PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Tom Brady didn't play much since the game was essentially meaningless, but he threw two touchdowns in limited action and even found himself reinserted into the lineup when backup Brad Hoyer started off shaky. Hoyer, nonetheless, threw for 122 yards and a touchdown, continuing the trend of New England quarterbacks having their way with the Dolphins.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- All in all, the Patriots ran the ball with ease. They totaled 181 yards on 45 carries, an average of 4.0 per carry. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 80 yards and a touchdown to lead the charge and Fred Taylor made a rare appearance with 35 yards on 10 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Patriots held Miami's passing attack in check, starting with Tayler Thigpen, who threw for 169 yards and got sacked twice. The Patriots applied plenty of pressure Sunday, also sacking backup Chad Henne three times while limiting him to 71 yards on only six completions.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Dolphins couldn't get anything going with their run game. Thigpen was actually their leading rusher, which shows how ineffective Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were. The Patriots held Miami's top two rushers to just 19 combined yards on 12 carries. The Dolphins didn't run much, but they didn't get many yards when they did.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The big play was Julian Edelman's record-setting 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, capping off a season in which the Patriots' special teams unit made as big an impact as they've had at any point during the Bill Belichick era. The Patriots continue to survive without starting kicker Stephen Gostkowski and they've proven they can swing the momentum in the field-position battle when necessary.
COACHING: B -- Although it was strange to see Brady come back into the game considering the outcome had no bearing on the team's playoff seeding, it sends the message that mediocrity will not be tolerated. Kudos to Belichick for maintaining the same approach on a weekly basis, even Sunday in a game the Patriots did not need to win.
DOLPHINS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Tyler Thigpen came off the bench to produce a 91.2 passer rating, and his 21-yard touchdown pass to Davone Bess with 2:11 left saved the Dolphins from suffering a second shutout in their final seven games. However, Chad Henne reached a new low (25.8 rating) and was yanked due to performance in the second quarter, no matter what Tony Sparano says about a rotation being "predetermined."
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- What rushing offense? The Dolphins averaged just 2.8 yards on 16 first-half carries then didn't run the ball a single time in four second-half series. Take out Tyler Thigpen's 21 scrambling yards, and the Dolphins rushed 13 times for 23 yards (1.8-yard average).
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- So what if three of Tom Brady's top targets were sitting out? He and backup Brian Hoyer still managed to shred the Dolphins' secondary for a combined 321 yards on just 29 attempts. Their combined 131.5 rating was indicative of the Patriots' dominance. Oh, yeah, and the Dolphins failed to record a single sack and had just four quarterback hits.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- That Dolphins surge that had seen them hold teams to a 2.5-yard rushing average in December went poof, even with the Patriots sitting their starting right guard. New England piled up 181 rushing yards and averaged 4.0 yards a pop.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Dan Carpenter's late-season slump continued when he hooked a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter when the game was still just 7-0. Brandon Fields outkicked his coverage at the end of the first half and Reshad Jones missed the first of several tackles on Julian Edelman's 94-yard punt return, the longest allowed in Dolphins history.
COACHING: F -- So much was on the line -- not in terms of the playoffs but in terms of the staff's job security -- how could the Dolphins look so unprepared? The Patriots were sitting four offense starters and several more on defense and still pounded the Dolphins.
This report courtesy of the Sports Xchange.