Once again, the Patriots offense had a chance to put away a game in the fourth quarter. And as has been the case lately, they succeeded. A 16-play, 77-yard drive ate up over seven minutes on the clock and Stephen Gostkowski's field goal essentially put the game out of reach with just over one minute remaining.
Tom Brady joined WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show to discuss his team's 23-16 win over the Dolphins, which clinched the AFC East title.
Asked how his team was able to run the ball to prolong their game-sealing drive, Brady answered: execution.
"It usually comes down to execution, just executing a little bit better," he said. "I think the good part was to do that down in Miami in the warm weather, where we really haven't played in the warm weather in a long time. I thought that was really a great effort by our guys, in a situation where you've already played 52 minutes and you're able to play your best football when you need it the most and when you're the most tired. That's what it's got to be when you're playing for a division title. They're not going to be easy, you've got to go out and earn them. And I thought we did a good job of that yesterday."
To that point, the Patriots offense had trouble getting started. They put together a season-low 321 yards of total offense. Brady was 24-for-40 for 238 yards a touchdown and an interception, just his fourth pick of the year.
"I don't think it was our best day of production on offense," Brady said. "I thought Miami's defense played really well. But our defense got us the ball in some short fields, played great in some really tough situations for them: coming off a turnover, we got backed up on our own goal line and had to punt it out, didn't give up much. Our defense really saved the day. And obviously what our backs have been able to do not only yesterday but all season has been a huge reason why we've been on a six-game winning streak."
The win gave Brady his tenth division title of his career, breaking the record set by one of his childhood idols Joe Montana. Though it wasn't pretty, he'll take it.
"They gave us everything we could handle yesterday," Brady said. "I have a lot of respect for the Dolphins, they have some very good players on their team. I thought we did a good job there down at the end closing it out when we needed to. That was most important. That's why it was satisfying. Certainly not an ugly win. I don't buy that one bit. I thought that was a great win for our team."
Here are some other highlights from Brady's interview:
On the health of his offensive line:
"It's not like we're the healthiest team in the league right now," Brady said. "There's a lot of teams dealing with injuries. Your depth is really tested, your mental toughness is tested. I think we have the best coaches in the league. They get us prepared better than any other team in the league. All those little things become big things at the end of the day.
On his own health after being sacked four times by the Dolphins:
"I actually feel pretty good today," Brady said. "I think over the course of the season your body gets calloused a little bit to those plays and those sacks. But I feel pretty good today. Cameron Wake got a good hit, there's no question. I'm glad I came out of it OK."
On breaking Montana's record for division titles:
"I didn't know that. It means I'm playing with a great group of guys, I'll tell you that, with a great group of coaches, and everyone that's really committed themselves to winning and doing what's in the best interests of the team. I think that's been the mark of what our team's been all about since the day I got here. Patriot football is being selfless and committing yourself to winning, even when it doesn't mean the ball is always going in your direction or the blitzes aren't always called for you or you're not always the focal point of the play. It's a lot of guys who make an effort every week to go out and play their best.
"That was pretty cool yesterday to win in a place where we've lost the last three times in December. That was what it took and that's what we accomplished."
On receiver Brandon Lloyd's lack of production (one catch, one target vs. Dolphins):
"That's what I've got to do a better job of. You can't come out of the game targeting him one time. That's on myself. I've got to do a better job distributing the ball to him. It's not that he's not open. Because believe me, he's open. Every time I watch the film I look after the game and go, 'God, I should have thrown to Brandon on that play.' He's a very integral part of what we do. He's worked really hard over the course of the season. I've got to a better job of getting him the ball. I don't think there's any question about that."
On Wes Welker's performance (12 catches, 103 yards vs. the Dolphins):
"I said after the game the kind of respect I have for him. Nobody works harder than Wes. He's a great competitor. What he does in practice every day and his ability to -- for a guy who's whatever, 185 pounds, to play every single play and take hits over the middle from those guys that are twice as big as him, get up, come back to the huddle, look me in the eye, be ready for the next play, to be in that type of condition, his mental and physical toughness is unlike anything you've ever seen. He's what our team's all about. He's the mark of a Patriot football player. So, no, I never take him for granted. Every day, I'm lucky to have a guy like that on my team and as a teammate."
On why the Patriots have been so successful in the second half of regular seasons:
"I'm sure it's a bunch of factors, but I think it's the same thing: there's a lot of depth on our team. A lot of guys fill-in when guys get injured. It's not like we're the healthiest team in the league right now. There's a lot of teams dealing with injuries, but your depth is really tested, your mental toughness is really tested. I think we have the best coaches in the league, they get us prepared better than any other team in the league. All those little things become big things at the end of the day."
On playing on Monday Night Football vs. the Texans in Week 14:
"I look forward to it. I think it's great. It's a big part of the reason why the NFL has been successful in that primetime spot. There's one game on, and we're going to be the team that's on against Houston and it should be a great game. Houston's got a great team, they've been playing well over the course of 12 games with one loss. It should be a fun night."
On the tragedy in Kansas City, where Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and them himself:
"That was I'm sure shocking for everybody. It was shocking to our own locker room. We're very close to that organization, with a lot of our friends there. It's just very tragic. It's pretty remarkable for them to come out and win yesterday. That says a lot about the character of that team."