Curran: Brady shocks 'Fins, awes Patriots

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Curran: Brady shocks 'Fins, awes Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
MIAMI - They ran them out of the gym. The belief (and I was one who held it) that the Patriots might be left gasping in the sticky air of South Florida Monday night was laughable by the end of New England's 38-24 win over the Dolphins. Instead of the Patriots being doubled over, it was the Dolphins. Exposed low by an up-tempo New England offense and the best quarterback of this generation, Miami wilted. And they were moving on. Veteran Miami linebacker Jason Taylor, being reminded one time too many about Brady throwing for 516 yards, finally said, "He hung 500 yards. Who gives a damn? There's next week. If you want to write a story about Tom Brady throwing for 500 yards, feel free. Congrats. He did a great job. We lost the game and we play again Sunday."The total was eye-popping and aided in large part by the 99-yard catch-and-run to Wes Welker in the fourth quarter. More impressive was the way the New England offense just kept crashing on the Dolphins in wave after wave. "Its a fine line between putting pressure on the defense and playing out of control," said Brady. "I thought at times we did both, and you never really want to play out of control on offense.It was a good pace at times, gave them some problems, and other times they adjusted to it."Asked how much he enjoys going quickly, Brady answered, "I enjoy scoring points. Whatever the hell we need to do to score points, thats what I enjoy doing. Sometimes we go fast, sometimes we go slow, its just a matter of what the point at the drive is, how were trying to execute, and ultimately trying to get the ball in the end zone."They did that seven times -- four times on passes from Brady. He made use of everybody except Chad Ochocinco, who had had one catch for 14 yards. Brady hit eight different receivers on the night and completed 28 to Wes Welker, Deion Branch and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. By the end, the Dolphins rising corner tandem of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith was cramping up. "That was phenomenal and there are plenty of things we can still get better on and that's kind of scary," said veteran guard Brian Waters who signed with the team late in the preseason. "The pace is just hard to keep up with for anybody, I don't care how good you are. The pace is hard for anybody."Brady wasn't interested in doing a victory lap or accepting bouquets after the win. There were plays that didn't look smooth, throws missed, choppy periods. His demeanor wasn't lost on Waters. "He's a great one. The fact that even at the end of the game, he was saying how it could have been better, that's phenomenal and that's a challenge for the rest of us, really," said Waters. "It makes you always concentrate on getting better and getting your job up."He is the reigning MVP coming off a 36-touchdown, four-pick season. The other time he won the MVP award in 2007, he threw 50 touchdown passes. Now add a 516-yard performance in the 2011 opener to his list. This is Bird. This is Teddy Ballgame. This is history, ladies and gentlemen. Said Matt Slater, who caught a 46-yard post from Brady in the first quarter, "I'm just happy to be a part of this effort tonight and part of this record-setting offense with this man tonight. He never ceases to amaze me. But the thing about him is he never gets complacent. He always is hungry to get better and that helps our team. We look to him and he sets the bar so high, even with a night like tonight where he goes for over 500 yards he's not like satisfied. He just says, 'All right, what do we got next week.' Just the way he approaches the game as a professional and I've learned a lot."It's astounding that this player who in the first portion of his career was the ultimate game-manager and clutch player, has now become one of the most prolific and efficient passers the game has seen. Enjoy the ride. And get yourself some oxygen. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.