The New England Patriots finished the regular season on a high note, beating the Miami Dolphins, 28-0, on Sunday to close out 2012 with the second seed in the AFC and a first round bye in the postseason.
It was a win that Greg Knopping from SB Nation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, called a "complete victory from start to finish" as well as "something the team needed heading into the postseason after back-to-back lackluster performances."
The Patriots welcomed back tight end Rob Gronkowski from injury. After missing the last five weeks with a broken forearm, Gronkowski had two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, preparing him to see more time in the postseason. About the offense, Knopping wrote:
The story of the day had to be the protection of quarterback Tom Brady. Brady has been hit a lot over the past few weeks, and facing an excellent pass rush from the Dolphins that included Pro Bowl end/linebacker Cameron Wake, it could have been problematic. Fortunately, the Patriots' line of Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, and Sebastian not only held up, but had arguably their best performance of the season. There's also no doubt that having Rob Gronkowski back, to place on Wake's side, also helped.
For a defense that had struggled in recent week giving up big games, holding the Dolphins to a shutout was a good sign. As Knopping said:
Defensively, the score says just about everything. The Patriots played a full 60 minutes against the Dolphins, and had arguably their most complete defensive performance of the year.
Following the bye through Wild Card week, the Patriots will host the highest remaining AFC team on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 4:30 p.m. ET.