Quick-hit thoughts after 2nd quarter
September, 12, 2011
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Quick-hit thoughts after the second quarter, with the Patriots leading 14-7:
1. Great protection provided by rookie Nate Solder at right tackle on the team's second touchdown drive. Quarterback Tom Brady was kept clean throughout. Overall, Solder is playing well tonight against a tough opponent in Cameron Wake (14 sacks in 2010), his main downer a holding penalty on the two-minute march at the end of the quarter. The last sack looked more like a coverage sack than a Solder breakdown.
2. Offensively, the Patriots' general approach seems pretty straight-forward. They are playing mostly with either two or three tight ends. The Patriots liked this matchup and the tight ends are the reason why -- the Dolphins are having trouble covering them. Brady has been getting great protection and the Patriots have struck the right balance between the run and pass. By going to a hurry-up offense on a regular basis, the experience of Deion Branch and Wes Welker has trumped Chad Ochocinco in terms of playing time at receiver. Outside of the Patriots' final drive of the half, in which the three-receiver set was used in the two-minute offense, the Patriots had multiple tight ends on the field for every snap.
3. Snaps for Ochocinco in the first half (including penalties) -- 13. Of the 13, nine came on the final two-minute march.
4. Snaps for Albert Haynesworth in the first half (including penalties) -- 14. Nine of those came in the first quarter.
5. The Patriots are rotating personnel at safety. Sergio Brown came into the game for Josh Barrett on the Dolphins' third offensive possession. The Patriots also rotated at linebacker, with Dane Fletcher replacing Gary Guyton. Bill Belichick has done this in the past, the idea to keep players fresh in these warm conditions. In addition, the right guard rotation between Brian Waters and Dan Connolly has been on an every-other-series basis.
6. The injury to center Dan Koppen was the downer of the half for the Patriots. It looks serious. He couldn't put any pressure on his left leg and was carted off as the injury came on Tom Brady's quarterback sneak in the two-minute offense at the end of the quarter. That moved Dan Connolly to center and will limit the team's ability to rotate at right guard the rest of the game.
7. Overall, this game has been played fast. It's been fun to watch. Not a lot of wasted time on the field.
8. A missed 48-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski ended the half on a down note.
9. The Patriots get the ball to open the second half.