Tom Brady and the New England Patriots emphatically answered their doubters on Sunday, as the five-time Super Bowl champions avoided a third-straight defeat by thrashing the Miami Dolphins 38-7.
Victory over the previously unbeaten Dolphins saw Bill Belichick’s men avoid losing three straight games for the first time since the 2002 season.
New England led 38-0 before the Dolphins put a touchdown on the board late in the fourth quarter, improving to 2-2 as they avoided falling three games behind AFC East division leaders Miami.
The Phins were denied their first 4-0 start since Hall of Fame coach Don Shula’s final season in 1995.
Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns and the Patriots demonstrated the consistency they lacked in defeats to Jacksonville and Detroit.
The only downside for the Patriots was the departure of tight end Rob Gronkowski with a right ankle injury in the third quarter.
“Today is a big one to build on,” said Brady, who was nevertheless already focusing on a looming Thursday clash with Indianapolis.
“It’s a short week and we’ve got to get ready and try to go beat the Colts,” he said.
The Dolphins next take on the Cincinnati Bengals, who shook off an ugly leg injury to tight end Tyler Eifert to edge the Falcons 37-36 in an Atlanta thriller.
The Bengals built a 28-24 halftime lead before losing Eifert, who was in obvious pain after he was brought down following a third-quarter catch with his right ankle twisting badly. He was carted off the field with the leg in an air cast.
The Bengals fell behind 36-31 before Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton authored a last-gasp touchdown drive, connecting with A.J. Green on a 13-yard scoring pass to seal the victory.
“There’s no quit in our guys,” Dalton said. “Even with the setbcks we didn’t flinch, we just kept going.”
Elsewhere in the NFL, the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders all won in overtime, while the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers notched narrow victories.
The Raiders rallied past the Cleveland Browns for a 45-42 win in overtime, denying the Browns a second-straight win. Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes and a two-point conversion with 30 seconds left in regulation and Matt McGrane then converted a 29-yard field goal in the extra period to win it.
The Titans converted three fourth downs in overtime to beat the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 26-23.
The Texans snapped a nine-game losing streak as they edged the Indianapolis Colts 37-34.
Houston’s Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed a 37-yard field goal as overtime expired to seal the Texans’ first win since last November.
The defeat spoiled a landmark day for Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who surpassed Morten Andersen for most career field goals in NFL history. Vinatieri passed Andersen with his 566th career field goal in the first half and his 567th had given Indianapolis a 34-31 lead in overtime.
Sebastian Janikowski’s 52-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Seahawks to a 20-17 win over Arizona. Coach Pete Carroll called it a “bittersweet” victory after Seattle saw safety Earl Thomas carted off with a broken left leg in the third quarter.
In Dallas, Brett Maher booted a 38-yard field goal as time expired to seal the Cowboys’ 26-24 victory over Detroit.
The Chargers rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to edge the Jimmy Garoppolo-less San Francisco 49ers 29-27.
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