Records fall for Brady, Patriots

Tom Brady usually finds his targets. Now he can finally set his sights on playoff success.

The record-shattering star of the New England Patriots extended his streak to 11 games without an interception in the team’s eighth straight win and fourth rout in five games, 38-7 over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

“Interceptions pretty much ruin my night,” Brady said. “I’m glad tonight’s not ruined.”

He’s ruined plenty of nights for opponents. For coach Tony Sparano and the Dolphins, their season was ruined even before their latest debacle.

Sparano, going into the final year of his contract, is in jeopardy of losing his job after four losses in the last five games. After leading the Dolphins to the AFC East title in 2008, his first season, he coached them to two 7-9 records.

“This is a business,” Miami cornerback Benny Sapp said. “He is such a good coach. You just hate to see it go down like that.”

The game meant nothing in the standings, but Brady played into the third quarter and, most importantly, stayed healthy as the Patriots (14-2) look ahead to the AFC divisional playoffs after a bye week.

“Time to move on now,” said nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who had his first two sacks of the season. “One loss and you’re out. ... Any little slip-up (and) the season will be done.”

Brady and the Patriots set a number of league marks this season.

By Brady:

  • 28 consecutive regular-season wins at home as a starter.
  • 335 straight passes without an interception.
  • 9 games with at least two touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Brady also became one of six quarterbacks (Dan Marino did it twice) to throw at least one touchdown pass in each game since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. He finished with the fifth-best passer rating in NFL history (111.0).

By the Patriots:

Fewest turnovers (10) committed in a 16-game season.

Fewest interceptions (5) in a season, tie, four by Brady and one by Brian Hoyer.

Eight straight games scoring 30 points or more, tying the record set in 2000 by the St. Louis Rams and tied in 2007 by the Patriots.

The Patriots’ 518 points are seventh-most in league history. They have the NFL’s best record and already had home-field advantage for as long as they’re in in the AFC playoffs.

“The greatest advantage we have is we don’t have to play next week and we play at home the following week,” Brady said, “so that’s really what we’ve earned to this point. I don’t think we’ve earned anything more than that.”

The Patriots’ dominance continued Sunday even though their top three receivers —Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez — were inactive.

Playing in last season’s finale proved quite costly to Welker and the Patriots — he hurt his left knee early in the game, and New England lost to the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in the first round without him. No reason was given for Welker’s absence Sunday. Branch has a knee injury and Hernandez has a hip problem.

“It was good for some of the players who haven’t had as many opportunities in recent games,” said coach Bill Belichick, who became the first coach with four seasons of at least 14 wins. “That’ll serve us well.”

Brady’s .81 percentage of four interceptions on 492 passes is third best in NFL history behind Damon Huard of Kansas City at .41 (one in 244 in 2006) and Joe Ferguson of Buffalo at .66 (one in 151 in 1976).

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