for this game

Patriots keep perfect run intact

Dec 24, 2007 - 2:45 AM
By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

FOXBORO, Massachusetts (Ticker) - The New England Patriots used the Miami Dolphins to continue their assault on the NFL record book.

Tom Brady threw two of his three first-half touchdown passes to Randy Moss, and Laurence Maroney rushed for a career-high 156 yards as the Patriots coasted past the Dolphins, 28-7, at Gillette Stadium.

In the process, the Patriots became the first 15-0 team in NFL history and now stand one win away from the first perfect regular-season mark since the 1972 Dolphins. It is the most wins by the franchise in history.

"It's great to be 15-0. I thought it was a great first half and our defense played really well," Brady said. "In the second half, we didn't execute as well as we wanted but fortunately we played well enough in the first half to create a big enough of a lead. The defense played great."

New England also matched its own NFL record by winning its 18th consecutive regular-season contest, tying the record it set in the 2003-04 seasons. The Patriots can shatter that mark and complete a perfect season when they visit the New York Giants on Saturday night.

"It's good to win and we're not really too hung up on that," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We'll get ready for next week. We'll take one week at a time and get ready for next week."

Maroney needed just 14 carries to register his second straight 100-yard performance and third of the season, highlighted by a pair of runs over 50 yards.

The Dolphins (1-14) could not build on the momentum of their only victory of the season last week and finished the season winless on the road in eight tries.

Brady, Moss and the Patriots showed early on their intention of putting the game out of reach early.

After forcing the Dolphins to punt, the Patriots took their first drive and marched 70 yards in 10 plays, culminating with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Moss.

Five plays earlier, Brady just missed Moss when he overthrew the Pro Bowl-bound receiver in the right corner of the end zone.

Maroney's first big run of the day, a 51-yard scamper through the middle of the Dolphins' defense on the first play of their third drive, led to New England's next touchdown. The play stood momentarily as the longest run of his career.

Brady and Moss hooked up for their second touchdown in the second quarter from 1 yard out following an interference call on Travis Daniels, resulting in a 13-yard penalty.

For Moss, it was his 21st touchdown catch, one short of Jerry Rice's 1987 single-season record for wide receivers.

"I'm not speaking for Tom, I'm speaking for myself, this is a team," Moss said. "There's no individual play here. I think how Coach prepares us week in and week out, he wants us as a team to do whatever we can to win the game. If the touchdown record for a wide receiver is broken, it's broken, if it's not it's not. As long as we keep doing what we're doing and keep winning."

Maroney bettered his own mark on the next drive when he used a crushing block by fullback Heath Evans and sprung off left tackle for a 59-yard touchdown that put the Patriots ahead, 21-0.

Brady and the Patriots went back to the air for their fourth touchdown, a 48-yard strike to Jabar Gaffney down the left sideline that gave the Patriots a 28-0 advantage.

"We don't really think about the records while we're out there playing football," Gaffney said. "We just keep playing football the whole time and all that stuff will take care of itself."

It was Brady's 48th touchdown pass, leaving him one shy of Peyton Manning's mark set in 2004. He finished 18-of-33 for 215 yards with two interceptions and two fumbles.

"It's exciting for the team," Brady said. "A lot of those team record are fun, most points scored and so forth. That's pretty cool considering the history of the NFL."

New England's defense got into the act just before halftime when linebacker Tedy Bruschi broke up Cleo Lemon's pass on 4th-and-goal at the 4-yard line with 17 seconds remaining in the second to take their four-touchdown lead to the locker room.

"Fifteen-and-0 is nice," Bruschi said. "It feels good, just like I said last week, 14-and-0 was nice and felt good. To get another one is great. We're going to feel good about it for the next couple of days until we come back on Wednesday and go back to work."

The Patriots seemed a lock to shatter the league's single-season scoring record at halftime, but failed to put up a point in the second half and remain six shy of eclipsing the mark of 556 set by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998.

Brady, looking to add to his numbers and those of Moss, was intercepted twice in the third quarter while trying to find his star receiver. The second of those interceptions led to Miami's next prime scoring chance.

On 4th-and-goal at the New England 1, quarterback Cleo Lemon scrambled to his right and headed for the front pylon but ran out of bounds and failed to get the ball inside the marker for the score.

"They made big plays in the first half and that was obviously the difference in the first half because a lot of good things were done," Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. "We get some turnovers and weren't able to capitalize on those. We get opportunities with goal to go and aren't able to execute and get the job done. As I told the team, we're going to look at the tape, there were plenty of opportunities there."

Miami finally broke through when Lemon threw to a 21-yard touchdown pass to Greg Camarillo late in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 28-7.

In a season of historical accomplishments, the Patriots set another team mark Sunday when they won their sixth divisional game, completing the first perfect AFC East record in team history.

"It would be hard to single anybody out," Belichick said. "We had certainly a lot of production offensively. Our defense came up with a couple of big stops in the red area. I'm happy to win. It's good to win the division, sweep the division."