Woodhead leaves early with a concussion
FOXBOROUGH — For what it’s worth, Danny Woodhead, who sustained a concussion in the first quarter of yesterday’s 38-7 win over the Dolphins, appeared all right in the locker room after the game.
He was aware enough to follow the team rule of injured players not talking, politely declining to chat with reporters as he quickly dressed after showering.
The versatile running back did not have his best day since arriving in New England, becoming the first Patriot in eight games to commit a turnover, and suffering the blow to the head on the same play.
Woodhead took a direct snap on the Patriots’ first possession for 19 yards. On their second possession, he was stopped for no gain and lost the ball when he was hit by Kendall Langford.
Shortly after the play, Woodhead was on the bench being asked questions by the training staff and then had his helmet taken away, signaling an end to his afternoon.
When asked if Woodhead could have returned, coach Bill Belichick said, “I don’t know; it really didn’t come to that.’’
The big question in the week preceding the regular-season finale was whether Belichick should rest key players, lest the team have a repeat of last year in Houston, when Wes Welker suffered a torn ACL and MCL and was unavailable for the postseason.
Although Belichick did keep some players out, including Welker, he had no qualms about asking most everyone else to suit up.
“We did what we felt was best for the team,’’ Belichick said. “I think if you’re a competitor and you play the game, you want to go out there and compete and play in it. I know you [reporters] don’t look at it that way, but I think if you compete in a game you compete.’’
Record grabbed Rob Gronkowski captured the Patriots rookie record for touchdown receptions by a tight end when he stretched out to grab a 13-yard pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter. The TD was the 10th for Gronkowski this season and set up a busy day for the second-round draft pick.
Gronkowski registered his first 100-yard game, as he made six catches for 102 yards. His 10 TDs are the second-most by a rookie tight end in NFL history, two shy of Mike Ditka’s record. Stepping into the end zone doesn’t get old for Gronkowski.
“I mean, I like getting into the end zone,’’ he said with a laugh. “Who doesn’t?’’
Asked if it is a positive for Gronkowski that Brady used him as a safety valve with Welker and Deion Branch inactive, veteran tight end Alge Crumpler took umbrage.
“He’s a playmaker; he’s not a safety valve,’’ he said.
Numbers game Brady played a limited amount of snaps but secured a few regular-season milestones.
He ended the regular season with a 111.0 quarterback rating, fifth-best of all time. He is the only QB to hold two spots among the top five. His 117.2 rating in 2007 ranks second.
He completed 10 of 16 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns and extended his NFL-record streak of consecutive attempts without an interception to 335. He ended the regular season with a 0.81 interception percentage (four in 492 attempts), third-best in NFL history and the best among QBs with at least 250 attempts.
“Guys have done a hell of a job of catching the ball in traffic,’’ Brady said. “The offensive line has been protecting. Interceptions pretty much ruin my [day], and I’m glad my [day] was not ruined.’’
Brady’s scoring pass to Gronkowski made him the sixth player in NFL history to throw a touchdown in all 16 regular-season games. He also extended his NFL record of games in which he had two touchdowns without an interception to nine in a row.
Picking over INT Cornerback Devin McCourty ended the regular season with another interception as he stepped in front of Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall and secured his seventh pick of the season. He has the second-most interceptions for a rookie in Patriots history, one behind Mike Haynes, who had eight in 1976. McCourty’s interceptions are the most for a Patriot since Asante Samuel had 10 in 2006. “I just kind of felt like [Miami quarterback Chad Henne] was looking that way,’’ McCourty said. “Once I saw the ball there, I was just trying to attack and beat the receiver to the ball.’’ . . . The Patriots used the game to give a few players more game experience, and no one was more ready than rookie wide receiver Taylor Price. A third-round pick out of Ohio, Price was active for the first time this season and caught three passes for 41 yards. “It felt good,’’ he said. “I missed it. I got to get back on the field and start competing against somebody else other than your team. It was good to get out there and show what I could do.’’ Running back Thomas Clayton made his Patriots debut, and defensive lineman Kyle Love made his first start. “We’ll take a look at the film and see how it all came out, but it was good to give some guys an opportunity to play,’’ Belichick said. “They may be playing here later on in the season. Who knows? That’s always good experience.’’
Sacks in the bag Vince Wilfork didn’t want this season to end without a sack, so he waited until the last game to get two. Wilfork had two sacks on one drive in the third quarter, getting to Henne for 9-yard and 6-yard losses. But on the first sack, Wilfork received a penalty for a borderline helmet-to-helmet hit. After ending last season without a sack, Wilfork said he couldn’t have that happen another season. “I joke with [defensive line coach Pepper Johnson] all the time that I can’t go 0-fer again this year, and you know what? God answered my prayers and I made a couple of plays.’’ . . . The Patriots’ schedule for the 2011 season became clear. Along with the usual AFC East opponents, the Patriots will face the Chiefs, Chargers, Cowboys, Giants, and Colts at home. The road schedule will include Denver, Oakland, Philadelphia, Washington, and Pittsburgh.
How now, Brown? After six seasons, Ronnie Brown acknowledged he could have played his final game with the Dolphins. The running back will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Brown and Ricky Williams, also a free agent, could be of interest to the Patriots, who are expected to have Fred Taylor retire in the offseason. Belichick buddy Nick Saban loved coaching Williams in Miami, and Brown was Saban’s first draft pick — second overall in 2005. Could Brown, who had his only 1,000-yard season in ’06, see himself playing for the Patriots? “I mean, that’s a tough question to answer, especially being in the situation where I’m still a part of the Miami Dolphins organization,’’ Brown said. “As a team, do they try to make the best of their opportunities? I think so. Just from the outside looking in, when you look at the Patriots you see they’re a close-knit group, they stick together, and they don’t really make a lot of mistakes. From a fundamental standpoint, they do things the right way.’’
First for Ninkovich Linebacker Rob Ninkovich picked up two sacks, a first in his career . . . The Patriots ended the regular season undefeated at home for the second consecutive season and were the only team in the NFL to be undefeated at home . . . The Patriots scored 30 or more points in eight consecutive games, matching an NFL record they tied in 2007 . . . Defensive lineman Myron Pryor returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 14 after missing six games because of a back injury . . . Crumpler caught a 10-yard pass for a touchdown in the third quarter. It was the second touchdown of the season for Crumpler and his most since he was with the Falcons in 2007 and registered five receiving TDs . . . In addition to Welker and Branch, the other inactives included linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (groin), offensive lineman Dan Connolly (concussion), defensive linemen Ron Brace (elbow), Mike Wright (concussion), and Brandon Deaderick (undisclosed), and tight end Aaron Hernandez (hip).
Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report.