November 08, 2009
Patriots Turn Out To Be Wilder Cats
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- Here comes rookie quarterback Pat White, and here we go again.
This year, not quite.
A quick-strike drive in the second quarter gave all Patriot fans adverse flashbacks to last year, when the Miami Dolphins came into Gillette Stadium, unveiled the Wildcat offense to the league, and throttled the homestanding Patriots, 38-13. White, a rookie quarterback from West Virginia, came in on the second Miami drive of the second quarter after the second Wildcat play of the game for the Dolphins. He ran left on an option play and ran for 32 yards to the Patriot 45. Ricky Williams then ran an option right off the Wildcat for 11 yards, and after a pass interference call on Leigh Bodden, Williams ran another option right for 15 yards and a touchdown. It made the score 10-10 at the time, and the Patriots were left to wonder "Oh (expletive), what now?"
Unlike last year, the Patriots were able to figure White and the Wildcat out, and White was never this much of a factor again. Looking a lot like Michigan backup quarterback Dennard Robinson, who can run lightning fast but can't throw a lick, White would misfire on his only pass attempt and gain only 13 yards on his final five carries in the game. The Patriots, meanwhile, rode the tandem of Tom Brady and Randy Moss to a 27-17 win on Sunday. The Patriots opened up a 2-game lead in the AFC East, and handed the Dolphins their first division loss of the year.
The score was close most of the way thanks to a decent Miami Red Zone defense, which resulted in the Patriots needing four field goals by Stephen Gostkowski. The four field goals tied a career high for the 2008 Pro Bowl kicker, but anytime you get that output from your kicker, it reflects back on the offense for an inability to finish drives. Other than the final field goal which salted the game away with just under two minutes left, the Patriots were able to move the ball pretty well against an injury-depleted Miami defense, only to have the Dolphins magically make plays with the Patriots knocking on the doorstep of the end zone.
In the second quarter, the Patriots drove from their 39 to the Miami 11. On second and six from the 7-yard line, Brady tried to hit Moss in the end zone in double coverage and seemed to lay the ball in the right spot for Moss to make a leaping grab. But Jason Allen, a safety pressed into cornerback duty, bothered Moss enough to cause the incompletion. A coverage sack of Brady led to a 30-yard Gostkowski field goal. On the next drive, a pass interference penalty on Ben Watson forced the Patriots to try and convert a first down and 20 at the Miami 35. They made it to the 20, and Gostkowski was good from 38. They drove to the Miami 14 on the next and final possession of the first half, but a sack by Jason Taylor forced a Gostkowski 34-yard field goal with one second left before the intermission.
These stops kept Miami in the game, and at one point in the third quarter the Dolphins led, 17-16. Miami took the kickoff starting the second half and drove 66 yards in 16 plays, with White making a reappearance and a lot of Wildcat thrown in. Two throws to Greg Camarillo, one for 14 yards and one for 12 yards, with Shawn Springs and Bodden getting burned respectively, put the Dolphins on the Patriot doorstep. On third and goal at the one, Ronnie Brown took a snap out of the Wildcat, rolled left and found Joey Haynos in the end zone to give Miami its first lead since 3-0.
But the rest of the game pretty much belonged to the Patriots. Right after giving up the lead, the Patriots got it back three plays later. On third and two at the Patriot 28, Brady found Moss in the left flat on a right crossing pattern. Moss got into the clear, gave a great stiffarm to rookie cornerback Vontae Davis, and sprinted 71 yards to the end zone. Moss then caught a 2-point conversion to make it 24-17 Patriots, and they never looked back.
Davis was at the center of the first big play of the game. Three plays into the game, Brady challenged Davis by throwing deep to Moss over the middle. But Brady underthrew the ball, and Davis made a spectacular interception which sent the Dolphins off on a drive which would end in a 52-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter.
That was about the only hiccup on the day for Brady, as he would finish with 25 of 37 passing for 332 yards and a touchdown. It was Brady's 27th 300-yard passing game as a Patriot, pushing him ahead of Drew Bledsoe for the most in franchise history. Despite the interception, Brady would attain a 93.5 passer rating.
In typical Brady fashion, he would spread the wealth around. Moss had six catches for 147 yards, Wes Welker had nine catches for 84 yards, while Ben Watson and Kevin Faulk each had four catches. And in a nice surprise, sort of, Laurence Maroney was able to find some holes in the Miami interior line and rush for 82 yards on 20 carries and a 4.1 average per carry.
Chad Henne, another rookie Miami quarterback who, like Brady, calls Michigan his alma mater, wound up with 19 of 34 passing for 219 yards and a 75.5 passer rating. He could not really get into a rhythm once Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning kept shuttling White in there. With White in there, the Patriots eventually overplayed the run and ignored the passing game almost completely. Other than the drive in the second quarter, neither White nor the Wildcat had much of an effect on the game in general.
Because White was too one-dimensional, the Patriots were able to throw the kitchen sink at Henne when he was in there in the fourth quarter. On three straight drives in the final quarter the Patriots were able to force the Dolphins into two punts and a turnover on downs. On those three critical drives, the Dolphins were only able to gain 63 yards of total offense. The Patriots outgained the Dolphins in total yards, 432-334 for the game.
The first game of this brutal five-game stretch for the Patriots has a happy ending. The Patriots will take their act to Indianapolis next Sunday night to face a Colt team which endured a little scare on Sunday from Houston but managed to still have never lost a home game to the Texans. The Patriots will benefit from Bob Sanders being shelved for the season, but Peyton Manning no longer plays stupidly against the Patriots and their secondary may not present much of a challenge to Manning.
At least the Patriots know they have a better handle on the Wildcat. There was no ambush in 2009 by Miami. The Patriots played like the better team this time. They were indeed the "wilder cats" this year.
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