Perfection within sight


Bill Belichick can no longer brush off questions about finishing the season at 16-0 by saying he's only focused on the next game.

If the Patriots win the next game, they will be 16-0.

The Patriots improved to 15-0 by cruising to a 28-7 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. New England is the first team with that record &

overtaking Miami's 14-0 in 1972 &

but Belichick wasn't about to expound on the historical significance.

"We're not really too hung up on that," New England's coach said. "We'll take one week at a time and get ready for next week. I'm sure that's what you were looking for."

It was a rare playful moment with reporters. For the previous three hours, he was all business. He watched Laurence Maroney have his best day as a pro with runs of 59 and 51 yards. And he saw Tom Brady throw three touchdown passes, two to Randy Moss.

He denied he was trying to run some plays just so Brady could pass Peyton Manning's NFL record of 49 touchdown passes and Moss could overtake Jerry Rice's mark of 22 scoring receptions. Brady and Moss are one shy of those records with one game left at the New York Giants next Saturday night.

"Trying to run our offense," Belichick said, explaining some long throws to Moss that failed to connect. "That's all we did."

With their top two tight ends sidelined, the Patriots often used four wide receivers and all produced. But not as much as Maroney, who rushed for a career high yardage total for the second consecutive game with 156 on 14 carries.

"He's got great speed," Belichick said. "He can turn a short run into a long run in a hurry."

Maroney's 51-yard run led to Moss' second touchdown on a 1-yard pass and a 14-0 lead. Then Maroney burst through a hole on the left side of the line and raced untouched the rest of the way for the 59-yard score and a 21-0 lead. He even had time to watch himself on the scoreboard.

"I didn't know until I looked up at the Jumbotron and realized no one was around me," Maroney said. "I then slowed down to save my legs a little bit."

The Patriots made it 28-0 by halftime on Brady's 48-yard scoring pass to Jabar Gaffney before the offense faltered.

Miami (1-14) ruined the shutout late in the third quarter on Cleo Lemon's 21-yard pass to Greg Camarillo, the same combination that connected for a 67-yard touchdown a week earlier that gave Miami a 22-16 overtime win over Baltimore and saved the Dolphins from the ignominy of going 0-16.

Lemon said the Dolphins didn't have a letdown from that victory that had Miami fans going wild in the stands.

"It is the NFL. You know you have big wins and big losses," he said. "You just have to deal with them and you keep moving on."

The victory kept the Patriots on track to become the second team in NFL history to go undefeated through the regular season and playoffs. The only team to do it was the Dolphins in 1972 when they went 17-0 and won the Super Bowl.

But this year's Dolphins couldn't protect that distinction.

"We wanted to win for them," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "But I wanted to win today, for the guys in this room."

It was a difficult task, considering the Dolphins have the NFL's worst record and the Patriots now need just six points to pass Minnesota's single-season mark of 556 points in 1998, when Moss was on that team.

The Patriots tied their NFL record of 18 consecutive regular-season wins set in 2003-04. They also broke the league mark of 70 touchdowns in one season by the 1984 Dolphins, reaching 71 to go up 28-0.

"I never felt they were playing for the records," Miami coach Cam Cameron said. "They understand what's important."

Once this horrible season is over, Cameron will learn if he'll have a second season as Miami's coach. That decision will be made by former Patriots coach Bill Parcells, who was named the Dolphins executive vice president of football operations last Thursday.

The new boss has plenty of work to do

"I never want to go through this, not in a season, not in a career," Taylor said.

The Patriots already have a bye and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. For now, they're concerned about their next game. And if a 16-0 record comes with it, they'll start thinking about their first playoff game.

"When you look back at the end of your career, you'll be excited about individual records," Brady said, "but winning's more important and I think that's really what everyone's concerned about."


Red Sox players David Ortiz, Curt Schilling and Kevin Youkilis, all wearing Patriots jerseys, and owner John Henry drew a huge ovation when they carried the trophies from their World Series wins in 2004 and 2007 onto the field before the game. ... The Patriots swept their division for the first time ever, going 6-0 against Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets. ... Taylor played in his 129th straight game, breaking the team record held by Hall of Fame center Jim Langer.

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