A 12-play, 84-yard opening drive that ended in a Chad Henne nine-yard touchdown run on a QB draw (yes, that Chad Henne) was quite the opening statement by the Dolphins.
After over a month of waiting to see the improved Patriots defense with their offseason additions on display, fans were greeted with the sight of Henne pumping his fist in the endzone to give Miami a 7-0 lead.
Well, it took 3:28 for Tom Brady to respond with a six-play, 78-yard drive of his own.
That was just the beginning.
Brady threw for a franchise-record 517 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Patriots to a 1-0 record with a 38-24 win over the Dolphins. Brady and the offense gave the NFL no reason to think that the Pats can't be just as good as they were last season when they led the league in scoring and finished with a 14-2 record.
The PFW Spin
During Brady's 2010 MVP season, in which he threw for 36 TDs and four picks and set an NFL record for most consecutive pass attempts without a pick, it looked like he was toying with defenses. In Week One of 2011, he faced a Dolphins defense that is very familiar with him. A Dolphins defense that ranked sixth in the league last season under Mike Nolan's guidance. A Dolphins defense that boasts one of the league's better corner tandems of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. And a Dolphins defense that has one of the league's better pass rushers — Cameron Wake.
So what does Brady do? He attacks the Dolphins' weaknesses over the middle. He found so much success last season with TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and he went right back to them. The pair combined for 13 catches for 189 yards and two scores.
With the score tied 14-14, Brady went back to work in the third quarter, and he saw that Davis was out of the game, forcing Miami to use CB Nolan Carroll on the outside. On that drive, Brady hit WR Deion Branch three times for 25 yards, setting up a touchdown throw to Wes Welker, who was covered by Benny Sapp.
On the next drive, Brady took advantage of a Dolphins weakness again, hitting Hernandez for a big gain after Smith started cramping up.
And then the play of the game. At New England's one-yard line, the Dolphins went after Brady (you would think they would have learned by that point that blitzing Brady doesn't rattle the MVP), and he hit Welker, who was covered by Sapp, for a 99-yard touchdown down the left sideline.
In addition to Brady's performance, rookie OT Nate Solder did a fine job in his debut, allowing just one sack to Wake. The third-down defense, which was last in the league last season, allowed just 2-of-14 conversions to Miami.
Regardless of the defensive performance, the Patriots showed last season that when Brady is on, no defense can stop them, and one of the popular picks to win Super Bowl XLVI sure looked the part Monday night.
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