By Daniel Libon
Editor's Note: Information in this article is courtesy of Patriots Media Relations.
The Patriots have escaped the snow of New England at least for this weekend as they head to Miami to face the Dolphins in a Week 15 showdown.
The Patriots can clinch their fifth straight AFC East Title and qualify for the playoffs for the 21st time in its 54 year history with a win this week against the Miami Dolphins. It would also be the 15th playoff berth in the 20 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, a dramatic contrast to the six total playoff berths that the team earned in its first 34 years of existence.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
To help you get ready for the game, here is what you need to know:
TV and Radio Information
TELEVISION: This week’s game will be broadcast to a national audience by CBS. Jim Nantz will handle play- by-play duties with Phil Simms providing color. The game will be produced by Lance Barrow and directed by Mike Arnold.
NATIONAL RADIO: This week's game will be broadcast to a national audience by Westwood One Sports. Tom McCarthy and Rod Woodson will call the game.
LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 FM, The Sports Hub, is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis.
The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will square off for the 97th time, including three playoff games, in their 48th year as division foes and for the second of two meetings of the 2013 season. The Patriots extended their streak to seven straight wins over Miami after a 27-17 victory at Gillette Stadium in the first meeting on Oct. 27, 2013. The Patriots have won three straight at Miami.
The Dolphins and Patriots met for the first time in 1966 and began playing twice a year during the regular season in 1967, except in 1982 during the strike year.
The Patriots swept the series in the last three seasons (2010-2012) and will be looking for a fourth straight sweep and their 10th series sweep overall this week.
The Patriots have swept the season series for three straight seasons two times (1986-88) and (2010-12) but have never swept the series for four straight seasons.
The Patriots have won nine of the last 10 games against Miami.
The Patriots have had the upper hand at home against Miami, as they hold a 30-17 record in games played in New England in the regular-season, including a 10-2 record at Gillette Stadium. But the Patriots are only 15-33 all-time in Miami, including two postseason games.
The two have played three times in the postseason with New England holding a 2-1 advantage.
The Last Time They Met
On Oct. 27, the New England Patriots improved to a 6-2 record with a come-from-behind 27-17 victory over the visiting Miami Dolphins.
Trailing 17-3 after gaining just 59 yards in the first half, the Patriots quickly turned the game around in the third quarter with two touchdowns in a span of seven plays.
The Patriots ran for 111 yards in the second half, recorded six second-half sacks, and forced three second-half turnovers to lead the comeback.
Tom Brady, who completed six-of-eight pass attempts for only 25 yards in the first half, threw for 76 of his 116 yards in the third quarter.
After Miami missed on a 46-yard field goal attempt that would have extended the lead to 20-3 in the third quarter, a 23-yard run by RB Stevan Ridley and a 23-yard pass from Brady to TE Rob Gronkowski helped set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brady to WR Aaron Dobson that closed the gap to 17-10 to begin the comeback.
The Patriots regained possession two plays after the kickoff when CB Logan Ryan forced a fumble on a 10-yard sack of Miami QB Ryan Tannehill that was recovered by DE Rob Ninkovich at the Miami 13-yard line. Three plays later, RB Brandon Bolden scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 17.
New England took the lead for good when K Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 48-yard field goal to make it 20-17 with 8 seconds left in the third quarter.
Brady led the Patriots on their longest drive of the game when he engineered a 12-play, 82-yard drive that took 7:46 off the clock before Ridley scored on a 3-yard run to give expand the lead to 27-17.
The outlook at halftime was bleak after the Dolphins had rushed for 103 yards. Brady’s first pass of the game was intercepted by CB Dimitri Patterson and helped set up a Miami touchdown. The Dolphins added to their lead with a 10-point second quarter.
The Patriots defense had a season-high six sacks – all coming in the second half and held Miami scoreless in the second half to help drive the comeback.
S Marquice Cole recorded his first interception of the season when DB Devin McCourty batted an errant Tannehill pass, volleyball-style, back into the field of play where it was hauled in by Cole early in the fourth quarter. The play gave New England a first down at the Miami 18-yard line and set up a 13-play, 82-yard drive that ended in Ridley’s 3-yard touchdown run and a 27-17 Patriots lead.
DE Chandler Jones blocked a 39-yard Miami field goal attempt with 2:51 remaining in the game to help thwart a Miami comeback attempt. The block came with Miami seeking to make the game a one-score contest, as it trailed 27-17 in the fourth quarter.
What to Look For
- Bill Belichick has led the Patriots to 10 division titles and needs one more to tie Don Shula for the most division titles since the merger with 11.
- Belichick is 49-8 (.860) in December with New England, the best record in December among head coaches with one team in NFL history (min. 25 games). George Seifert is second (27-6, .818).
- Belichick will be looking for his 11th 11-win season as a head coach, behind only Don Shula (13).
- Tom Brady (3,685) needs 315 yards passing to reach 4,000 yards for the sixth time in his career. He will join Brett Favre (6), Dan Marino (6), Drew Brees (8) and Peyton Manning (13) as the only player to have at least six seasons with 4,000 passing yards.
- Brady (146) needs one more win to tie Dan Marino (147) for the fourth-most wins in NFL history by a starting quarterback.
- Brady will be looking for his 11th division championship, the most by any NFL quarterback. Joe Montana and Peyton Manning have nine division titles.
- Brady to throw for 300 yards for the fourth straight week.
- Brady (4,116) needs eight pass completions against Miami to pass John Elway (4,123) for fifth place on the NFL’s all-time pass completion list.
- Aaron Dobson (35) needs nine receptions to move past Deion Branch (43 in 2002) for the most receptions by a rookie receiver for the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. Dobson’s 492 yards are the most by a rookie receiver under Belichick. Dobson moved past Branch, who had 489 yards in 2002. Dobson’s four touchdowns are tied with fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins for the most by a Patriots rookie receiver under Belichick. Chad Jackson had three touchdowns in 2006.
- Julian Edelman needs one more punt return for a touchdown to set the team mark with his fourth punt returned for a touchdown. He is tied with Irving Fryar and Troy Brown with three returns for a touchdown.
- Edelman has 775 yards receiving in 2013 and needs to average 75 yards over the final three games to reach 1,000 yards.
- Stephen Gostkowski has scored in a team record 104 consecutive games and needs to score at least one point against Miami to extend that mark.
- Gostkowski (30) has his second season with 30 or more field goals and needs six more field goals in the final three games to match his franchise record of 36 field goals set in 2008.
- Gostkowski has made 22 straight fourth quarter field goals.
- Kenbrell Thompkins (466) needs 37 yards to pass Wes Moore for the most receiving yards (502 in 1995) by a Patriots rookie free agent. Thompkins already has the most touchdowns by a Patriots undrafted rookie (4) and needs 12 receptions to tie Moore for the most receptions by a Patriots undrafted rookie receiver.
- The Patriots can earn their fifth straight AFC East Title with a win on Sunday. It would match the five straight the Patriots won from 2003 through 2007 as the longest streak in AFC East history.
- A Patriots win can extend their NFL-best December record with a win vs. Miami. The Patriots are 47-6 in the month of December since the 2001 season. The next best team is Philadelphia with a 38-17 record.
- The Patriots have not allowed any fourth quarter points in their last five AFC East games and will look to extend that streak to six against Miami.
Notes of Interest
- Bill Belichick (215) moved past Hall of Famer Chuck Noll (209) into fifth place all-time on the NFL wins list with the Patriots 30- 27 win against New Orleans. Curly Lambeau is in fourth place with 229 career wins.
- Belichick (18) needs one more postseason victory to tie Don Shula (19) for second place in postseason wins. Tom Landry (20) is in first place.
- Belichick has five conference titles and needs one more to match Don Shula, who led his teams to six Super Bowls.
- Belichick has led the Patriots to 13 consecutive winning records (2001-13), third all-time behind 20 by Tom Landry (1966-85) followed by 14 by Curly Lambeau (1934-47).
- Tom Brady has 58 career 300-yard games and ranks fifth all- time for most 300-yard games and third among active players.
- Brady (34) reached 30 touchdown passes in 2012 for the third straight season and became just the fifth player in NFL history with at least 30 touchdown passes in four seasons overall.
- Brady (4,827) reached 4,000 passing yards in 2012. He is just the fifth player in NFL history to reach 4,000 yards in five or more seasons: Peyton Manning (13), Drew Brees (8), Dan Marino (6) and Brett Favre (6).
- Brady is the only quarterback in NFL history to have thrown for at least one touchdown pass in each game for three consecutive seasons (2010-12).
- Brady had 401 completions in 2012 for the second straight season and joined Drew Brees (5), Peyton Manning (2) and Matthew Stafford (2) as the only NFL quarterbacks with at least two 400 completion seasons.
- Rob Ninkovich has 11 fumble recoveries over the last four seasons (2010-13), the most of any player in the NFL over that time. Vince Wilfork is second with seven.
- Stevan Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards in 2012 and will be looking to become the third Patriots player with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, joining Jim Nance (1966-67) and Curtis Martin (1995-97).
- Ridley scored 12 touchdowns in 2012 and will look to become the fourth running back in team history with back-to-back 10- plus touchdowns in a season, joining Corey Dillon (2004, 2005, 2006), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010, 2011) and Curtis Martin (1995, 1996).
New England Ties
- Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin is a native of Springfield, Mass., and received his first coaching job as the offensive line coach for Worcester (Mass.) Technical High School from 1986-87. Philbin also served as the offensive coordinator at Northeastern University from 1995-96.
- Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman is a native of Norwood, Mass., and attended Central Connecticut State in New Britain, Conn. Sherman also spent four years as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. from 1985-88.
- Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle graduated from the University of Massachusetts and spent nine years at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator.
- Eight members of the Dolphins staff, including Philbin and Sherman, are New England natives. Seven hail from Massachusetts while one grew up in Connecticut. The other six New Englanders are:
- Offensive Line Coach Jim Turner: Braintree, Mass. native, Boston College graduate.
- Wide Receivers Coach Ken O’Keefe: Milford, Conn. native, former Worcester (Mass.) Academy Head Coach.
- Assistant Director of Pro Scouting Chris Shea: Belmont, Mass. native and Boston College graduate.
- Director of College Scouting Chris Grier: Holliston, Mass. native and University of Massachusetts graduate.
- Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Dave Puloka: Arlington, Mass. native and Holy Cross (Worcester, Mass.) graduate.
- Pro Scout Adam Howe: Raynham, Mass. native and Bridgewater (Mass.) State graduate.
- WR Kenbrell Thompkins is a native of Miami, Fla. and attended Miami Northwestern High School, located just 10 miles north of Sun Life Stadium.
- Patriots DT Vince Wilfork hails from Boynton Beach, Fla., Located about 50 miles north of Miami, and was a standout defensive lineman at the University of Miami.
- Dolphins Director of College Scouting Chris Grier joined New England as an intern in 1994 and joined the club full- time the following year, serving as a regional scout for six years until joining the Dolphins in 2000. Grier is a native of Holliston, Mass. and attended the University of Massachusetts, where he played football for two years.
- Dolphins DT A.J. Francis joined the Patriots at the beginning of the regular season and spent the first 12 weeks on the practice squad before signing with the Dolphins on Nov. 26.
- Patriots Special Teams Coach Scott O’Brien spent two seasons (2005-06) with the Dolphins as coordinator of football operations/assistant to the head coach under Nick Saban.
- Patriots DL Rob Ninkovich was claimed by the Dolphins on Sept. 7, 2007 and spent two seasons in Miami as a reserve defensive end before signing with the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 3, 2008.
Former NFL Teammates
- Patriots T Will Svitek was teammates with Dolphins T Tyson Clabo and CB Brent Grimes for three seasons (2009-12) on the Atlanta Falcons. Svitek and Clabo were positional teammates and started 10 games together at left and right tackle during Atlanta’s 10-6 playoff season in 2011.
- Svitek was also teammates with Dolphins CB Dimitri Patterson during the 2007 season on the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Dolphins LB Jason Trusnick joined Patriots DB Marquice Cole and TE Matthew Mulligan during the 2009 season on the New York Jets.
- Patriots WR Austin Collie was teammates with Dolphins LB Philip Wheeler for three seasons from 2009-11 on the Indianapolis Colts.
Former College Teammates
- Patriots LB Brandon Spikes was teammates with Dolphins C Mike Pouncey for three seasons (2007-09) and K Caleb Sturgis for two seasons (2008-09) at the University of Florida. The trio won a BCS national championship together in 2008.
- Spikes was also teammates with Dolphins LB Jelani Jenkins and RB Mike Gillislee during the 2009 season at Florida.
- Patriots RB Shane Vereen and Dolphins S D.J. Campbell were teammates for three seasons (2008- 2010) at the University of California.
- Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount was teammates with Dolphins DE Dion Jordan during the 2009 season at the University of Oregon.
- Dolphins LB Jonathan Freeny teamed up with Patriots DB Devin McCourty for three seasons (2007-09), LB Steve Beauharnais and DB Duron Harmon for two seasons (2009-10), and CB Logan Ryan for one season (2010) at Rutgers University.
- Patriots RB Brandon Bolden was teammates with Dolphins G John Jerry for two seasons (2008-09) and WR Mike Wallace for one season (2009) at the University of Mississippi.
- Patriots DL Joe Vellano teamed up on the defensive line with Dolphins DT A.J. Francis for four seasons (2009- 2012) at the University of Maryland.
- Patriots WR Austin Collie and Dolphins LS John Denney were teammates at BYU during the 2004 season.