 rushing touchdowns are second to the 30 scored by the 1978 team.

STEVAN RIDLEY BECOMES FIFTH PATRIOTS RUNNING BACK TO REACH 1200 YARDS

Stevan Ridley has a total of 1,263 rushing yards after gaining 74 against Miami. Ridley is the fifth Patriots player to reach 1,200 yards and his 1,263 is fourth in franchise history.

RIDLEY SCORED TWICE FOR HIS 12TH RUSHING TOUCHDOWN OF THE SEASON

Ridley scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and a 2-yard run in the second quarter to push his total to 12 rushing touchdowns in 2012. The 12 are tied with Corey Dillon (2005 and 2004), Antowain Smith (2001) and Steve Grogan (1976) for fifth all-time. It is Ridley’s second career two-touchdown game. He scored two rushing touchdowns at Buffalo on Sept. 30, 2012.

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