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PATS on the Back: Week 1

Wes Welker demonstrated why he is Tom Brady's No. 1 target. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Your 2011 New England Patriots kicked off their regular season in grand fashion Monday night down in the Sunshine State, showcasing an aerial attack that will go down in the record books.

38-24 was the final score, in favor of the good guys of course, but the number that we were impressed with most has to be 517. That’s the yardage total that Mr. Uggs himself, Tom Brady threw for against a Dolphin defense that had to be uttering some “uggs” and other groans throughout the evening.

The game wasn’t without error for New England. Needless to say, giving up 400+ yards to the likes of Chad Henne leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the ball. But on offense, it’s as if the Pats picked right up where they left off at the end of last year’s regular season. Let’s leave that ugly playoff loss last year out of the equation.

So in this article each week, we work it similar to the “Three Stars” that are announced after each NHL hockey game. I call it “PATS on the Back,” because heck, it’s a clever title, but also because this is where you’ll turn to for the most positive Pats article of the week. I write this with rose-colored glasses on, or better yet, with my Patriots foam fingers on. Never mind asking how I type with those things, let’s just skip over that point.

Here now, the Week 1 edition of “PATS on the Back,” highlighting the three biggest contributors to the big divisional win in Miami.

TOM BRADY, QB

While I’m sure I will easily be able to name Brady in every “PATS on the Back” article of the season, there is just no way I can overlook his performance on Monday night, and not give him top billing this week. That 517-yard passing mark set all sorts of records, including his own career high, a New England Patriots franchise high, a Monday Night Football high, and was the fifth highest passing yard total in NFL history.

Take that, Cam Newton and your over-hyped 422-yard debut!

The one blemish on Brady’s stat line? A fluky interception on a botched screen pass that was batted around… totally forgivable. The big highlight of course was the 99-yard TD pass to Wes Welker, only the 11th time in NFL history such a pass was completed, and the first since big name star Gus Frerotte hooked up with fellow Viking, Bernard Berrian on a 99-yard score in 2008. If this is a sign of what’s to come for Brady and this offense this season, opposing defenses should be shaking in their shoulder pads.

WES WELKER, WR

Take away that historic 99-yard catch-and-run to the end zone, and Welker would have still had an impressive seven catch, 61-yard, one touchdown stat line. His knee injury is clearly a thing of the past, judging by his elusiveness. His chemistry with his quarterback is clearly as strong as it’s ever been, judging by the way he led the team in targets and receptions. And his value to this offense is clearly invaluable… if that makes any sense.

The Dolphins had to be thinking as the game went on, “Gee whiz, it’d be nice to have that Welker dude back on our team.” Their loss has certainly been New England’s gain. Now get this man a new contract already!

AAROB GRONKNANDEZ, TE

No, that’s not a typo. Look, I only have three “PATS on the Back” to hand out each week, so this is my cheap way of not having to choose one tight end over the other. Thus, they shall be known as Aarob Gronknandez this week. The talented tight end twosome combined for 13 catches, 189 receiving yards, and two touchdown grabs. They were targeted 17 times by Gisele’s husband, which accounted for 35 percent of his pass attempts. These two second-year studs were certainly studly in Week 1, and I wouldn’t expect their contributions to drop off too much as the season wears on. Long live Aarob Gronknandez!

Honorable Mention: Nate Solder and Brian Waters did a bang-up job holding Miami’s Cameron Wake and the rest of the pass rush in check, allowing just one sack all night. Most times, Brady had all the time in the world to sit in the pocket and pick apart the Dolphin D. Also a well-deserved shout-out to Deion Branch, who after a catch-less preseason, had an understated seven catch, 93-yard night against the ‘Fins.

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