By: Derek Havens
The Patriots opened up their 2011 season with a 38 – 24 win in Miami on Monday night. While the whole game wasn’t pretty, the Pats certainly did a lot of things right. Here are a few thoughts on the game –
– The Patriots offense wore out Miami’s defense: Tom Brady and the offense looked sharp on Monday night. I have never seen the team run a more perfect no-huddle offense. New England’s up-tempo style of play gassed the Dolphin’s defense to exhaustion. I was impressed with the fluidity of the offense, but I still feel like they left points on the field.
– Brady’s career night: Tom Brady carved up the Dolphin’s defense with absolute surgical precision. Brady became 18th player in NFL history to eclipse 35,000 career passing yards. Jim Kelly is 17th with 35,467 yds. He threw for 517 yards which is a franchise and Monday Night Football record.
– Dowling Starts: Rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling played extremely well for his NFL debut. He played physical against the Dolphin’s receivers and had spectacular man coverage. I was surprised to see he started over Leigh Bodden, but with his performance on Monday, it is certainly tough to argue with that decision by the coaching staff.
– Tight-ends step up: After a rookie player has such a great season, sometimes a sophomore slump can be expected. This does not seem to be the case for Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Both second-year TEs were big factors on Monday, catching everything in sight. Expect more of the same moving forward.
– Dan Koppen’s ankle injury a concern: Pats center Dan Koppen was carted off the field during the game and it did not look good. Initially, I thought Koppen might have hurt his leg, however, after he was x-rayed, he was on crutches with his ankle wrapped. This will certainly be a situation to monitor as Koppen has been a solid center for the Patriots over the past few years. With depth already an issue for the team, more roster transactions could be on the way this week.
– Bend but don’t break: I noticed some criticism towards the Pats defense from the very get go. Now even though they let up 389passing yards, the game was very fast paced. In fact, the Patriots (517) & Dolphins (389) combined for 906 passing yards, the most of any game in NFL history.
I was impressed with how the defense performed in the red zone. The championship defenses earlier in the decade would give up yards, but when it counted, they held opponents to field goals. The team did that tonight and I was happy to see it.
– Haynesworth and Ochocinco start slow: Of all the acquisitions the Pats made over the off-season, Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth were certainly the headliners. Both of these players did not make big impacts on Monday night but I feel they will be a factor later in the season. Of the two, Haynesworth definitely played better and I am excited to see what he and Vince Wilfork can accomplish side-by-side this year.
– Battle in the trenches: New England’s offense was the story of the game. They played at such a fast tempo, the referee’s and better yet the Dolphins defensive players had trouble getting set. Rookie tackle Nate Solder, who started at right tackle, played very well for the majority of the game. Along that line, veteran right guard Brian Waters, who signed last week, was solid.
I was also happy with some of the pressure the Pats generated and couldn’t help to think what the front seven would look like when Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes return from injury; not to mention when the players are in mid-season form after changing schemes. Pats fans should be optimistic moving forward.
Overall, a solid start to the season for the Patriots and fans should be excited about what they saw. A tough task next week, however, as they return home to face the San Diego Chargers. Be sure to check out further game analysis tomorrow.
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