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Jackie MacMullan

Stadium hardly Dolphin-safe

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - My favorite expression growing up was this: We smucked them.

Usually I came in for dinner declaring this after a particularly lopsided game of street hockey or kickball. Occasionally, it was after a touch football game when Michael Ricci, who had a bullet arm and the quickness to scramble away from anyone else in the neighborhood, was my teammate. He would send us all deep, stand back there for what seemed like at least two episodes of "Gilligan's Island," then smile, untouched, as one of us came down with the ball in our makeshift end zone.

Pro football isn't supposed to be like backyard touch on Stanford Drive, but the Patriots sure made it look that easy yesterday.

When Tom Brady faded back and unleashed a 50-yard bomb to Randy Moss in the second quarter - after his offensive line afforded him enough time to call his mom, tie his shoe, tuck in his shirt, and check his iPhone to see if Jacoby Ellsbury was in the lineup again - you kind of got the feeling they were on their way to smucking the hapless Miami Dolphins.

On that particular play, Moss sprinted down the right side of the field, blew past safety Renaldo Hill, then nudged aside safety Cameron Worrell as he rose above the defenders to gather in his 10th touchdown pass of the season (and second of the day).

It was ridiculous. Ridiculous that Brady had that much time, ridiculous that Moss came up with the ball, ridiculous how embarrassing this once-proud Dolphins defense looked on the play.

"Brady is just throwing up jump balls," said Miami cornerback Will Allen. "That's the way I saw it. Like basketball. He throws it up there, and Moss comes down with it.

"Those are plays we've got to make. But they won't let us."

That TD made the score 35-7 Patriots, and it was barely midway through the second quarter. If there was such thing as an NFL mercy rule, it would have been an appropriate time to implement it.

Although the chatter about New England becoming the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to run the table remains premature, it certainly will gain steam with yet another dominant Patriots performance. It would only be prudent, however, to pose the obvious question in the wake of this 49-28 shellacking: Are the Patriots really this good, or are the Dolphins really that bad?

Answer: A healthy combination of both.

The once-vaunted Fins defense, anchored by one-time Pro Bowlers Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, appears to have calcified overnight. It was giving up 30.3 points and 352.2 yards a game before the Patriots cruised in and pummeled it.

In fact, while we're speculating, how ironic would it be if New England (7-0) won 'em all in the same season Miami (0-7) lost 'em all?

"Even when they weren't clicking, they were moving the ball down the field," said Thomas. "A lot of that has to do with us. But a real lot of it has to do with them.

"If they keep playing in synch like they did today, they will be unstoppable."

It had been well-documented that for whatever reason, Brady had been reduced to an average Tom against the Dolphins, completing a mere 55.3 percent of his passes, throwing for an average of 81.9 fewer yards against them, and going just 7-5 as a starter.

Well try these numbers on for size: after Moss's second touchdown reception, Brady was 11 for 11 for 220 yards, 4 touchdowns, and quarterback rating of 158.3.

Did I mention already that the game still had almost seven minutes to go until halftime?

Asked if he was in some kind of zone, Brady answered, "They [receivers] are probably more in the zone than I am."

Brady did finally throw an incompletion when, under some rare pressure, he wisely threw it away at 5:23 of the second quarter. His next incompletion occurred on the very next play, when Donte' Stallworth let a catchable ball slip through his hands.

No matter. On the next series Brady hit Stallworth, Wes Welker, Welker again, and then Moss. That set up a Brady-to-Welker 14-yard touchdown pass and a 42-7 New England cushion.

"The way they spread the ball with Moss and Stallworth, Wes has the whole field to work with," Thomas said.

"Brady really performed well today, but I've seen it before. I saw it every week on tape."

Remember all those years when Peyton Manning racked up gaudy numbers during each and every win, with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, et al., making him look like a world-beater? We New Englanders dismissed those stats as Manning hauled in his Most Valuable Player honors, sniffing, "If Brady had those receivers, he'd have those numbers, too."

Brady now has the same caliber (or better) receivers as Manning. He has those same numbers - in fact, he's threatening Manning's regular-season record of 49 TDs in 2004, while completing passes at an eye-popping rate of 73.8 percent.

And there is no doubt he is the MVP of the 2007 season until further notice.

"I have never been around an individual that continually drives the people around him," lauded Patriots fullback Heath Evans.

"He's a coach with a great arm, and the best mind in football."

Brady threw six TD strikes yesterday, a franchise record. He completed 84 percent of his passes (21 of 25) and didn't even come close to throwing anything that resembled an interception. He threw passes to seven receivers and touchdowns to four teammates.

"It doesn't really seem fair sometimes," agreed tight end Kyle Brady, who caught three passes, including a touchdown.

Brady said there were so many Patriots fans in the stands yesterday, his team enjoyed the luxury of eliminating the silent count it usually must go to on the road.

"Obviously that's better for us," Brady said.

No wonder they smucked them.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is macmullan@globe.com.

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