By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 10, 2004

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FOXBOROUGH -- We hate to be this picky, but the final score should perhaps have been 35-0.

The Dolphins have a quarterback who is easily flustered. They have three running backs whom their mothers perhaps don't know who they are. Even their field goal kicker, Olindo Mare, missed the game due to a pre-game leg injury. How they were allowed to score ten points is beyond reason.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady's line looked like this: Nineteen passes, seven completions. One interception. 76 total passing yards, first time under 100 yards since a 2001 contest against these same Dolphins in Miami. Passer rating of 62.6.

Oh, yeah. Two touchdown passes. Both good enough for the win by themselves.

This is what the Patriots do, and have done for the last nineteen consecutive games. They just win. They don't dazzle you, they make mistakes, they aren't flashy or showy, but they simply win. That's all you need to in competitive sports. Olympians think about dogma like "it is not as important to win or lose than it is to have fought well". In the NFL, it is solely about winning. Right now, nobody does that better than the Patriots.

Even Sox ace Curt Schilling knows what this is all about. Once the playoffs begin, says he, you have to "judge me differently". Who cares how he pitched Game 1 against Anaheim? He won. Simple.

Dan Dierdorf of CBS took time off from his Patriot-bashing down and through the years to offer up this sage observation: "The Patriots do exactly what it takes to win "" no more, no less." Throughout the first four games of 2004, the "no more" has been more prevalent than the "no less", which is what makes these wins "unimpressive". Wins they still are, yes, but the Patriots may be severely tested when their next two opponents on their slate went into Sunday's action with as many combined losses as the Patriots.

And one of these teams could turn nineteen into zero very easily.

This was one of Brady's poorest days in recent memory. But it should be stated that Brady went into battle minus three of his deadly weapons: Deion Branch and Troy Brown were scratches due to injuries, and Bethel Johnson was inactive due to a coach's decision, details of which were not disclosed. As a result, David Givens caught four passes, but three others caught only one each. Graham's only catch went for one yard, but it was a first quarter touchdown. Givens hauled in a five-yard scoring strike in the third quarter when the entire Dolphin defense bit on a Brady play-fake to Corey Dillon.

Otherwise, the Dolphin secondary did a terrific job in covering the Patriot receivers. Patrick Surtain picked off a Brady pass in the first quarter, and Sam Madison made a dynamite play on a deep throw to Givens on the first play of the third quarter, leaving his man and sprinting to the very spot at the goal line where Givens was to make the catch. Brady was sacked once, by Dario Romero in the first quarter. Jason Taylor put lots of pressure on Brady all afternoon long.

It looked like an easy Patriot shutout from the outset, something that happened in the snow last December. Miami had only four total team yards going into their second drive of the second quarter. On the first play, Randy McMichael was left alone in the left flat for 19 yards putting the Dolphins at the Patriot 44. Then substitute running back Brock Forsey got everyone energized with touches on the next five plays, which gained 34 total yards. On third and four at the Patriot ten, Jay Fiedler lofted a soft toss into the end zone. Chris Chambers made a leaping grab for the touchdown and it was 10-7 Patriots. The easy win was never easy again for the rest of the afternoon.

In fact, the rest of the game seemed to be the Patriots sitting on the lead, scoring two touchdowns on the way, and playing just well enough to keep the Dolphins out of the end zone. The Dolphins had a 295-204 edge in total yards and a slight edge in time of possession. Fiedler outgained Brady, 251-76 in passing yardage. But the Dolphins could manage only an unlikely field goal by replacement kicker Wes Welker from 29 yards out the rest of the way. The Patriots played lots of bend-but-don't break defense, and knowing the kicking disadvantage the Dolphins were in, played a lot of soft defense between the 20s, but stiffened greatly if the Dolphins barged into the red area.

Another curious angle on the game was the sudden end to Dillon's day. His last touch was a terrific 36-yard rumble around left end, which helped set up the Patriots' last touchdown, a one-yard plunge by Rabih Abdullah. That put him at 94 yards on 18 carries. But Patrick Pass was featured on the next drive and carried twice for only 3 net yards. On the next drive, Dillon came in on the first play, tried to block a blitzing Madison, and was called for holding. That was it for Dillon for the day. No report of him being hurt came out. Pass managed 37 yards on 10 carries.

This game came down to the Patriots simply knowing that it could stop the Dolphin offense at will, and did so without breaking much of a sweat. The one Dolphin scoring drive notwithstanding, the Patriots simply made the plays when they had to. The Patriot defense sacked Fiedler three times, and Randall Gay registered the first interception of his career in the first quarter. As sort of an exclamation point to the afternoon, Patriot defenders knocked out two Dolphin quarterbacks on their final three offensive plays of the game. Rodney Harrison blasted Fiedler in the ribs while making a sack, then two plays later Rosevelt Colvin knocked A.J. Feeley silly on fourth down.

Thus far, the last three Patriot opponents have given the Patriots a good margin for error, and the Patriots could have even played better against the Colts in the opener. With 4-0 Seattle and the 4-0 Jets next up for the Patriots, getting wins number 20 and 21 could be very tough for the champions, as both opponents will not allow the Patriots to get away with occasional turnovers, untimely penalties (the Patriots kept it down to seven penalties on Sunday) and lapses in good execution.

But another incentive for the Patriots to do well these next two weeks, though the players will never admit to this being important, is that with two more wins the Patriots really will go into the record book. The NFL only counts regular season consecutive wins, and that record is 17 by the 1933-34 Chicago Bears. The Patriots have now tied the 1941-42 Bears, the 1972-73 Dolphins and the 1983-84 Dolphins with 16 straight in the regular season.

Still, the Patriots are the first team to win 19 straight including the playoffs. If this had been September to January, this would have knocked the 14-0 Dolphins of 1972 right off the map. The Patriots may still challenge that standard, and Fish Nation continues to wear that badge proudly, as well they should. But the Patriots have cemented their legacy as one the best teams in league history, and this run of perfection is something that teams like the Packers, Steelers, 49ers, Broncos, Cowboys and Dolphins have never done.

Next up is Seattle. From Brock Forsey to Shaun Alexander. From Jay Fiedler to Matt Hasselbeck. From Chris Chambers to Koren Robinson.

One game at a time. You bet.


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