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Stat worth yakking about

Yards after catch have helped cause

One of the best at gaining yards after the catch, of Patriot Wes Welker's 138 receiving yards Sunday, 71 came after the initial grab. One of the best at gaining yards after the catch, of Patriot Wes Welker's 138 receiving yards Sunday, 71 came after the initial grab. (FILE/JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)

FOXBOROUGH - Put the three letters together and they don't spell a word, but in football-speak, no explanation is needed. The YAC - a.k.a. yards after catch - can be a quarterback's best friend.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made the point after Sunday's win over the Dolphins, saying he couldn't take credit for all of his 354 passing yards because a good chunk came after the catch. Brady was plenty accurate in completing 21 of 25 throws, but how accurate were his thoughts about the YAC produced by the team's pass-catchers?

Quite accurate, in fact.

YAC is not an official NFL statistic, but a simple review of the game tape can suffice, and Sunday's game produced 160 yards after the initial catch, an astronomical total.

Of receiver Wes Welker's 138 receiving yards, 71 came after the initial grab. Welker's shiftiness after the catch, of course, is nothing new to the Patriots.

"He was a thorn in our side when he was [in Miami]," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.

Now the tables are turned, which is why Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas was calling the 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound Welker - one of the NFL's smaller players - "a beast."

As Welker and the team's other pass-catchers often note, there are two key elements to high YAC totals - the ability to run and elude tacklers after the catch, and the quarterback delivering an accurate ball that gives the receiver a chance to get upfield. The Patriots were clicking in this regard Sunday, although the Redskins figure to be a tougher challenge this week, as Washington's secondary is arguably its strongest unit.

Sunday's YAC totals were bolstered by Donte' Stallworth gaining 40 yards after the reception - 25 on his 30-yard first-quarter touchdown, and another 15 on a fourth-quarter screen that helped the Patriots milk the clock.

Running back Heath Evans (26), receiver Randy Moss (13), running back Kevin Faulk (6), and tight end Kyle Brady (4) also chipped in to the impressive YAC effort.

Praise from Gibbs
In one respect, Sunday's matchup with Washington appears to pit two teams that approach their business from opposite ends of the spectrum.

The Patriots traditionally have been shrewd with their offseason moves, spending carefully and placing a high value on draft picks, while the Redskins regularly have been quick to dish out the cash in free agency and after acquiring players via trade - sometimes sending owner Daniel Snyder's private plane for players - while trading draft picks to plug immediate holes.

But there was a role reversal this year, as the Patriots had one of their busiest offseasons in Bill Belichick's eight-year tenure and the Redskins were quieter than normal.

From a personnel standpoint, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said he respects the Patriots' cohesion.

"Being able to get players and get the right players and then keep them together and play whatever scheme you play, they've been outstanding in acquiring talent," he said. "The whole organization from top to bottom, you don't get to where they are and do all the things they've done without having outstanding ownership and coaching and having great personnel people."

How have the Redskins attempted to model themselves after the Patriots?

"Their last Super Bowl year [in 2004], we went back and looked at every single one of their offensive plays; we studied them because they were so good and dominated teams that year," Gibbs said.

To-do list
Tom Brady has defeated every NFL team other than the Redskins. He faced them once, losing a 20-17 road decision Sept. 28, 2003. The Patriots took over on the Redskins' 45 with 1:39 left in that game, but could not get a first down to put them in range for a potential tying kick. Brady is 26-5 as a starter in regular-season games in which the final margin was less than a touchdown, and that loss to the Redskins was his first career setback in that regard . . . Washington makes its first regular-season visit to Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002, becoming the 26th opponent to travel to Gillette. Following this week's game, only five clubs have not played a regular-season or playoff game at Gillette - Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Philadelphia, and St. Louis . . . The Patriots are 21-4 against first-time visitors . . . The Redskins rank third in the NFL, allowing just 14.7 points per game . . . The Patriots have lost six straight regular-season games to the Redskins, dating to 1972, marking the longest drought the Patriots have against any NFL team . . . Sunday's game will mark just the eighth time the Patriots and Redskins have met in the regular season and just the third time since 1990.

Right move
Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel, who regularly has lined up on the left side, played more on the right side Sunday. That appeared to be a tactical adjustment because Miami likes to run more behind left tackle Vernon Carey . . . The Patriots were in three-wide and four-wide formations on 44 of their 52 offensive snaps in Sunday's win as they favored a spread attack . . . Right tackle Nick Kaczur's false start infraction in the third quarter was his first penalty of the season . . . The Patriots have been flagged for eight false starts this season, the most frequent penalty assessed against them . . . Safety Eugene Wilson, who didn't start for the second straight week, played approximately one-third of the snaps logged by starter James Sanders . . . The Patriots are 24-4 against the NFC since 2001 . . . With his team-high 12 tackles Sunday, Bruschi moved into a tie with Adalius Thomas for the team lead with 41 (as credited by coaches after film review) . . . Pierre Woods leads the team with 10 special teams tackles, followed by rookie first-round draft choice Brandon Meriweather (9) and Kelley Washington (8) . . . Second-year kicker Stephen Gostkowski boomed three touchbacks Sunday, improving his season total to 10, tied for third in the NFL behind Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski (16) and Seattle's Josh Brown (11). Gostkowski had 12 touchbacks last season.

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