Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Brady, Patriots take aim at record books
Tom Brady threw for 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yard strike to Wes Welker, as the New England Patriots won their eighth straight season opener, beating the Miami Dolphins 38-24.
Brady set personal, franchise and Monday Night Football records for pass yards as he led his team to a franchise-record 622 total yards of offense. That's the second-highest total in a team's season opener in NFL history.
The Dolphins racked up 488 yards of their own, their most since gaining 490 against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1995. The 1,110 combined yards of offense is the second-most in a single game in NFL history. The Los Angeles Rams and New York Yanks put up 1,133 yards for the all-time mark in 1950.
Brady's total is fifth-best all-time; Norm Van Brocklin holds the record, throwing for 554 yards in a game on September 28, 1951.
In the fourth quarter, Brady and Welker linked up for the 12th 99-yard touchdown pass in league history. That type of deep connection is something we haven't seen much from that duo. Brady targeted Welker on throws of 15 or more yards just eight times last season, completing five for 119 yards and a touchdown. Monday night he looked his way four times that far downfield, completing two for 120 yards and the historic score.
Last season Brady attempted 40 passes against Miami and just two of them traveled 15 yards or more (he attempted at least three passes of that length in every other game last season). Tonight he went 7-for-11 for 268 yards and a touchdown on throws of 15 or more yards.
It wasn't just Welker doing the damage. Four Patriots receivers -- Welker (8 receptions-160 yards), Aaron Hernandez (7-103), Deion Branch (7-93) and Rob Gronkowski (6-86) -- notched at least six receptions AND at least 85 yards. Elias confirmed that this was the first time ever there was four such performances in the same game.
Brady wasn't affected by the loss of center Dan Koppen, who left the game with an injury late in the first half. The Dolphins increased their blitz pressure when Koppen went out -- unfortunately for Miami, Brady was third in the league (among QBs with 100 action plays) in Total QBR (66.2) and led the league in NFL passer rating (121.9) against five or more pass rushers last season.
The Patriots used no-huddle offenses to keep the Dolphins in small defenses (five or more defensive backs) against their two tight-end sets. Brady had a field day out of those sets and it opened up the New England run game.
Patriots running backs ran for 85 yards on 16 attempts (5.3 yards per rush) against those pass-centric defenses and just 21 yards on eight attempts (2.6 yards per rush) against the Dolphins’ base 3-4.
Lost in the hullaballoo of the Brady records and a possible concern looking forward is the somewhat suspect performance of the Patriots defense. It was the fourth time that the Pats allowed 450 yards on the Monday night stage, and the first time the offense was able to overcome that to win. The defense allowed 488 total yards of offense, the most a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team has ever allowed to Miami.