|Here We Go Again: Rondo Trade Rumors Have Begun||Patriots and Jets: Two Teams Heading in Oppositte Directions||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|
New England QB Tom Brady had a record evening on Monday night, shredding the Miami defense to the tune of 517 yards in a 38-24 win over the Dolphins. The Patriots now sit at 1-0, tied for first with New York and Buffalo in the AFC East.
Brady was in a groove all evening, starting the contest 8-8 before putting the game out of reach with a 99-yard pass to Wes Welker for his fourth TD pass of the night. The score was the 12th time in NFL history that a pass play has been 99 yards, the most recent on November 30, 2008, when Gus Frerotte connected with Bernard Berrian for the Vikings.
Brady targeted Welker 12 times, successful on nine attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns. The pair connected on a two-yard score in the third to give New England a 21-14 lead.
Despite allowing 24 points and 488 yards of offense, New England’s defense was solid all night. They surrendered an opening drive touchdown, but Miami converted a 4th and 1 before Chad Henne took a QB draw nine yards on third down for the 7-0 lead.
The defense settled down, shutting out the Dolphins for the rest of the first half. Miami was set up in short field when Jared Odrick corralled a tipped Brady pass that was intended for Welker. Odrick took it down to the Patriots’ nine yard-line on the return. Chad Henne connected with Brian Hartline for a 10-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the drive to tie the game 14-14 just 3:25 into the third.
The Dolphins scored one final touchdown against New England’s prevent defense to cut the deficit to 38-24, but was unable to do any further damage. Miami was just 3-6 in the red zone.
New England’s second year tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were prime targets for Brady. Gronkowski finished the game with six catches for 86 yards, including a 10-yard TD catch in the second for a 14-7 lead. Florida alum Aaron Hernandez hauled in eight receptions for 103 yards, capping off a fantastic contest with a one-yard touchdown in the third. Brady hooked up with Hernandez on a big 30-yard completion to set up the touchdown.
Brady was sensational all night en route to the fifth highest passing total in NFL history. His lone interception was a tipped pass, and he converted 8-13 third downs. Brady hooked up with Matt Slater on a big 46-yard completion to set up BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ one-yard plunge to tie the game 7-7.
The additions of Andre Carter, Albert Haynesworth, Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis paid immediate dividends. Haynesworth was a menace that forced Dolphins OL Richie Incognito to a trio of holding penalties, while Carter and Anderson each recorded sacks. Combined with Vince Wilfork, the Patriots allowed just 39 yards to Miami runners.
Beleaguered throughout all of 2010, New England’s third-down defense shined in the opener. Miami was just 2-14 on third down, but a 4-5 performance on fourth-down continued several Dolphin drives.
In his return from a season ending quadricep injury in 2010, Gostowski missed a critical 48-yard field goal at the end of the first half. To his credit, Gostowski boomed a 20-yard kick to make the score 31-17 in the fourth.
Mesko made just four appearances, but punted for an average of just 38 yards. His most egregious play was a key punt late in the fourth on a short field when he blasted a punt into the end zone for a touchback.
This is a very short list with a pair of kickers, but someone has to be the third dud. Guyton was burned on a pair of great plays by Miami TE Anthony Fasano which puts him on this list.
The Patriots return home to face the San Diego Chargers next Sunday at 4:15 on CBS. The Chargers are 1-0 after a come-from-behind 24-17 victory over the Vikings.