MIAMI GARDENS (AP) — With a quarter of the regular season still to go, the New England Patriots clinched their fourth consecutive AFC East title Sunday by beating familiar foil Miami 23-16.
The Patriots (9-3) improved to 5-0 in the division this year, defeating the Dolphins for the fifth time in a row. New England is on a roll with six consecutive victories but there was nothing dazzling about the latest win.
Rather, Dolphins mistakes proved pivotal. A botched punt, a long with a roughing-the-punter penalty and a fumble by Miami resulted in 17 New England points and another penalty negated a Dolphins touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice missed an open Brian Hartline deep.
As a result, the Dolphins (5-7) hurt their already slim playoff chances. “Too many mistakes,” coach Joe Philbin said. “To beat a good opponent in December you have to play better.” The Dolphins play the San Francisco 49ers at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Candlestick Park.