Dolphins Watch

January 2, 2011 8:31 PM

Patriots embarrass Dolphins

BESS.bmpIt was a shameful, disgraceful display.

Against a team of largely backups with nothing to play for, the Dolphins were dominated by the New England Patriots Sunday, to the tune of a 38-7 score.

The Dolphins certainly did not play like a team that was trying to save its coach's job, and this may have been the last game Tony Sparano will coach for Miami.

For the second straight year, the Dolphins were 7-6 and in the thick of the playoff hunt, only to lose their last three games and miss the postseason.

But for the first time I can remember since Sparano took over as coach, the team looked listless, and displayed little of the fire that has become it's coach's trademark.

Without Deion Branch and Wes Welker, who sat out the game, Tom Brady and the remaining receivers were still able to pick apart the Dolphins, for 199 yards and two TDs through three quarters.

Even backup Brian Hoyer found the Fins secondary inviting, hitting Brandon Tate for a 42-yard TD pass to stretch the lead to 31-0.

Safeties Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver struggled all day, allowing rookie tight end Rob Gronkowksi to feast on them for six catches for 102 yards and a TD.

The run defense, which had been so stout all year, gave up a season-high 181 yards to the Pats.

The Dolphins' running game, which struggled in 2009, ended the year with a whimper, as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for just 23 yards on 13 carries, and Williams fumbled late in the first half to set up another Patriots TD.

Indeed, Tyler Thigpen was the team's leading rusher with 21 yards on six carries.

The offensive line did not play well again, and in passing situations the Patriots often had a free blitzer pressuring the quarterback. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork was particularly dominant, splitting futile double teams to get to the ballcarrier.

Of course, no New England victory against Miami this season would be complete without a special teams TD, which Julian Edelman delivered with a weaving 94-yard return. Safety Reshad Jones appeared to have a clean shot at Edelman early on, but he could not wrap him up.

Then there was Chad Henne, who threw an interception on the first drive of the game -- his 19th this season -- was benched in favor of Thigpen, re-entered the game, was ineffective, and was benched again for Thigpen, who directed the Dolphins' only TD drive.

A sad end indeed for a once-proud franchise, and now, in the wake of two straight nonplayoff seasons, the big question this offseason is where do owner Stephen Ross and the Dolphins go from here?

The first wave of answers could come as early as Monday.

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