The New England Patriots are returning to the postseason as AFC East champions.
The Pats (9-3) defeated the Miami Dolphins, 23-16 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Sunday to capture the organization's ninth AFC East division title in 10 years and fourth in a row.
Tom Brady did just enough on offense - highlighted by a clock-killing drive late in the fourth quarter - to earn the seven-point victory. Brady finished the game 24 of 40 for 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Wes Welker had a record-setting day, hauling in 12 receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown.
Running back Stevan Ridley went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season after he gained 71 yards Sunday on 19 carries. He also scored a first quarter touchdown.
The Patriots return home to Foxborough for back-to-back games against the Houston Texans (Monday, Dec. 10) and the San Francisco 49ers (Dec. 16).
The following game notes were compiled by the New England Patriots Media Relations Department:
PATRIOTS CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT FOR 14TH TIME IN KRAFT’S 19 YEARS OF OWNERSHIP
New England has now qualified for the playoffs 20 times in its 53-year history. The Patriots have earned 14 playoff berths in the 19 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. New England has won 12 AFC East crowns under Kraft’s leadership. New England has won 15 division crowns overall (14 AFC East Crowns) and has qualified as a Wild Card team on four occasions (1998, 1994, 1985 and 1976). The Patriots also qualified for the playoffs in 1982 as part of a 16-team tournament following a players’ strike.
2012 AFC EAST CHAMPIONS
The Patriots claimed the AFC East Division title for the fourth consecutive season and for the 12th time under Robert Kraft.
PATRIOTS GET NINTH VICTORY OF 2012 FOR 12TH STRAIGHT WINNING SEASON
The Patriots won more than half of their games for the 12th straight year after picking up their ninth win of the season over Miami. They are the first team to win more than half of their games in 12 straight seasons since free agency began in 1993. The Patriots are the third team to win more than half of their games in 12 straight seasons since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, joining the 49ers (16 straight from 1983-1998) and the Cowboys (16 straight from 1970-85).
THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE MOST 9-PLUS WIN SEASONS SINCE 2001
The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to have recorded nine or more wins in each of the last 12 seasons.
BILL BELICHICK LEADS TEAM TO 12TH STRAIGHT WINNING RECORD
Bill Belichick has now led the Patriots to a winning record for 12 consecutive seasons (2001-2012). The only other NFL coach to have at least 10 consecutive winning seasons with one team since the 1970 merger was Tom Landry, who led the Dallas Cowboys to 16 consecutive winning seasons (1970-1985).
BELICHICK IS GOOD IN DECEMBER
Bill Belichick is 44-7 (.863) 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).
DECEMBER TO REMEMBER
The Patriots have now won 12 consecutive regular-season December games, a streak that began with a win over the Carolina Panthers on December 13, 2009. The Patriots are the fourth team in NFL history to win 12 consecutive regular-season games in played in December. San Diego holds the record, posting 18 consecutive regular-season wins in December from 2006-2009. The Patriots also had 12 straight December wins from 2006-08.
WES WELKER REACHES 1,000 YARDS TO IMPORVE TO FIVE 1,000-YARD SEASONS WITH THE PATRIOTS
Wes Welker (1,064) reached 1,000 yards for the fifth time as a member of the Patriots. He entered the Miami game with 961 yards receiving and needed 39 to reach the 1,000-yard milestone. He reached the milestone on an 8-yard reception in the second quarter. Welker’s five 1,000-yard seasons as a member of the Patriots is a team record. Randy Moss and Stanley Morgan each had three 1,000-yard seasons. Welker is one of 11 current NFL players with at least five 1,000-yard seasons.
WELKER HAS 17th CAREER 10-PLUS CATCH GAME TO TIE JERRY RICE FOR THE MOST 10-PLUS RECEPTION GAMES IN NFL HISTORY
With 12 receptions against Miami, Wes Welker had his 17th career game with 10 or more catches to tie Jerry Rice (17) for the most 10-plus reception games in NFL history.
WELKER SETS NFL RECORD FOR MOST 10-CATCH, 100-YARD GAMES IN NFL HISTORY
Wes Welker (16) set the NFL record for most NFL games with 10 receptions and 100 yards with his 16th such game after finishing with 12 receptions for 103 yards. He moved out of a tie with Jerry Rice (15) and Andre Johnson (15). Welker finished with 10 receptions for 138 yards.
WELKER HAD 10 RECEPTIONTS IN THE FIRST HALF
Welker had 10 receptions in the first half against Miami. It is the second time he has had 10 receptions in a half. He had 10 receptions on Dec. 24, 2011 vs. Miami.
WELKER HAS FOUR 100-YARD GAMES IN 2012
Welker now has five 100-yard games in 2012 after finishing with 103 against Miami. Welker had a personal best with eight 100-yard games in 2011. Moss (2007) and Stanley Morgan (1986) have the New England record with nine 100-yard games in a single season.
STEVAN RIDLEY GOES OVER 1,000 YARDS RUSHING
Stevan Ridley (1,010) reached 1,000 yards to give New England its 15th 1,000-yard rushing season. He is the 12th Patriots player to reach 1,000 yards. Ridley entered the game needing 61 yards and gained 64 yards.Ridley is on pace to total 1,347 rushing yards, That number would be the fourth best total in Patriots history and he would become the fourth Patriots player to reach 1,300 yards.
RIDLEY SCORES IN HIS FIFTH STRAIGHT GAME
Stevan Ridley had a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game with a 2-yard run in the first quarter. The Patriots record for most consecutive games scoring is seven by Curtis Martin in 1996.
RIDLEY HAS NINTH RUSHING TOUCHDOWN; ON PACE TO FINISH WITH 11
Ridley scored his ninth touchdown of the season on a 2-yard run in the first quarter. If he reaches 10 touchdowns for the season it would be the 13th time in Patriots history that a running back finished a season with 10 or more touchdowns rushing.
PATRIOTS FORCE TURNOVERS
The Patriots have forced a turnover in 23 straight games, dating back to 2011 and including the first 12 games of 2012 after Trevor Scott forced a fumble on a 7-yard sack in the second quarter that was recovered by Vince Wilfork. The last team to have at least one forced turnover in all 16 regular season games was the 2010 Atlanta Falcons.
The New England Patriots own a 58-15 (.795) record in regular season AFC East games since the beginning of the 2001 season, compiling the best intra-division record of any team in the NFL.
BRADY FIRST NFL QUARTERBACK WITH 10 DIVISION TITLES
Tom Brady is the first starting quarterback in NFL history with 10 division titles, surpassing Joe Montana who had nine.
BRADY GOOD ON RUSHING
Tom Brady converted a third-and-one situation in the third quarter. He is now 66-of-67 when converting on third-and-one or third-and-two situation in his NFL career. He is 21-of-23 on fourth and two or less.
BRADY ENDED A STREAK OF 201 PASS ATTEMPTS WITHOUT AN INTERCEPTION
Tom Brady ended a streak of 201 consecutive pass attempts without an interception when he threw a pick in the first quarter. It was Brady’s first interception since a fourth quarter interception at Seattle on Oct. 14. Brady has the NFL record of 358 attempts without an interception (10/17/10 – 9/12/11).
BELICHICK TIES DAN REEVES WITH FOR SEVENTH PLACE ALL-TIME
Bill Belichick earned his 201st victory to tie Dan Reeves for 7th place all-time. Marty Schottenheimer is in sixth place with 205 career wins.
BRADY MOVES PAST TARKENTON ON THE NFL’S ALL-TIME COMPLETION LIST
Tom Brady (3,695) moved past Fran Tarkenton (3,686) into 9th place on the NFL’s all-time completion list. Brady entered the Miami game needing 16 completions to pass Tarkenton and passed him on a 2-yard completion to TE Aaron Hernandez in the third quarter. Vinny Testaverde is in 8th place with 3,787 completions.
PATRIOTS STRONG IN SEASON’S SECOND HALF
The Patriots are now 4-0 in the second half of the 2012 regular season (games 9-16). Since the 2010 season, the Patriots are now a combined 20-0 in the second half of the regular season. In both 2010 and 2011, the Patriots were 8-0 in the second half of the regular season. The last time the Patriots lost a game in the second half of the regular season was in the 2009 regular-season finale, a 34-27 loss at Houston on Jan. 3, 2010.
WELKER EXTENDS STREAK TO 106 CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH AT LEAST ONE RECEPTION
Wes Welker extended his streak to 106 straight regular season games with at least one reception, including his time with the Miami Dolphins. He has a streak of 89 straight regular-season games with at least one reception as a member of the Patriots to extend his franchise record. Welker has caught at least one pass in each of his 96 games with the Patriots, including seven postseason games. The last time that Welker did not catch a pass in a game was December 24, 2005 when he was with Miami. He is one of 39 NFL players to have a streak of at least 100 games with one reception.
CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH AT LEAST ONE TOUCHDOWN PASS CONTINUES FOR BRADY
Tom Brady has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 44 straight regular season games following a 7-yard touchdown pass to WR Wes Welker in the second quarter. It is the third longest streak, behind Drew Brees at 54 and Johnny Unitas (47) (1956-60) and the longest current streak in the NFL. Brady’s current streak started when he threw a touchdown pass in all 16 games in 2010 and 2011 and now the first nine games of 2012. The old team record was 19 games, also set by Brady.
WELKER HAS CAUGHT AT LEAST SIX PASSES IN TEN STRAIGHT GAMES
Welker has caught at least six passes in ten straight games after finishing with 12 against Miami. Welker had a 12-game streak in 2007-08 and an 11-game streak in 2009 with six or more passes in a game.