By The Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — When the New England Patriots scored the last in a series of quick-strike touchdowns, stoic Bill Belichick allowed himself a slight smile and traded high-fives along a jubilant sideline.
Tom Brady and Randy Moss joined in the celebration as spectators, too. The offense watched while the Patriots’ special teams and defense came up with one big play after another to beat the Miami Dolphins 41-14 on Monday night.
New England scored on a kickoff return, blocked field goal and interception, all in the second half. A flurry of 17 points in barely two minutes helped the NFL’s highest-scoring team take control midway through the game.
“It was a good day for fantasy football,” Belichick said. “We got plays from every phase of the game. It was awesome.”
Brady threw for only 153 yards, and Randy Moss was held without a catch for the first time since 2006, but the Patriots still registered their biggest point total yet. They’re averaging 33 points per game.
New England (3-1) moved into a tie with the New York Jets for first place in the AFC East. The humiliated Dolphins (2-2) endured their second divisional loss at home in eight days as they head into a bye week.
“It’s a bad taste in your mouth,” coach Tony Sparano said. “We’re going to have to taste it now for the next couple weeks.”
The Patriots trailed 7-6 before Brandon Tate returned the second-half kickoff 103 yards for a score.
“You’re getting all hyped up and ready to go out there, throwing the ball around,” Brady said. “And then you see Brandon running it back for a touchdown, and you take a seat on the bench. I’ll take that anytime.”
The deluge was on. When the score reached 34-14 early in the fourth quarter, the stadium quickly emptied.
“Where’s everyone going? ‘The party’ is just getting started at Sun Life Stadium,” the Patriots posted on their Twitter feed.
“We had a tidal wave hit us,” Sparano said. “It was a mess.”
Pat Chung blocked a punt to set up a touchdown, then blocked a field goal that Kyle Arrington returned 35 yards for a score. Chung returned an interception 51 yards for New England’s final score.
He and Arrington scored their first career TDs. Another unexpected contribution came from linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who had the first two interceptions of his five-year career.
Miami’s Chad Henne went 29 of 39 for 302 yards and two scores, but he was yanked with 6½ minutes left after tying a career high with his third interception. He blamed his first turnover on a forced pass, the second on inaccuracy and the last on a miscommunication.
“Overall, it’s my fault,” he said. “I’ll take that one as a quarterback. I’ll put that on my shoulders.”
The pass picked off by Chung was especially ugly.
“It shocked me,” Chung said. “I was like, ‘He threw it? Thanks.'”
There was no improvement from Henne’s replacement, Tyler Thigpen, who threw another interception.
The Patriots didn’t need Moss, who was targeted only once. He stretched for a pass in the end zone, but the ball deflected off his hands and New England settled for a field goal.
“If they’re taking one guy away, everyone else has to come out and play well,” Patriots receiver Wes Welker said. “It’s a team effort, and that’s exactly what today was.”
Brady was sacked three times but finished 19 of 24 with one touchdown and no interceptions to earn his 100th career win.
“I’ve played on a great team for my entire career with the same organization that’s committed to winning,” Brady said. “I’m privileged to be the quarterback on this team, and I hope I’m here forever.”