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.

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

The Patriots should always be motivated heading into games against the Ravens. After all, Baltimore might be the team’s primary rival. 

Yet Monday’s matchup might be about more than past meetings. It could be a revenge game for the Ravens’ role in the Deflategate fiasco. 

As Tom E. Curran notes in the above video, the then-recently eliminated Ravens set off the ordeal when they tipped off the Colts entering the 2014 AFC Championship game. From there, the year-and-a-half-long saga played itself out, ultimately resulting in Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from the league. 

Curran and Mike Giardi discussed whether Monday could be a revenge game, with them both concluding that they feel the Patriots are still “pissed off” at the Ravens. 

"I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Curran said. “Bill Belichick will usually throw bouquet after bouquet at the Baltimore Ravens any time they play, from Ozzie Newsome, to George Kokinis, to Eric DeCosta, to John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, everyone. Not a lot of that today. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a coincidence because I do know that when the Patriots were going through the process early on, the fact that the Ravens had dropped a dime -- their assistant special teams coach Jerry Rosburg calling the Indianapolis Colts and saying, “Look there was some foolishness going on with the K balls.’

“Additionally, when that email from the Colts to the NFL was sent to Mike Kensil, it said, 'It’s well-known throughout the league that the Patriots screw with the balls after they’ve been checked by the officials.' So if that conversation was going on during the week between those two teams, one certainly has to surmise that they also spoke about the fact of deflating footballs. 

“So as much as John Harbaugh has tried to dissuade anyone from thinking there was involvement, Dean Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells, Jerry Rosburg was interviewed by Ted Wells. Those are the only two principals from other organizations who were involved, so yeah, I think they’re still probably pretty pissed off about it.” 

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

FOXBORO -- Ever wonder what might've been if Bill Belichick had remained the coach of the Browns, and later the Ravens, after they moved from Cleveland? He says he doesn't.

[And maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't, as his last memories with the organization saw fans literally rip the team's stadium apart and throw it onto the field.]

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, no," Belichick told Baltimore reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I try to think ahead and make the best of the situation that I’m in, which is what I tried to do when I was in Cleveland. I took a team that wasn’t very good in 1991, prior to free agency and all of that, had a real good team in 1994. The team moved in 1995."

The decision to move the team helped undo the Browns season in 1995, and Belichick was later fired. There's little denying, though, that he left the pieces of a competitive roster behind. And he helped stock the Ravens' cupboard with valuable assets.

Five years after Belichick's tenure in Cleveland had expired, the franchise won a Super Bowl with linebacker Ray Lewis -- drafted with a pick Belichick had acquired -- as its foundational piece. 

"We made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie [Newsome] did a great job with," Belichick continued. "Ozzie and Ray Lewis were two of the cornerstones of that eventual championship team.

"I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I had a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time – 1995 wasn’t obviously a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened. But yeah, I think we would have been competitive if I had been the head coach there. I think we would have been competitive. We had a good team, we had a good staff, and we had a lot of good players.

"Ozzie did a good job with that team and made it better, and they won a championship five years later [with] some of the same players that we started with. But you know, it wasn’t my choice, Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was going to transition that for what they needed at that point in time. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, no."