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MIAMI -- Pressure is usually associated with defense in the NFL, but the New England Patriots showed what a pressure offense is all about in their 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Monday night's season opener.
Quick to the line and never relenting, they had the Dolphins on their heels on a historic night for quarterback Tom Brady, who threw for a franchise-record 517 yards, the fifth-best mark in NFL history.
"It's a fast pace -- getting to the line, everybody being on the same page and playing fast," said Pats receiver Wes Welker, who helped provide the exclamation mark on Brady's stellar performance with a 99-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the fourth quarter. "It's definitely an attacking style."
Brady is the conductor, the calm presence creating chaos for the 11 players on the other side of the line. Every play is like an offensive blitz.
After the Monday night assault, the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player deflected mention of his record output, focusing more on the team aspect of the win, as he often does. Yet he was more willing to touch on the rapid-fire approach that sparked the lethal effort.
The Patriots didn't substitute much on offense. They simply didn't want to waste time. Instead, the goal was to move on to the next play. Fast.
At times, the Dolphins were trying to run players in from the sideline, and the ball was sometimes snapped as they were attempting to get set. Brady and the Patriots' offense were in control most of the night.
"It's a fine line between putting pressure on a defense and playing out of control," Brady said after going 32-of-48 for the 517 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. "I thought at times we did both, and you never really want to play out of control on offense. It was a good pace at times but other times they adjusted to it."
Not really, actually. The Dolphins had to burn timeouts and were once penalized for having 12 men on the field. It was the Patriots who were supposed to come to South Florida and be affected by the warm conditions, but instead, they turned the heat up on the Dolphins' defense.
Patriots players noticed how the pressure-oriented approach affected a defense that was expected to put pressure on Brady with linebacker Cameron Wake (14 sacks in 2010), Jason Taylor and Co.
|Tom Brady (32-of-48, 4 TDs) kept things calm on the Patriots side while creating chaos for the Dolphins.|
"I think they were only lined up in a few defenses, and they weren't really able to coordinate what they were able to run," Welker said. "That definitely gives us an advantage when we can do that. We still have work to do with that, but I thought it was a good start for us."
Taylor, a longtime nemesis of Brady, has seen this act before. No, he wasn't surprised. "To me, he's the best quarterback in the league," Taylor said.
"I've been around for a good many years playing against that team," Taylor added. "We understand how good they are, how talented they are. They play well together and don't get in their way a whole lot."
On Monday night, the Patriots actually kept it simple on offense, mostly playing with two receivers (Deion Branch and Welker) and two tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez). Those four pass-catchers combined for 28 receptions for 442 yards and four touchdowns.
So there weren't many surprises, just a high level of execution, which was especially impressive considering the Patriots were starting rookie Nate Solder, their first-round draft choice, at right tackle. Furthermore, veteran Brian Waters started his first game for the team at right guard after signing just eight days earlier, and center Dan Koppen was carted off with a serious left ankle injury late in the second quarter.
Brady called the protection up front "incredible," and he lauded his pass-catchers.
"It's a team sport and those guys were catching the ball and making some great plays," he said. "There were a lot of tough looks out there that we got and guys really stayed aware of the situation."
As for the fast pace, Brady relayed that he likes it as long as it produces the desired result.
"I enjoy scoring points, so whatever we need to do to score points is what I enjoy doing," he said. "Sometimes we go fast and sometimes we go slow, it's just a matter of what the point of the drive is and how we're trying to execute. We're ultimately trying to get the ball in the end zone."
The Patriots showed that won't be much of a problem this season if they execute up to their capabilities. Being part of such a performance was new for Waters, the veteran guard who signed a two-year deal with the team after spending the past 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. His first impressions?
"The pace is hard to keep up with for anybody," he said. "I think it was something that was effective, something the offensive coordinator [Bill O'Brien] believes in. It was phenomenal, and there are still things we'll get better at, and that's kind of scary."
That, not surprisingly, was the tone Brady set in the locker room afterward with his teammates.
"The fact that even at the end of the game, he [said] he still could have been better, it's a challenge for the rest of us, always trying to get better and stepping our job up," Waters said. "He's a great one."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.