Patriots

Pats beat Dolphins on a record night for Brady

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Pats beat Dolphins on a record night for Brady

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Thirty-six touchdowns. Only four interceptions. Unanimous selection as the MVP of the National Football League. After accomplishing all that in 2010, what, you may have said to yourself, could Tom Brady do for an encore?

Game summary: Statistics, scoring and more

Funny you should ask.

Brady opened the 2011 season Monday night with

a) the 11th 500-yard passing game in NFL history,

b) a Patriots franchise record 517 yards passing (which was also good for fifth all-time in the NFL), and

c) the 12th 99-yard touchdown pass in NFL history.

"That's some video-game crap," marveled one of the newest Patriots, Chad Ochocinco.

It was enough to carry the Patriots to a 38-24 victory over the Dolphins, their eighth straight season-opening victory. They haven't lost the first game of a season since their 31-0 drubbing in the Lawyer Milloy Bowl in 2003.

Brady, who completed 32 passes in 48 attempts, and the Patriot offense rolled up 622 total yards.

"I've played with some good quarterbacks," said veteran offensive guard Brian Waters, playing in his first game for the Patriots, "but never a great one."

The Pats needed all those yards, since Chad Henne passed for 416 yards and the Dolphins, at 488, nearly had 500 offensive yards of their own. Together, Brady and Henne passed for an NFL record 933 yards.

But the Pat defense wasn't as bad as the numbers would indicate. The momentum of the game shifted after they held the Dolphins to a field goal when Miami, trailing only 21-14, had a first-and-goal at the New England 1. And later, when it was 31-17, the Pats stopped the Dolphins completely with another goal-line stand; Brady then put the game away with his 99-yard TD pass to Welker.

The heat and humidity of south Florida was supposed to work in Miami's favor, but the Pats and their no-huddle offense wore down the Dolphin defenders. Unable to sub out with Brady getting his team to the line of scrimmage within seconds of the end of the previous play, they were cramping and exhausted, and the Pats scored 24 second-half points in breaking open a close game.

The Dolphins had tied the game early in the third quarter on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Brian Hartline, set up by a 51-yard interception return by defensive lineman Jared Odrick. Benny Sapp's deflection of a Brady pass had caromed back to Odrick, who rumbled down to the 9-yard line.

But the Pats answered immediately, going 73 yards in 10 plays and retaking the lead, 21-14, on a two-yard pass from Brady to Welker.

The defense stepped up for the first time immediately afterwards, after Miami moved from its 11 to the Pats 1. The Pats, led by Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork, stuffed Lex Hilliard for a one-yard loss on first-and-goal, and Henne then missed two straight passes to Brandon Marshall -- Devin McCourty nearly intercepted the first -- forcing the Dolphins to settle for a 20-yard Dan Carpenter field goal, which made the score 21-17.

Brady resumed firing on the next series, taking the Pats from their 22 to the Dolphins 1 in eight plays, including a 24-yard pass to Deion Branch and a 30-yarder to Aaron Hernandez, which put the ball at the 1. He found Hernandez in the back corner of the end zone for the score, giving them a 28-17 lead.

A Stephen Gostkowski field goal upped the advantage to 31-17, and the Pats then put together their second goal-line stand, stopping the Dolphins at the 1.

And on the very next play, Brady and Welker tied the NFL record for the longest play from scrimmage, a 99-yard touchdown pass that increased New England's lead to 38-17.

Reggie Bush closed out the scoring for Miami with a two-yard TD run.

Badly timed penalties hampered the Patriots' offense twice in the first half, which is why - despite 13 first downs and 263 total yards (not to mention executing eight plays of 10 or more yards) in the first two quarters -- New England only held a slim 14-7 lead.

The first mishap was a false start penalty on Branch, after the Pats, looking to build on that 14-7 advantage, had moved from their own 16 to the Miami 42 in eight plays. The penalty, while innocuous enough, seemed to short-circuit the drive, as Brady missed on his next two passes and could only pick up seven yards to Branch on a third-and-15, forcing a punt.

The second was far more costly, as it prevented the Pats from completing a 90-yard drive in the final two minutes.

Brady was magnificent as he moved the Patriots from their own 10 to the Dolphins 19 after the two-minute warning. On three consecutive plays, he completed passes of 14 yards to Chad Ochocinco (Ocho's first reception as a Patriot), 23 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 22 yards to Gronkowski, giving the Pats a first-and-10 on the Miami 19. But a holding penalty on rookie Nate Solder -- who, to that point, had done a superb job on Cameron Wake as Sebastian Vollmer's fill-in at right tackle -- negated an 18-yard pass to Welker that put the ball on the 1. Pushed back to the 29, Wake then sacked Brady for a yard loss with seven seconds to play, forcing Gostkowski to attempt a 48-yard field goal. He missed badly to the right, and the Pats came away with nothing.

Prior to that, the Pats' attack was humming along as smoothly as it did in 2010. After Miami had opened the scoring on a nine-yard scramble by Henne, completing a 12-play, 84-yard drive after the kickoff, New England struck back with a six-play, 78-yard drive of its own. Matthew Slater's first NFL reception, a 46-yard pass from Brady, set up the Pats on the Miami 24, and a 14-yard Brady-to-Gronkowski completion moved it to the 4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis brought it in from there, making the score 7-7.

On their next possession, the Patriots needed only 2 minutes and 54 seconds to cover 65 yards in 7 plays for a 14-7 lead. Brady completed passes of 14 yards to Branch, 16 yards to Hernandez and 21 yards to Welker before hooking up with Gronkowski for a 10-yard touchdown.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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