There was alot to like for Pats' fans, in the Patriots' 38-24 win over the Miami Dolphins. But, before discussing the superlatives, I'll touch on the downers. Pats' center Dan Koppen suffered a broken left ankle tonight. An MRI will be done tomorrow, to determine whether he also has ligament damage. If so, he'll be gone for the season. But, the early prognosis is that it appears to be a clean break...which means that Koppen could be back within a couple of months: http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/rap_sheet/index.php/2011/09/12/breaking-patriots-c-dan-koppen-has-a-broken-ankle/
The other negative was the Patriots' pass defense...which still leaves much to be desired. But...on to the good stuff! Here are my grades:I. OFFENSE:
Outstanding performance by the offense, against a pretty good defense. The "O" was unstoppable in the second half. By the time the fourth quarter came along, the Dolphin defenders were noticeably winded. This seemed to be a theme throughout the league...as the players don't yet appear to be in shape to play a full 60 minutes. This is part of the reason why offenses appear to be ahead of the defensive units, thus far.1.) QB:
The "Terrific One" remained in his 2010 MVP form, tonight. Tom completed 32 of 48 passes, for an incredible 517 yards, four TDs, and one odd pick, which came on a WR screen. It cost the Patriots a TD. But, credit Brady for dusting himself off, and answering the score on the Pats' next possession. Folks, when Brady gets' time to throw, as he did tonight, he cannot be stopped. Some of Brady's highlights were a 46 yard rope to Matthew Slater, and another of the same distance, which clanged off Slater's hands. There was the collaboration with his TEs, a solid dose of Deion Branch in the 3rd quarter, and, of course, that gorgeous 99.5 yard strike to Wes Welker, which sealed the deal:GRADE: A+;
Although BJGE and Danny Woodhead seemingly appeared in cameo roles in tonight's Tom Brady Show, they were effective when called upon. Great effort by the Law Firm on the Pats' initial TD. He willed his way 5 yards, and into the endzone, after initially being hit at the line of scrimmage. Danny Woodhead was his usual effective self, especially on shot-gun draw plays. He and BJGE rushed for a combined 21 times for 103 yards, averaging a nifty 4.9 yards per carry:GRADE: B+;
The Big Uglies responded to their poor play in the pre-season, and to the injury bug, in a big way. But for a couple of late second quarter speed rushes by Cameron Wake, Brady was hardly endangered. Rookie RT Nate Solder, in relief of the injured Sebastien Vollmer, was beaten by Wake on those aforementioned plays. Aside from those, he appeared to completely neutralize, and at times dominate, Wake. That's pretty heady stuff for a rookie making his first NFL start. RG Bryan Waters played every snap out of necessity, and blended into the OL mix seemlessly. Nice job by Dan Connolly in relief of the injured Dan Koppen:GRADE: A+;
The Patriots may have the best set of TEs in the game. Rob Gronkowski continued on the path to a pro-bowl selection, finishing with 6 receptions for 86 yards, and a TD. He also hooked up with Brady on a beautiful 40 yard play, that was called back due to an illegal formation penalty against Chad Ochocinco. Aaron Hernandez was equally impressive, with 7 catches for 103 yards, and a TD.:GRADE: A+
As mentioned above, Deion Branch got hot in the 3rd quarter, and finished with 7 catches for 93 yards. There was a Matthew Slater sighting, as the Patriots continue their search for that elusive deep threat, who can stretch the field. Though Slater hauled in a 46 yard lazar, he dropped one of equal distance in the 4th quarter.
Ocho continued to be a no-show. Questions must be raised whether his difficulties center on "learning the system"...or whether, at age 33, his skills have vastly diminished.
Last, but certainly not least, Wes Welker led all receivers with 8 catchers for 160 yards. But, that 160 yards is somewhat misleading, considering that 99 of them came on one play. Nonetheless, that one play effectively closed the show:GRADE: A-;
There was some good redzone defense...and the pass-rush looked improved over last year. But, there were annoying issues in pass coverage, as the "D" had trouble closing out this game. They allowed the Dolphins to convert on 4th down four out of 5 times, including a 4th and 5, 4th and 7, and a 4th and 10. 1.) DL:
I really liked what I saw out of Albert Haynesworth. When he was in there, he was a force against what little running game the Dolphins brought to the table. He was also able to get push up the middle on pass plays. Myron Pryor also played effectively. Vince Wilfolk "Tysoned" Chad Henne on a rush, while Mark Anderson and Andre Carter chipped in with a sack each. Once Wilfolk and Haynesworth get into top playing shape, watch out:GRADE: B;
Jarod Mayo didn't have one of his better games. He badly whiffed on a tackle on WR Brandon Marshall, and was completely fooled on the 'Fins' QB draw call, on which they scored their first TD. None of the LBs distinguished themselves in coverage, tackling, or when blitzing:GRADE: C-;
Rookie CB Ras-I Dowling made one of the key plays of the game, by maintaining tight coverage on a fade route, on a 4th and goal from the one in the 4th quarter. His play prevented the Dolphins from cutting a 14 point Patriots' lead in half. After the subsequent turnover on downs, Brady hit Welker on the 99.5 yarder, effectively putting this game to rest.
Devin McCourty did some nice things tonight, but dropped what should have been a sure interception in the 3rd quarter. Folks, it's never good when a DB is the team leader in tackles. Tonight, McCourty finished with 11 tackles, 10 solos...while Patrick Chung was second with 9 tackles, all solos. This was the by-product of Miami's Chad Henne passing for 416 yards, and two TDs. The Pats had particular trouble with 'Fins TE, Anthony Fasano (5 catches, 82 yards), and star WR Brandon Marshall (7 catches for 139 yards). Got to be concerned with the coverage issues the Patriots' safeties appear to be having:GRADE: C-;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS:
Got to start wondering out loud about PK Stephen Gostkowski. Though his kickoffs usually lead to touch-backs, he leaves something to be desired as a FG kicker. I'm never confident when he lines one up outside of 35 yards. Tonight, in near perfect conditions, he missed a 48 yarder. Granted, a 48 yarder is no gimme, but...the guy simply isn't dependable outside of 35 yards. Though that sort of thing rarely matters against the Miamis of the world...it could bite the Pats when they play the better teams.
KR Julian Edelman turned in another solid job tonight. Zolton "The Magnificent" wasn't so magnificent tonight. He averaged just 38 yards per punt, and appeared to almost have one blocked. Solid kick coverage by the Patriots, as usual:GRADE: B;
Great job by BB and Bill O'Brien, who have their offense running to mid-season form. Good second half coaching adjustments. The decision to isolate and attack Dolphins' DB Nolan Carroll with Deion Branch brought huge dividends. Great use of their TEs, although Aaron Hernandez is, in reality, a big WR.
The Pats' "D", as is the case with most teams, is clearly behind the offense. The pass-rush is still a work in progress...and the overall LB play needs to improve, especially in pass coverage. Got to figure out what's going on at safety...especially FS. The Pats' badly need a better alternative in centerfield, to help their over-burdened CBs. Stay out of that damn "prevent defense"!! It almost allowed the 'Fins to make a late comeback. What's going on with Brandon Spikes, and Jermaine Cunningham?GRADE: B
V. PLAY OF THE GAME:
The 99.5 yard lazar from Brady to Welker, which put the 'Fins on ice. Here's a video of the play: http://thebiglead.com/index.php/2011/09/12/video-wes-welker-scores-a-99-yard-touchdow/comment-page-1/
;VI: PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=310912015
I invite you to post your comments, and/or opinions.