FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Every time Tom Brady mentally scrolls through the Patriots' schedule, the result always is the same.
We can win that one, and that one, and that one, and that one.
"I guess every time I do it, we end up 16-0," Brady said last night.
The New England Patriots are almost there, a breath away from perfection. One more win, over the New York Giants on Saturday night, and the Patriots will achieve what Brady always knew they could: perfection. Sweet, unmatched perfection.
New England moved one win away from a flawless regular-season record with a commanding 28-7 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium while setting record after record. Most touchdowns in a season in NFL history? Check. Most yards in a season in franchise history? Check. Most receptions in a season by a Patriots receiver (Wes Welker)? Check.
The parade of accomplishments was endless. And the game? Well, it was over in the second quarter. Thanks for coming, Fish. Have a safe trip back to Miami.
Now it is up to the Giants to derail the juggernaut. There's a better chance that Bill Parcells, the new vice president of football operations in Miami, will retain every man on the Dolphins' roster for 2008.
There's no chance New England loses. None. On the precipice of perfection, the Patriots won't fail.
It's like Randy Moss said when asked why Brady keeps throwing to him even when he's triple-teamed: "Hell, I'm Randy Moss - what do you expect?"
These are the Patriots. What do you expect? Exactly.
So, old Dolphins of 1972 lore, pop the champagne you've had on ice all season and welcome these Patriots of 2007 into the club. This is the most dominant team ever to play the game. You should be honored to keep their company. Just don't expect coach Bill Belichick to raise a glass just yet.
"At some point, there might be a time to reflect back on it," he said, "but . . . we'll do that some other time."
Under an overcast sky that blanketed much of the Northeast corridor yesterday, the Patriots ruthlessly dismantled a Dolphins team that had managed just one win - last week over the flailing Baltimore Ravens - this season. It started last week, when Belichick made the team practice
and also informed Troy Brown, the longest-tenured Patriot, that he would play for the first time all season.
New England scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions. Brady's first two touchdown passes went to Moss, who moved within one touchdown catch of the legendary Jerry Rice for most in a season (22). With New England leading by 14-0, Laurence Maroney showed that the Patriots actually do have a decent running back when he blasted through a gaping hole and ran untouched 59 yards into the end zone.
That gain gave New England a new franchise record for total net yards in a season (6,190) and tied the 1984 Dolphins with 70 touchdowns, the most in a season.
The Patriots set the touchdown record on their next possession when Brady feathered a pass through the outstretched arms of Lance Schulters, a former Pro Bowl safety whom Miami picked up off the street this year, and into the hands of Jabar Gaffney. The former Eagle, now New England's fourth receiver, dashed 20 yards into the end zone for a 48-yard reception.
The Patriots were men among boys. That was no more evident than when Cleo Lemon, Miami's fourth-year quarterback, was more concerned with avoiding two hard-charging New England defenders than diving over the pylon for a Dolphins touchdown. It was fourth and goal from the 1, with Miami trailing, 28-0.
But really. For who? For what?
(Well, for who would be for yourself, and for what would be to avoid a text message from Parcells saying, "Don't bother catching the charter back to Miami," but that's another conversation for another day.)
For now, the focus will be on the perfect Pats. They'll eat Belichick's humble pie this week, as they have every week this season. Their record might be unblemished, but Belichick will find flaws. Brady fumbled in the fourth quarter on fourth and 8 inside Dolphins territory (yes, Belichick went for it up by 28-7), and finished 18 of 33 for 215 yards and three touchdowns, with two picks. The Patriots' defense did allow a Dolphins score. Special teams gave up a turnover.
There's a game to prepare for, a task that will consume Belichick.
"We'll take one week at a time and get ready for next week," Belichick said. "I'm sure that's what you were looking for."
Not really. Leave it to Brady to be better.
"To think we've been up there with the best of them [in NFL history] is exciting," said Brady, who is one TD pass away from tying Peyton Manning's single-season mark of 49. "Winning is the most important, and that's what everybody is concerned with. There are a lot of happy people in that locker room."
They'll be happier still when Brady officially checks off the final regular-season game on the schedule how he always thought he would: with a W.