FOXBORO -- Not only did the Patriots win to close out the 2012 regular season, they also earned a first-round playoff bye.
"It was kind of a late Christmas present," Tom Brady said. "So we accept."
They certainly did; New England blanked the Dolphins, 28-0, on Sunday.
Brady admitted the team knew before kickoff that Indianapolis had upset the Texans, clearing the way for the Patriots to have a week off.
All they had to do was take care of business.
"Coach Belichick said, 'Look, the only people that can improve out position are us, so regardless of what anybody else does, we have to win.' "
It helped to have Rob Gronkowski back.
The tight end hasn't seen game action since fracturing his left forearm in Week 11. This is the player who had 17 of New England's 39 touchdowns last year. This is the player who, behind Wes Welker, led the team in targets, receptions, yards, yards-after-catch, and first downs.
Between his injury and the injury to fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez (a broken ankle kept him out of six contests), Brady has been deprived of full firepower quite a bit this season.
Going into Sunday's game, Gronkowski and Hernandez hadn't played together more than four times. The last game they both got snaps was October 21.
That changed this weekend.
On New England's first offensive play of the game, Gronkowski cleared room for Hernandez who was running a route underneath him. With Gronkowski's blocking, Hernandez was free to open the game with a 14-yard gain. It's not an unusual play. It's just one that seems to work brilliantly well with those two in particular.
Brady finished 22-for-36 for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
He was happy to see Gronkowski on the field again. He was happy to have Gronkowski and Hernandez together. He was happy to have all of his regular targets active.
"It was nice to get Gronkowski back into the flow of things, you know," Brady said. "We used everybody. It was exciting to have everybody out there at once for the first time all season. We'll use the bye and hopefully come back stronger."
When the Patriots return to action it will be in the playoffs.
It appears most players are getting healthy, or are healthy enough, at the right time. Throw in one more week off to rest and rehabilitate, and the outlook is positive.
Even Brady could admit that much.
"Well, we've won 10 out of 11, so that's pretty good," he said. "We were 2-3 at one point and we had some tough games earlier in the year, then we win 10 out of 11 and our only loss was against a pretty good football team. But we turned it over four times in the loss to San Francisco."
Then he smiled.
"If we don't turn it over four times, I like our chances."