After further review ... Pats-Fins

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
4:35
PM ET
Some follow-up thoughts from the Patriots' season-opening win over the Dolphins after re-watching the game:

1. Felt like I was a little too tough on CB Devin McCourty. He had some ups and downs on the night, but overall, I'd say more good than bad. Think I got sucked in by the high tackle total. If I could do it again, would replace him on this list with WR Chad Ochocinco, who had a costly illegal formation penalty that would be defined as "bad football" by Bill Belichick. At the same time, I thought Ochocinco was interfered with at the end of the second quarter.

2. The two-minute offense has been a disappointment to this point of the season (including preseason). The Patriots are always seeking perfection and I'd expect them to stress this in practice after coming up short at the end of the second quarter Monday night. They are using a three-receiver package in the two-minute, and perhaps offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien considers a tweak by keeping the two tight ends on the field in that situation.

3. At first glance, Albert Haynesworth's performance was deemed a "quiet debut." But it was more than that as this was a case where the stat sheet (2 tackles) didn't tell the complete story. Haynesworth also drew two holding penalties on left guard Richie Incognito.

4. The importance of having a third tight end on the roster was reflected in how the Dolphins matched up personnel. In the Patriots' two-TE set, the Dolphins generally matched with a nickel look (5 defensive backs). To exploit some favorable matchups against the Dolphins' base defense, the Patriots ran three-TE packages 12 times (not including goal-line). TE Aaron Hernandez' receiver-like skills create a matchup issue in situations like those because he's like having a second receiver on the field. The Dolphins were penalized for 12-men-on-the-field against the 3-TE package.

5. Defensive lineman Myron Pryor made the most of his opportunities. He was disruptive.

6. Overall, just impressive the way the Patriots responded to swings of momentum (e.g. Dolphins' first drive; Tom Brady interception), scoring on the ensuing drive both times. Those are the early signs of a team with some mental toughness.

7. Didn't seem to be any big issues with new snapper Danny Aiken. He also made a special teams tackle, showing speed to get down the field on a punt.

8. Great hustle play by Deion Branch on the Brady interception to chase down DL Jared Odrick. That was a case where an opponent sniffed out the wide-receiver screen, a staple in the New England offense.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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