|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
On Sunday, Nov. 9, the Patriots took the field against the Dolphins on what they were hoping to be a snowy field, but the Dolphins were a few weeks too late. Instead they got a sunny, 65-degree day, which is what you would expect from a Miami home game. Despite the wacky weather, the Patriots still managed to put together a 27-17 victory over the Dolphins.
Whether it was Stephen Gostkowski taking Tedd Ginn, Jr. out of the game by kicking balls out of the end zone on kickoffs or Randy Moss giving Vontae Davis a nice hand to the face, the Patriots put forth a full team effort and furthered themselves from the rest of the AFC East.
Zero tackles and zero sacks. Maybe next time Joey Porter will think twice before mouthing off about how the Patriots get favorable treatment because not only does it provide extra motivation for a team that is already better, but it also puts a target on your back. If you talk trash, you need to back it up plain and simple. As someone once told me: you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
A writer from the Miami Herald just doesn’t get it .
Speaking of shutting down Joey Porter, do you know who was responsible for him most of the game? That’s right. Sebastian Vollmer is realy shining as the starter while Matt Light recovers from his injury. I talked about Vollmer in a previous column and called him a “man among men.” Well it’s proven to be true because the rookie has held his own against pass rushers like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Porter. Next week he gets the quick Dwight Freeney (nine sacks), which will be probably his biggest test of the season.
With Matt Light coming back relatively soon, it will be interesting to see what Bill Belichick decides to do with the two offensive lineman because if we look back eight years ago, we will remember how Belichick handled the whole Brady-Bledsoe situation. Could we be seeing a similar one brewing? Matt Light is owed $4.5 million next season, and with no salary cap the Patriots will be able to release him without suffering a cap hit. For comparison, Vollmer is due a modest $395,000 paycheck in 2010.
It’s clear to me that before the season, while Tony Sporano and company are working on new formations and trick plays for their popular Wild Cat offense, they save one new wrinkle to unveil against the Patriots. It started in 2008, when the Dolphins unveiled the Wild Cat against an unprepared Patriots defense en route to a 38-13 rout. The formation caused enough confusion that the Dolphins were able to turn a 1-15 record in 2007 to an 11-5 record in 2008 and first place finish in the AFC East.
This time around, the Dolphins used their new weapon, Pat White, in a couple option plays that led to a 34-yard run by White and a 15-yard touchdown run by Ricky Williams. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Bill Belichick made some adjustments on the fly and was able to stifle the rest of the Dolphins’ option plays. There’s a reason why the option doesn’t work in the NFL like it does in college, and it’s because defenses are faster and smarter.
Earlier in the season I fell in love with Leigh Bodden’s physical style of play. Well, if I want to be fair, then I have to take notice of Brandon McGowan because there is no player on this defense hitting harder or playing more opportunistic football than he is right now. Honestly, I can’t believe it took me this long to give him his own paragraph. He currently leads the team in tackles (54) and fumbles forced (3).
On Sunday, McGowan was always around the action as he recorded nine tackles and forced a fumble. On the Dolphins’ first field goal drive, Ronnie Brown look like he was going to waltz in off the left side for an easy touchdown, but McGowan came out of nowhere like a missile and took out his legs to stop him from scoring. Fast forward to the second quarter where McGowan literally punched the ball out of a Miami receiver’s arms after an 18-yard gain (unfortunately the ball went out of bounds).
He is always around the ball, hits hard and I would not be surprised if down the line he forces a turnover that wins us a big game. He is going to be a huge factor in the Patriots game plan against the Colts this week and will likely be assigned to cover Dallas Clark all game. For all the players that Belichick has missed on in the past, he really struck gold with McGowan.
Tully Banta-Cain has never been viewed as an every down player. When he was first drafted by the Patriots, he was strictly a special team’s player who would fill in on pass rushing downs. Then he signed with San Francisco where he was a part-time starter at outside linebacker, but did not last more than two seasons. The Patriots signed him in the offseason to help with their third down packages, but after the Richard Seymour trade, Banta-Cain has assumed more of a role on the defense. He has really blossomed into a great pass rusher off the edge and ranks second on the team with three sacks on the season.
This past Sunday, Banta-Cain recorded a career-high nine tackles and forced Chad Henne into some quick decisions. He continues to be a tough matchup for any offensive tackle and will need to keep putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks because the Patriots lack that true pass rusher on their defense.