Almost never lose the second matchup with a team in a season? Check. Turn your backup quarterback into a hot commodity? Check. Tame the Wildcat? Check. Have that very same clipboard carrying backup QB develop ESP with one of your star receivers? Triple check. Is Bill Belichick one of the greatest coaches in football? Have we answered this question yet? Huh?
7-4. Read that again with pride, Patriots fans. 7-4. How many thought we would be this far and in the mix for a playoff berth? Not many. As the season progressed, power ranking gurus were disrespecting left and right; that's a huge mistake as Coach Sparano found out with Randy Moss. The swagger's back, my friends, and it's well deserved. A class organization from head to toe, they kept their collective mouths shut and went about their business, supporting their "new" quarterback and overcoming injury after injury to key starters.
One of the players I am most proud of is Randy Moss. While Cassel matured and got more reps, Randy became the third or fourth look. Quick, underneath passes to the likes of Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk, and Jabar Gaffney had to be the norm due to their higher percentage of completion. All the while, Randy waited. He didn't sink into his old "Raider Mode", sulking about not getting the ball and turning into a distraction. He simply supported his team in any way possible...and waited. "Scalpel"...and it was there. Again and again and again. Like a surgical team, Moss and Cassel developed that elusive connection so important to a receiver like Randy. The one where they know where to be without even communicating it. The one where Matt puts the ball where only Randy can get it. Forget about Moss and you've lost the game. That elusive connection between QB and receiver was missed and Miami paid the price.
Brady who? The announcers said this a few times. It's incredibly silly, mind you, but whatever. They're paid to be sensationalists. And I don't mind saying JHR was right in supporting Matt during the preseason. I was certainly one of those calling for his head at cut day. It's a good thing I don't coach football. Leave the really hard stuff to Hoodie, one of the greatest coaches in the game. But clearly, Matt was a latent talent waiting for his chance. BB has hit the QB lottery twice, right?
This was an evenly matched game for the first half. Two turnovers by the Patriots resulted in 2 scores by the Dolphins. That's not a good way to start a football game against a division rival. But, as so often happens, Belichick and his coaching staff regrouped and put on a show. Starting the second half at 17-14, the New England Patriots outscored the Miami Dolphins 31-14. They simply battered the Miami secondary and overpowered them. 408 yards in the air. You read that right. This is the Patriots' second 400+ aerial show in a row. Wow. That's all I have to say. Remember the beginning of the season? Keep the ball down. Pound the rock. Just use high percentage plays. Like cracking a safe, it took some time for the tumblers to fall into place. Matt's managing the game. He's seeing the coverages and reading his open receivers. And if they're not open? He'll just run...for TDs.
The stats are simply wacky. Third down efficiency was mediocre at 3 for 8 vs. Miami's 6 for 12. However, that doesn't tell the whole story. Total first downs was 30 vs. Miami's 23. Convert more and you keep a drive alive. Hang on to the ball more and you keep it alive, too. Time of possession was 33:10 vs. 26:50. The most telling stat of all, however, was net yardage: 530 vs. 392. Domination, plain and simple. Enough with numbers. I'm just too stoked to comb through them. The only one I really care about is another 1 in the W column. Sweet.
While Miami and its fans may be down about this loss, I think it's an amazing turnaround. This is a team that will play a big part in the AFC East for many years to come. They have the foundation in Pennington and Head Coach Tony Sparano. And Let's not forget the Tuna. He's one of the best turnaround artists in the business. There is no discounting Bill Parcells. Look out.
Did Hoodie hit the QB lottery with Tom Brady? Is he one of the greatest coaches of this era? Have we answered this question yet? Huh? Have we?