Brady makes history in victory over Dolphins
Prior to the Patriots and Dolphins opening their 2011 seasons on Monday night, much was made of Tom Brady’s struggles in Miami.
Well, commentators may have to come up with a new storyline the next time New England makes its annual trip to South Beach.
It was an off-season full of questions for the Patriots. How will new additions Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth fit in? What defensive alignment is coach Bill Belichick going to use? Who will play in the secondary? Can they rush the quarterback? Still, on opening night, New England received answers from the man who has delivered them for a decade.
Brady set a Patriot and Monday Night Football record by throwing for an astonishing 517 yards along with four touchdowns. Perhaps the most impressive part of Brady’s virtuoso performance was that it came against a stout Miami defense that possesses talent to spare in its secondary. To counter this, Brady spread the football around-four different receivers had at least six catches and 85 yards-and patiently went through his reads. Brady came into the game only 4-5 all-time in Miami, but got himself to .500 with an emphatic 38-24 victory.
Oddly enough, on a night that saw the two quarterbacks throw for nearly 1,000 yards, the first two scores came on the ground. The Dolphins made an early statement with a 12 play drive that covered 84 yards over 7:18, capped off with a Chad Henne nine yard touchdown run. The embattled Dolphins signal caller had a career night himself, throwing for 416 yards and rushing for another 59. The Dolphins’ joy was short-lived, however, as Brady marched the Patriots down the field in under four minutes, culminating in a Benjarvus Green-Ellis four yard touchdown run.
After a hold by the Patriot defense, Brady got rolling again, connecting on passes of 14, 16, and 21 yards, before eventually finding Gronkowski on back-to-back plays. The first was a short dump off for two yards, but the next was a beautifully placed 10 yard out route to the right pile on for his first touchdown pass of the night. The Patriots went to the half with a touchdown advantage, but Miami took advantage of a tipped Brady screen pass early in the third to put the only blemish on the new Ugg Boots front man’s stat sheet.
As Brady threw left to Deion Branch, Dolphin corner Benny Sapp jumped the route and tipped the ball high in the air, sending it back behind Brady and into the waiting arms of defensive end Jared Odrick. The versatile end returned it to the New England nine, and moments later Henne found receiver Brian Hartline for a 10 yard touchdown pass. That would be the last thing Dolphins fans could really cheer for.
The Patriots went to a permanent no huddle offense on the next drive and Brady washed away any talk of Branch being out of the offensive game plan. The two connected on three passes for 39 yards on the drive and, mixed with the hard inside running of Danny Woodhead, proved to be a combination the Dolphins could not slow down, let alone stop. To end the drive Brady stared down an all-out Dolphin blitz to find Welker for a two yard touchdown.
When the Patriots got the ball back, they again put it in the reigning MVP’s hands. This time Brady favored the match up he saw with Hernandez working against injured Dolphins corner Sean Smith. After Smith came up limping, Brady sent Hernandez on a seam route down the middle of the field hoping to take advantage of Hernandez’ strength, but instead saw his tight end simply run by the hobbled defensive back. Hernandez dove and made the catch, originally called a touchdown. After a review reveled that Smith had touched Hernandez just before he crossed the goal line, Brady went right back to the former Florida Gator on the next play, hitting a wide open Hernandez in the back of the end zone.
With the Patriots leading 31-17 and Brady sitting on a career best 412 yards, few expected more fireworks. But, that is exactly what the Patriot fans that made the trip to South Florida got with just under six minutes left in the game. After a failed fourth and goal attempt by Miami pinned New England at their own one yard line, Welker ran deep against single coverage and Brady found him for a 99 yard touchdown pass capping the historic night for New England’s future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Next up for New England is a game against San Diego that seems to have the makings of a shoot out, while Miami remains at home to face a Houston team coming off a blowout of the Peyton Manning-less Colts.