by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
So much for a defensive battle. Monday night’s tilt featured over 1,000 yards of total offense, with the Patriots literally passing by the Dolphins, 38-24.
Lots to like on the offensive side of the ball. The other side, not so much.
Game One gave us plenty to consider heading into New England’s home opener against San Diego.
Return To Center: The worst news of the night involved an avert-your-eyes ankle injury to center Dan Koppen. Tough news for the Pats, who’ve depended on Koppen as the line’s lynchpin since 2003. Dan Connolly deserves praise for stepping in, but we’ll have to keep an eye out for any long-term effects on the O-line.
’Cinco Deny-o: Has anyone else’s enthusiasm for signing Chad Ochocinco waned recently? New England’s hurry-up offense ensured that Miami’s beleaguered defense stayed on the field; at the same time, the Pats’ less-experienced receivers stayed off it. Number 85 had one reception, matching his number of illegal formation penalties.
Until he gets a chance to huddle up and go over each play call, we’ll reserve our season predictions on the mercurial receiver – though we grow impatient.
Passing Fancy: Maybe it’s the Uggs. Tom Brady made more successful passes than Casanova, compiling 517 passing yards in his franchise-record night. Miami’s highly-regarded defensive backs looked helpless at times. We’ll see if this success continues against San Diego, who fielded one of the best defenses in the league last year.
It’s Wes, No Less: A huge chunk of Brady’s passing yardage came on a seam pass to Wes Welker, whose pardon-me-I-have-somewhere-to-go straight arm sprung him on a 99-yard pass. This play stood out among many that got our hopes up, including a leaping grab by Aaron Hernandez and a flurry of passes to Deion Branch that dizzied the Dolphin D.
Henne-Penny, The Sky Is Falling: The one downer of the night came in the form of the Patriots’ supposedly revamped pass defense, which gave up 416 yards to Chad Henne. Henne has been described as a lot of things. “Good” is not one of them. He’s decent, sometimes even pretty good, but considering he was one Welker-like breakaway from matching Brady’s output does not bode well for this defense.
If Henne can pass for over 400, we’re concerned about what a quarterback like the Chargers’ Pro Bowl QB Phil Rivers can do this Sunday.
A Rivers Runs Through It: And, if Henne can run for 59 yards and a touchdown, don’t do you think Rivers is considering what kind of damage he can do on the ground?
Well? Don’t you?
Left In His Wake: Kudos to rookie offensive lineman Nate Solder, who engulfed pass-rush terror Cameron Wake throughout most of the night. Wake got one sack after some great coverage by his defensive backfield, Solder answered the biggest concern going into this game by handling Wake one-on-one. With Sebastian Vollmer back at practice, fans can take comfort in having Solder as a backup.
Ras To The Occasion: Nice debut for rookie defensive back Ras-I Dowling, whose size and strength seemed to make a difference near the goal line. Henne had to throw too high trying to get the ball over Dowling, and the rookie seemed to match up well overall in his battles with Brandon Marshall. Interesting to see where and how much he plays against the Chargers.
One last thing, a more general concern…
Officially Bad: A disappointing night for officiating with at least two blown calls by refs. On the first, a Davone Bess reception was called a touchdown but was not (New England held the Fins on downs and scored Welker’s TD on the next play). On the second, Reggie Bush’s TD was incorrectly called down at the one-yard line.
Gillette’s open for business, folks. Let’s see if there’s a home field advantage.
Chris Warner can be reached at email@example.com