Fix was in for Pats offense


Fix was in for Pats offense

FOXBORO - It looked like bye-bye to the bye and hello to hand-wringing that was going to have nervous hands in New England worn down to the bone by Wednesday.

And then the Patriots offense got right. Methodically erasing a first-half that featured six punts, three sacks of Tom Brady and a 17-0 deficit, the Patriots ran the Dolphins out of the gym in the final 30 minutes Sunday, scoring 27 straight points en route to their 27-24 win.

The Big Digout wouldn't have happened if the New England defense hadn't settled in and started getting the ball back in Tom Brady's hands. But Brady needed to do a 180 himself and rebound from an inaccurate half of throwing (7 of 19 for 87 yards) and general pocket jumpiness.

He did. And the prescription for the offensive woes was to hurry things up and work the middle of the Dolphins defense down.

We knew they would (go no-huddle in the second half), I mean thats what they do," said Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell. "When you watch these guys on tape they do it throughout games. Its nothing new. We knew at some point it was going to come. We were prepared for it but at the same time they slowed our pressure package down by going no-huddle. Theyd run a play and then theyd get right back on the ball trying to get the huddle call and the pressures not as good then because you cant really set up."

The heat Brady was subjected to behind a makeshift offensive line virtually disappeared because Miami couldn't sub its pass-rushers in.

"We didnt have time to set up our pressure package," explained Bell. "They were going to make sure we didnt have time to mess around in the second half so they were getting up on the ball going quick keeping us on our toes. They were snapping the ball quick and doing things like that."

Things like pounding the ball to Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Between them, they were targeted 15 times in the first half. By game's end, they'd seen 34 total throws. And Welker, who caught two of the seven passes thrown his way in the first half for 20 yards, caught 10 of the 12 thrown to him in the second for 118 yards.

"That was a pretty poor first half on myself," Welker said of the first 30 minutes. "That was pretty bad. I just wanted to let them know that that was bull on my part and in the second half, I wanted to come out and play the way we needed to play to win the game and thats what we were able to do. We were able to make some plays and everyone chipped in, and thats what its all about and thats how you win games. It takes a full effort from the whole team and nobody really was holding us back and I felt like in the first half, I really did that."

When asked to talk about Brady after the game, Miami corner Nolan Carroll said, "It was Welker and Gronkowski. He just worked the middle and that is what he is good at. He knows how to get the balls to his receivers and he is smart. He recognized a lot of stuff that we were doing and just attacked it."

In two of the past three games (Washington being the other), accuracy has been an issue for Brady early in games. On Sunday, he struggled not just with the Miami pass rush but also the Dolphins simply getting their hands up and forcing tipped passes or altered deliveries.

"We just had a hard time getting going," said Brady. "We obviously didnt play very well in the first half. I think we made a pretty big commitment at halftime to each other to go out and everyone do their job and quit worrying about everybody else and go out and play better and we did that."

The no-huddle isn't an elixir. The Patriots used it a little in the first half and the only result was quicker three-and-outs.

"We use it, it seems, like every game," said Brady. I dont think we go into every game thinking, This is what were going to do. If it works, we stick with it. We tried it early we tried it in the first half and it didnt work very well, but based on our personnel we thought maybe we should just stick with it and we certainly executed a lot better."

The reason it works better, Hernandez explained, is matchups.

"It just makes the defense hurry up and make a decision," explained Hernandez, who now has 72 catches for 772 yards and six TDs. "We play so fast and we can do so many things that cause a lot of problems to a defense... They cant really put who they really want on me, Gronk Rob Gronkowski, and Wes Welker and they kind of have to just play, so if theres linebackers on me or Gronk, theres a lot of mismatches.

"Wes Welker and Tom Brady started clicking and when theyre clicking everyone starts clicking, so they got it going and we just followed their lead," said Hernandez.

Brady isnow within 187 yards of the NFL record for passing yards in a season (5,084). Welker, who has 116 catches for 1,518 yards, needs eight receptions in the season finale against Buffalo to have the second-highest pass-catching year in NFL history. He'll surpass the 123-catch season that is currently second-highest accomplished by... Welker in 2009 (and Herman Moore who had 123 for the Lions in 1995).

With the first-round bye secured and the No. 1 seed in their back pocket if they win next week against Buffalo, the Patriots are playing for seeding and records.

But that wouldn't have been the case if New England hadn't done its about-face against the Fins.

Clayborn beats out Seymour, Vrabel to enter Patriots Hall of Fame


Clayborn beats out Seymour, Vrabel to enter Patriots Hall of Fame

Raymond Clayborn has been voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, beating out both Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour for the honor. The corner, who is tied for the franchise record for interceptions with Ty Law (36), will be the 26th person inducted to the Hall. 

Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowler (1983, 1985, 1986) during his 13-year Patriots career from 1977 through 1989. He was drafted by the Patriots in the first round (16th overall) out of Texas in 1977, and chipped in both in the secondary and as a kick returner. As a rookie in the return game, he averaged 31 yards per return and brought back three for touchdowns. 

Clayborn reacted to the news on Twitter soon after the announcement was made. 

"I was fortunate to be a season ticket holder during Raymond's entire Patriots career," Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "For the first half of his career, he teamed with Michael Haynes to form one of the best corner tandems in league history. Throughout his career, Raymond was a physical, shutdown corner.

"One of my favorite memories was watching the 1985 team advance to the Super Bowl after Raymond helped us break the Orange Bowl curse when he stymied future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino with a dominant performance against Pro Bowl receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Raymond had six passes defensed and an interception to help us claim our first conference title. It was the greatest upset victory in franchise history at the time and one the entire New England region celebrated. It is a well-deserved honor and I look forward to presenting him his hall of fame jacket."

Clayborn has been a finalist for each of the last four years but was not able to generate enough support in the annual online vote to beat out Ty Law (2014 inductee), Willie McGinest (2015) or Kevin Faulk (2016). Clayborn was eligible to be voted in by the senior committee since he's now been retired for 25 years, but he did not receive the requisite eight of 10 senior committee votes to be elected in that way. 

As it turns out, he didn't need to be. When Kraft called Clayborn with the news, he said Clayborn received over 40 percent of the vote to beat out the pair of three-time Super Bowl champs. 

Kyle Shanahan: One play I regret in Falcons' collapse vs. Patriots

Kyle Shanahan: One play I regret in Falcons' collapse vs. Patriots

Remember that Atlanta Falcons offensive game plan against the Patriots in the final five minutes of the Super Bowl?

Kyle Shanahan, then the Falcons offensive coordinator and now coach of the San Francisco 49ers won't forget it. If Atlanta had simply run the ball and kicked a field goal with an eight-point lead, the Falcons would have likely held off Tom Brady and the Pats' comeback from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit.

Shanahan told The Rich Eisen Show there's one play call he'd like to have back. 

"The second-and-10 that we got sacked on,” Shanahan said. “I wish I had dialed up something differently. And then the next play, we called an option to [Mohamed] Sanu, we got right back in field goal range, but we had a holding call on the play and it knocked us out some more, and an incompletion on the next one.”

Click here for the play: Patriots defensive lineman Trey Flowers sacked Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss. 

"I go through every single play in the game, but when it comes down to it, the big one was the sack that we had on second-and-10,” Shanahan told Eisen. 

Shanahan probably won't see the Patriots again this season, unless it's in the Super Bowl. And with the 49ers rebuilding under him, that's not likely to happen.