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When it was on the line, Bruschi responded with TD

FOXBOROUGH -- Just look at what you've started, Tedy.

After he scored on a 5-yard interception return to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead in yesterday's 12-0 victory over Miami Dolphins, Tedy Bruschi not only helped New England clinch the AFC East division title, he seemed to trigger a new Gillette Stadium fad when many of the 45,378 fans gleefully tossed fistfuls of snow into the air in celebration.

When Bruschi's touchdown was immediately accompanied on the stadium's PA by Gary Glitter's, "Rock 'n' Roll, Part 2," the fans tossed snow in synch with the song, like some sort of snowy fireworks display.

"That was incredible, wasn't it?" Bruschi said, acknowlegding the fan reaction after his fourth consecutive interception returned for a touchdown. "The fans throwing the snow up in the air to the music . . . It got me in the holiday spirit."

After New England's Brooks Barnard pinned the Dolphins at their 4 with a 36-yard punt, Miami quarterback Jay Fielder (13 of 31, 111 yards, 5 sacks, 1 fumble, 2 interceptions) seemed to be taken by the holiday spirit as well when he practically gift-wrapped the title for the Patriots on Bruschi's interception return.

"Tedy's play there was one of the all-time greatest individual plays I've ever seen," said linebacker Larry Izzo. "It took a lot of athletic ability. That's when you say an athlete is in the zone, for him to make that kind of play. To be able to snag the ball like that when he was about 5 feet away from the quarterback, and it's not like the guy is lobbing a little softball at ya, either. It just shows what kind of athlete he is."

Bruschi credited his return to a quick-hands drill his position coach, Pepper Johnson, had practiced with the linebackers.

"Every week, as linebackers and defensive backs -- and sometimes defensive linemen -- balls are thrown to you," Bruschi said. "Pepper Johnson throws it to us every Friday, as hard as he can. We make a little game out of it. That's what we were joking about on the sideline. We call it, `On The Line,' and it sort of resembled the same drill, because Pep gets really close when he throws the ball, so it did help me. I was on the line and there it was."

Asked what he saw on that pivotal play, which enabled the Patriots to gain some breathing room, Bruschi replied, "A ball. That's all I really saw."

As the play unfolded, he also saw his initial key, Miami running back Ricky Williams, drift out of backfield into the flat and pose not much of a downfield threat. When his eyes darted back to the quarterback, Bruschi caught a glimpse of Fiedler's eyes and somehow knew instantly the ball would be on its way.

"It was a defense where we had all the guys covered up," Bruschi said. "I peeked at Jay's eyes and there was the ball right there and I had to sort of reach up and grab it."

Bruschi poached Fielder's pass intended for Chris Chambers, took five steps to his left, and found paydirt. Bruschi had victimized Rich Gannon on a 48-yard return last Nov. 17 in Oakland and, in his next game on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, picked off Joey Harrington for a 27-yard TD. In a 31-10 victory at Philadelphia Sept. 14, Bruschi became the first player in team history to score on three consecutive interception returns when he picked off Donovan McNabb for an 18-yard TD.

"It's nice, because it seems like every time I get the ball I have a chance to score," Bruschi said. "Fortunately, I've been able to get it in the end zone."

Certainly, though, yesterday's interception return had to rank as his easiest touchdown of the four.

"No touchdown is easy, man," Bruschi said. "You've got to play defense, you've got to react to the ball, you've got to catch the ball. Then, hopefully, you're close enough or have got enough blockers in front of you that you can score. Fortunately, I was like on the 3-yard line."

Bruschi showed such great hands on the play, coach Bill Belichick joked that he might take a look at Bruschi on offense. Apprised of his coach's comment, Bruschi smiled broadly and said, "That's not happening. That was probably his joke of the press conference."

Fact of the matter is, Belichick probably wasn't joking. He was probably just thinking aloud.

Uh-oh, Tedy. Just look at what you've started now.

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afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 11 2 0 .846 20.7 16.1
Dolphins 8 5 0 .615 18.5 15.6
Bills 6 7 0 .462 16.5 15.4
Jets 5 8 0 .385 18.5 19.6
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