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What we learned: Brady's bunch remains undefeated

Elusive scat back Dion Lewis returned to the lineup Thursday night, generating 112 yards and a touchdown to lead the undefeated New England Patriots to a convincing 36-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 8. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Signed to a reserve/future contract in late December, Lewis has been the most elusive -- and perhaps most exciting -- back in football. This electric juke on Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi has been routine this season, as Lewis consistently makes the first defender miss as a runner and receiver. His 93 first-half receiving yards were the most by a Patriots running back in more than two decades. In a sign of ultimate respect, the Dolphins sent top cornerback Brent Grimes in coverage when he lined up out wide.

It speaks to Tom Brady's transcendence that he riddled the NFL's No. 1 defense last week without one of his most valuable weapons. Between Lewis' unparalleled receiving chops and LeGarrette Blount's power between the tackles, the Patriots can play whatever style the matchup demands.

  1. The Dolphins rebounded from their miserable start to enter the wild-card discussion after back-to-back blowout victories, only to see their playoffs hopes wither with Cameron Wake's Achilles injury. Wake had been the most dominant defensive player in the league over the past two weeks, racking up six sacks and four forced fumbles. He's the best player on the roster and one of the most impactful pass rushers in the league.
  1. The prohibitive favorite for MVP honors, Brady said this week that he's a better quarterback now than he was five years ago. It certainly looked like it Thursday night, as Brady turned in another surgical performance, exploiting mismatches with Lewis, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. He's noticeably more nimble in the pocket this year, even against a Miami defense that hurried him a dozen times. Brady is now on pace for an NFL-record 5,506 yards, 46:2 TD-to-INT ratio, 68.9 completion rate, 8.3 yards per attempt and 115.8 passer rating. The Patriots have won 20 of Brady's last 21 meaningful starts. Not bad for a quarterback who is just a year younger than opposing head coach Dan Campbell.
  1. It's crazy to think the Patriots are playing at a higher level than last year's playoffs, but it's true. They are clicking on all cylinders like the 2004 and 2007 squads, thanks to the addition of Lewis' playmaking ability and the improved play of a talented young front seven. After picking up two more sacks versus the Dolphins, Chandler Jones now leads the NFL with 8.5. Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower have been just as impressive -- if not more so.
  1. Campbell found out about life outside the feckless AFC South. The Dolphins were shut out in the first half after setting a franchise record with 41 points in the first half versus the Texans five days ago. Lamar Miller was held to just 15 yards on nine carries after racing out to 175 yards by halftime of last week's game. This offense still has to prove it's not a one-trick pony, capable of being shut down when the defense takes the running game away. They face stiff tests at Buffalo and at Philadelphia the next two weeks.
  1. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski broke Adam Vinatieri's franchise record, connecting on his 26th consecutive field goal. Even better, he's converted 50 straight at home. He's a strong candidate for Around The NFL's midseason All-Pro team.
  1. Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo didn't enter the game until garbage time after playing just one snap last week. He's been an afterthought on defense in his age-29 season. Mayo is further evidence that a patellar tendon rupture has replaced grade-four ACL damage and Achilles' tendon tears as the most problematic injuries for NFL players.
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