Emptying the notebook …

FOXBOROUGH — A few scattered things left over after yesterday’s Patriots’ win over the Dolphins, 27-17, here at Gillette Stadium, before we hit you with some links in advance of Bill Belichick’s 11:45 a.m. press conference:

  • Gotta say it: I wasn’t totally buying into Sebastian Vollmer, based on the conditions and opponents he faced in his first two starts. Yes, he manned up Kyle Vanden Bosch some, but the Titans defensive end has had a frustrating season, and that was a blowout situation on a snowy track.

    I’m a lot more inclined to think of him as, sooner or later, Matt Light’s replacement now. He did have help — the Dolphins’ mixture of pressure is a big reason why so many shotgun sets were run by New England with two backs — but he more than handled his share of a challenging matchup with Joey Porter, shutting down and shutting up Miami’s entertaining loudmouth.

    In light of all that happened this week, I asked Vollmer if Porter was yapping out there. “Not really,” the big German responded. “He didn’t talk that much.”

    And a big part of that, surely, was how this rookie revelation handled the challenge of blocking him.


    “I didn’t know what to expect, I’d never played against him,” Vollmer said. “I watched this guy when I was in high school. He’s a great football player. I was busy enough preparing myself to have a chance against him [to ignore the chatter]. He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s a prolific pass-rusher, close to 90 [career] sacks, he’s great.”
    On this day, though, a rookie was greater. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Light is ready to return. Light’s 31, and has a contract that expires after 2010. There is the option to move him to right tackle, and displace Nick Kaczur. Clearly, this is a nice problem to have, although whomever is covering Tom Brady’s blindside has a challenging three weeks to come, with Dwight Freeney, Rex Ryan’s exotic pressure packages, and New Orleans’ Will Smith on the docket.

  • The Patriots and Dolphins face off again in four weeks in Miami, and I wouldn’t expect that Pat White’s spot duty yesterday is a one-week thing, so New England will have to be ready for him again.
    The “pistol” looks Miami gave the Patriots have been installed for a couple weeks, but, as Ricky Williams told me, “We’ve been tweaking it and trying to get it game-ready.” What will really make it dangerous is White finding a comfort level throwing the ball.
    The one attempt he had yesterday seemed to hit a water boy on the Patriots’ sideline, so he’s obviously not there yet. But I had one scout tell me last week that White was clearly the best passer at last February’s scouting combine. Top pick Matthew Stafford didn’t throw there, but Jets first-round pick Mark Sanchez did, so that’s saying something.
    “He’s a great player,” Dolphins left tackle Jake Long told me. “When he’s in there, he takes over the huddle. He can throw the ball a mile, and he can run and he’s not afraid to put his shoulder down and get those extra yards. That puts a lot of stress on defenses. It’s exciting seeing him get going.”
  • Finally, I had a moment with Chad Henne in the tunnel after the game, and we were talking about the Patriots’ adjusting to what the Dolphins were throwing at them.
    And once Henne started speaking in generalities, he paid the New England coaches the ultimate compliment. Remember all that talk last week about a team identifying its own tendencies in an effort to avoid becoming predictable? Turns out, the Patriots are pretty good in that area.
    “When you study them, there are no tendencies,” Henne said. “They’re gonna give you different coverages on different downs and you gotta be adjusting on the go. That’s what makes them good.”
    Henne broke down the Patriots effort defensively like this: “For the Wildcat, they were bringing some outside pressure, some penetration. And on third down, they were bringing eight guys. They were scheming us a little bit, and they made some plays.”
    That thing about blitzing there? Proof positive this staff’s confidence in its secondary has grown exponentially.
  • OK, so here’s what’s in the paper (and elsewhere) today …
    Columnist Dan Shaughnessy covers the wonder of Randy Moss, and how his football brilliance shines bright enough to block all else out.
    Boston.com columnist Chris Gasper looks at the Patriots taking a commanding lead in the division.
    My “On Football” column covers how the Patriots’ combated the Dolphins’ ever-expanding option game.
    Beat writer Adam Kilgore’s game story has the Patriots exacting revenge on Miami. And beat writer Monique Walker talks to Adalius Thomas, “heartbroken” over his lost touchdown, but still coming up big for the defense.
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