Sunday, January 2, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Patriots 38, Dolphins 7
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 38-7 victory against the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium:
What it means. The Patriots finish the season 14-2 in a successful year that few saw coming because of the turnover on the roster. With the No. 1 seed having already been locked up entering the day, some of the things the Patriots were looking to accomplish were to maintain momentum, rest some injured players, and avoid serious injury. They checked out in almost every area.
Woodhead's injury bears watching. Running back Danny Woodhead left the game in the first quarter with a head injury and did not return. He appeared shaken up on the play during which he lost a fumble, and it looked like members of the team's medical staff were giving him a concussion-related test on the sideline. Woodhead remained on the sideline throughout the game. The other notable injury from a Patriots' perspective was with defensive lineman Myron Pryor, who left the game in the third quarter with an eye injury.
Green-Ellis gets his 1,000. BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 10-yard run early in the fourth quarter gave him 1,000 yards for the season, and the reaction on the sidelines showed how much it meant to the team. Bill Belichick gave Green-Ellis an embrace, as did offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who coordinates the running game. Offensive linemen and others also approached Green-Ellis as he made his way back to the sideline, and the ball was wrapped up and put away for Green-Ellis to keep. The scene on the sideline showed that Patriots players and coaches, who often stress the importance of team, also pay attention to individual milestones and what they mean.
Brady plays into the third quarter. With much of the focus leading into the game focusing on how much the starters would play, the Patriots kept quarterback Tom Brady in the game through the first series of the second half. At that point, the Patriots had built a 31-0 lead. Elsewhere, the Patriots played it safe with Wes Welker (not on injury report) and Deion Branch (knee), declaring them inactive before the game.
Highlighting some top individual efforts. In addition to Green-Ellis, some of the top individual performances for the Patriots came from receiver Julian Edelman (94-yard punt return), tight end Rob Gronkowski (10th TD catch of the year), cornerback Devin McCourty (7th interception of the year), defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (2 sacks), outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich (2 sacks), receiver Brandon Tate (diving 42-yard touchdown catch) and quarterbacks Brady (10 for 16, 199 yards, 2 TDs) and Brian Hoyer (first career TD pass).
Dolphins' future figures to be hot topic of discussion. With the Dolphins delivering a poor performance, the future of head coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland is likely to be a hot topic of discussion. Should they return? Also, quarterback Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen shared snaps, which figures to lead to more questions about whether Henne is the long-term answer at the position in Miami.
What is next. The Patriots have a first-round playoff bye and will host the lowest remaining seed on the weekend of Jan. 15-16.