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Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch Set Patriots Retaining Wall vs. Dolphins Running Backs

Vince Wilfork and the Patriots grounded the Dolphins' running game Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)

Vince Wilfork and the Patriots grounded the Dolphins on Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)

The cinderblocks were cemented back into place on Sunday, three months after Miami Dolphins running backs Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller broke through them for 193 rushing yards and a touchdown on 35 carries.

The wall the New England Patriots constructed in Week 15 looked fundamentally different than the one from Week 1. And unlike the three-man line assembled at Sun Life Stadium in September, the hybrid front was built with players who were built for it in December.

Enter the 6-foot-2, 325-pound Vince Wilfork, the 6-foot-2, 325-pound Sealver Siliga and the 6-foot-6, 335-pound Alan Branch.

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Jonas Gray Quick to Find Lane in Patriots Backfield

Jonas Gray stepped back into the offensive huddle for 20 plays Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)

Jonas Gray stepped back into the offensive huddle for 20 plays Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)

Four different New England Patriots combined for 21 rushing yards in the first half of Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium. Jonas Gray was not one of them.

The practice-squad promotion, a month removed from a 37-carry, 201-yard, four-touchdown performance, watched through his facemask from the sideline and only left it to cover kickoffs. One quarter passed, then another as the former Miami Dolphins running back made his first contribution, tackling current Dolphins returner Jarvis Landry after a gain of 26.

Yet as the Patriots’ offense stepped on to the field for the third quarter of what was a 14-13 game, Gray followed. He followed to make a different kind of contribution, after having rushed for 13 yards on three carries over the New England’s last three games.

Soon, the 5-foot-10, 225-pound back would follow his blocks to lead the team in rushing.

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For Patriots Defensive End Chandler Jones, ‘Yesterday Was the Day’

Hip injury healed, Chandler Jones returned Sunday and got to the quarterback for the first time since Oct. 16.

Hip injury healed, Chandler Jones returned Sunday and got to the QB for the first time since Oct. 16. (NFL Game Rewind)

Two months passed as Chandler Jones looked on.

“I was watching a lot of those games at home, right on my couch around the corner, “Jones told WEEI’s Middays with MFB on Monday. “And I would just see those guys on the sideline – breathing, guys smacking each other upside the head – that’s what I missed the most. That’s what I was so excited to be a part of.”

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound New England Patriots defensive end had to wait to once again be part of it.

He waited as New England acquired edge-rusher Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans. And over his time away from the Gillette Stadium field, he waited by studying to join his new teammate on it.

“I’m a huge fan of Akeem. Every single snap that I missed that he was in I watched, live and I watched it again when were watching film,” Jones said. Continue reading

Tom Brady, Patriots Sold Play Action for 124 Yards in Second Half vs. Dolphins

The Patriots began the second half of Sunday's game with a different method of operation. (NFL Game Rewind)

The Patriots began the second half of Sunday’s game with a different method of operation. (NFL Game Rewind)

No quarterback threw for more yards out of play action than Tom Brady in Week 15.

Brady and his New England Patriots targets amassed 135 yards on run fakes versus the Miami Dolphins. According to Pro Football Focus, Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs was the only other NFL quarterback to cross the 100-yard mark under that capacity on Sunday.

With a batted pass resulting in an interception to linebacker Jason Trusnik, play action didn’t start swiftly for New England. It just ended that way, with a six-yard touchdown pass to wideout Julian Edelman in the red zone.

The reason why was something Brady, who finished the game 21-of-35 for 287 yards in all, could not explain.

“That’s a great question. I wish I knew the answer because we would have started that way then,” Brady said in his postgame press conference. “We tried to start fast and got the ball down the field and then the ball got tipped and intercepted. It just didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to in the first half, but we did a good job responding, so it was a good win – great win.” Continue reading

Bill Belichick: Jamie Collins ‘Just Keeps Playing Faster’

Jamie Collins' blocked field goal gave way to seven points against Miami on Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)

Jamie Collins’ blocked field goal gave way to seven points against Miami on Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)

Jamie Collins got the New England Patriots on the board first Sunday. He just didn’t score the points.

The second-year linebacker initial mark was left at the 12:47 mark in the opening quarter, as the Miami Dolphins shipped out kicker Caleb Sturgis and the field-goal unit to attempt a 41-yarder following a four-play, 57-yard drive.

The snap was delivered, the hold was placed, and the kicker grazed his right foot underneath the football. But Collins did more than graze it when he crashed down from the right wing of Miami’s line. He rejected it. And cornerback Kyle Arrington scooped it up on the rebound, returning it 62 yards for a touchdown as the Patriots took a 7-0 lead at Gillette Stadium.

“Jamie continues to make big plays for us on the defensive side of the ball and in the kicking game,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in his press conference afterwards. “He’s got real good length for a linebacker: tall with long arms, great jumping ability. His ability to knock down passes and reach into passing lanes, or block a kick in this case – very obviously athletic, we all know that.” Continue reading

Week 15 in Numbers: Patriots vs. Dolphins

Tom Brady, Jonas Gray and the Patriots surged for 27 unanswered versus the Dolphins. (NFL Game Rewind)

Tom Brady, Jonas Gray and the Patriots surged for 27 unanswered versus the Dolphins. (NFL Game Rewind)

It was a numbers game.

The New England Patriots secured an 11-3 record and a 41-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, settling the score from what was a 33-20 loss at Sun Life Stadium in the season opener.

But more was secured and settled in the process of Week 15.

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Five Wide: Observations from Patriots’ 41-13 Win vs. Dolphins

After a slow start, the Patriots found a way to run away with the AFC East in Week 15. (NFL Game Rewind)

After a slow start, the Patriots found a way to run away with the AFC East in Week 15. (NFL Game Rewind)

The New England Patriots got their hats and T-shirts Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, but the Miami Dolphins kept the Week 15 game from resembling an AFC East-clincher during the first half. And even during the first play.

It was then that Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill found wideout Mike Wallace 50 yards down the sideline beyond undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. Three runs followed as the kicker Caleb Sturgis and the Miami field-goal unit came on to try a 41-yarder. Yet Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins stayed on to block it, sending the football back along with cornerback Kyle Arrington for a 62-yard touchdown.

The moment marked New England’s third blocked field goal of the season and a 7-0 lead. Only it wouldn’t mark the end of Miami’s efforts to continue their season. Dolphins backup Jason Trusnik illustrated those efforts with 5:53 to go in the opening quarter. Continue reading

Patriots Inactives: Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower Slated to Return vs. Dolphins

Chandler Jones’ wait is over.

The third-year defensive end has been out since injuring his hip in Week 7 against the New York Jets. But after being a limited participant in the New England Patriots’ last two weeks of practices, Jones now finds himself among the 46 actives as the team gets set to host the Miami Dolphins for a 1 p.m. Sunday kickoff.

Also active for the Patriots is linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who missed last Sunday’s game due to a shoulder injury suffered against the Green Bay Packers, and was a limited participant in practice sessions this week.

Inactive for the Patriots is halfback James White, offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, guard Jordan Devey, defensive end Zach Moore, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, linebacker Chris White and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Continue reading

Patriots vs. Dolphins: Pregame Points for Week 15

Cameron Wake left the Patriots in his wake during the Dolphins' Week 1 victory. (NFL Game Rewind)

Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake left the Patriots in his wake on Sept. 7. (NFL Game Rewind)

The 10-3 New England Patriots and the 7-6 Miami Dolphins will meet again for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

The last time the two sides crossed paths was three months ago at Sun Life Stadium, as the Dolphins sent the Patriots back to Foxborough with an 0-1 record. But the teams and the players have since changed.

For the Dolphins, starting running back Knowshon Moreno, right tackle Branden Albert, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and safety Louis Delmas have all been placed on injured reserve. And for the Patriots, running back Stevan Ridley and linebacker Jerod Mayo are among the headliners who have followed suit. Even so, both sides have found their footing for the final stretch of the regular season despite the attrition.

New England could clinch the AFC East with a win, while Miami could stay in the AFC playoff picture by doing the same for a third consecutive game dating back to 2013. Here are a few notes to monitor before the Week 15 matchup gets underway.

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Patriots Injury Report: Dominique Easley Ruled Out, Nine Others Questionable vs. Dolphins

Dominique Easley will not be on the field Sunday when the New England Patriots face the Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m.

The first-round defensive tackle, who has missed the last three practices, has been ruled out for Week 15 due to lingering knee issues, according to Friday’s official injury report. Easley suffered his second ACL tear at the University of Florida in September of 2013, and it was reported by the Boston Herald‘s Jeff Howe on Thursday that the Patriots could place the rookie on season-ending injured reserve to get him fully healthy for 2015.

For the divisional rematch at Gillette Stadium, New England has also designated nine limited practice participants as questionable. Continue reading

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