Brady's three-touchdown performance against Miami in the first half put him on pace to break Peyton Manning's NFL single-season touchdown record of 49 by the end of the night. That quest hit a bump in the road when Miami pitched a shutout in the second half, derailing the opportunity to celebrate a record night at home. Still, Brady's three scores - two to Randy Moss - put him one score away from NFL history.
The Patriots victory put them at 15-0 on the season - a mark never held by any other franchise in the NFL's 88-year history, and one win away from the perfect season. Bill Belichick wasn't concerned over the team's proximity to an NFL record. For him, it was just one more win.
"It's good to win and were not really too hung up on that," said Belichick after the game. "Well take one week at a time and get ready for next week."
It was the familiar passing game, which enabled the Patriots to put points on the board early. 10 pass plays called in a row enabled Randy Moss to snare his 20th touchdown of the season - an 11-yard strike from Brady to put the first points on the board.
As the game wore on, Brady appeared to press to get the ball to Moss. Although he had other options, Brady focused on Moss.
"We talked all week about trying to get up on those safeties and trying to give Randy an opportunity down the middle," said Brady of his tendency to lock in on Moss. "It works out pretty well when he catches them; when he doesn't, it doesn't look so good."
Brady threw in Moss' direction five times in the first half, connecting for a pair of touchdowns. In the second half, Brady threw the ball in Moss' direction 8 times, connecting just twice, throwing a pair of interceptions, and having one called for offensive pass interference.
Brady tried to explain the tendency to lock in on his favorite receiver.
"[We] just try to make them defend the deep part of the field and open up things underneath," Said Brady. "I think about the second half and we just didn't execute really the way I thought we were capable but they know Randy's going deep and hopefully they continue to defend it, [that] will open up things for everybody else."
New England Patriots running back Laurence Maroney (39) takes off on a second-quarter touchdown-run against the Miami Dolphins during a football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
After Moss' touchdown, New England's ground game got on track. Maroney turned in a career long 51-yard run that benefited from Moss' blocking downfield. It led to Moss' second score of the game. On the next possession, Maroney surpassed that run with a new career long 59-yard blast to the end zone that put the Patriots on top by 21 and effectively sealed the game. Maroney carried 14 times for 156 yards and 1 touchdown.
Belichick complimented the line and his young back after the win. "It's a combination of good blocking and good running," said the coach. "We had a couple good runs on -- as we had to spread our offense out a little bit, we were able to hit a couple of creases in there and get Laurence through the line. I mean, that's great. [It] gives us good balance offensively."
Brady agreed it was nice to see Maroney get on track.
"It was great. It was great. I thought it was one of the best games he's played," said Brady." He had some great runs there was some great blocking by Heath [Evans] on both those runs."
Ever the diplomat, Brady complimented the blocking of the backs and receivers who sprung Maroney as well. "Heath had some great blocks. Receivers blocked downfield. That's always critical on those long runs, so I thought Laurence played great. It's exciting to see for him. Sometimes people forget about him but we certainly don't. He obviously [has] big play capability that he showed today."
Maroney concurred that the line opened holes big enough for a truck to drive through.
"I cant take credit for those plays because the O-line and Heath Evans did such a good job blocking that anyone could have run through that,' Said Maroney. "All I had to do is show some speed and make sure not to get caught."
Miami was unable to counter the Patriots offensive output in the first half, needing adjustments in the second half, and a pair of Brady interceptions to slow down the scoring. After a Jason Allen interception in the end zone, Miami punted the ball. On the next possession, Brady threw another interception on a pass intended for Moss again.
Cleo Lemon tried to put points on the board, but a bad decision on his part - running out of bounds too close to the pylon- gave New England the ball back on the one-inch line. But New England could do nothing with the ball, and had to punt it back. Lemon then drove Miami back down the field, connecting with Greg Camarillo, to put Miami's only points on the board and conclude the scoring for both teams at 28-7.
Gaffes by the Dolphins could have made the game closer. An incomplete pass fourth and 4 from the Patriots 4-yard line just before the half, was the first blown scoring opportunity. The run out of bounds by Lemon from the New England 1 in the third quarter was a second opportunity wasted. Although Miami did score, it was far too little, too late.
The Dolphins drop to a woeful 1-14 record while Brady and the Patriots improve to 15-0 with a chance to go undefeated if they can beat the New York Giants in New York on Saturday night.
Official Game Thread: Patriots vs Dolphins (Pats site)