Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

US PRESSWIRE

Notes, musings, and observations from New England's 23-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

I don't care what anyone says. This past week was no fun.

Usually, after I write a "Silencing Hank" article, I step away from my computer feeling a little better about the state of the Patriots and the upcoming game, because I'm able to at least put a small damper on the bulk of my concerns heading into the week. Well I don't know if anyone could pick up on it, but that article didn't do a damn thing for my nerves this time around. I was as nervous as they come for this one, because the fact of the matter is that, while the Pats could clinch with a win, a loss would have put them in a highly dangerous scenario. They would have dropped to 8-4 in the AFC East while the Dolphins moved up to 6-6, with the tiebreaker over New England. The team would then have had to play the Texans and 49ers back-to back, two games that are going to be very tough to win, and had at least a somewhat legitimate chance of coming into the last two weeks of the season at 8-6 and forced to play Miami for the AFC East title during the last game of the season before getting ready to host a tough playoff game the following week. I don't know about any of you, but I don't think I would have been able to handle that kind of December.

Not to worry, though, because the AFC East is back where it belongs. It wasn't pretty, but the Patriots pulled out the win yesterday and can now turn their attention to securing a first round playoff bye. As for me, I'm going to turn my attention to getting the feeling back in my hands, which were clenched a little too tightly for a little too long yesterday.

I'm going to go back and take a closer look at this game later on in the week, as there was a lot to like and dislike about the way the Patriots played yesterday, but for now I'm just going to try and relax a little and take a minute to enjoy another guaranteed New England Patriots playoff appearance.

*************

  • A Sunday game at 1PM in Miami in early December, and I felt like I was gearing up for a playoff game.
  • Wince Wilfork usually keeps his head shaved, and I realized why in pregame: that man is going bald up top. He's like some big, black, bald, athletic George Costanza.
  • Have the Patriots lost three games in Miami in December? Does anyone have any idea? There hasn't been any talk about it, so I don't know. Can somebody find out if the Patriots are 17-3 in December and those three losses have come to the Dolphins? Thanks.
  • I half expected the Patriots to come out in a base 3-4 with their sudden depth issues at defensive line, but Trevor Scott looked good, forcing a fumble and generating a lot of pressure.
  • You know who didn't look good though? Brandon Fields. There are few plays in sports that make athletic men look like Alec Shane more than a muffed punt. Just fumbling around, panicking and getting immediately tackled. And that's why I no longer leave my house on Black Friday.
  • About 20 times a year, Tom Brady completes a pass he has absolutely no business completing. His throw to Aaron Hernandez to set up first and goal is the latest. Herndo was covered; Brady is just that accurate.
  • Stevan Ridley's "Kick in the door" end zone dance is a massive improvement from that spinning cabbage patch dance he was doing earlier in the season.
  • Dan Dierdorf on Vince Wilfork: "Doesn't overcommit, great use of the hands, and falls into the ballcarrier. That sounds a lot like the "what I'm looking for" section of my old Match.com profile.
  • Good lord Tommy B was slinging it yesterday. All kinds of stank on those throws.
  • I think it was John Madden who initially said that there are few things in the NFL prettier than a well-executed screen. I have no choice but to agree with the guy - particularly considering that this is coming from the man who invented the turducken, so it has to be true.
  • Uh, Wes? Movember is over. Lose the ‘stache.
  • Whew! For a second I thought the Patriots were going to go the rest of the season without letting a receiver beat everyone deep!
  • What was Tommy B thinking on that pick? He had absolutely no business throwing that one.
  • God bless the camera guy responsible for the close-up shots of the Dolphins cheerleaders.
  • As soon as Dan Connolly left the game, something just seemed a little off with the offense. It wasn't even with the pass protection, either; there just seemed to be some kind of shift in the funk of the entire team. I can't really explain it.
  • How embarrassing is it when you slam into the punter, and you are the one who gets hurt? Real nice, Jimmy Wilson.
  • There is a formula for detecting how comfortable Tommy B is in the pocket; the less comfortable he feels , the more short passes Wes Welker catches. Based on yesterday, he may as well have been running around flailing his arms and screaming back there nonstop.
  • The Miami front four has a remarkably quick first step. Very, very impressed with their pass rush.
  • You know what else impresses me? Brady's ability to read the blitz.
  • Reggie Bush's block of Brandon Deaderick may have saved Ryan Tannehill a career of selling insurance.
  • I just realized that Bianca Wilfork and I have basically the same haircut.
  • The Miami Dolphins are not the team you want to play when your offensive line is at its absolute weakest. Jeez.
  • Gotta respect Brian Hartline. If you're gonna get called for a false start, you make sure it's the falsiest false start that ever false started.
  • Why, on 1st and 25, would you give the Dolphins a 15 yard cushion in the secondary?
  • Miami plays the "Jackass" guitar riff when their opponent commits a penalty. I like that.
  • Watching an opposing quarterback easily evade an oncoming lineman and run for positive yards is the one and only time I get a little miffed that our quarterback is Tom Brady. I think if all 1,696 NFL players competed in a footrace, Brady would finish about 1,694th.
  • Every time I hear Dierdorf speak, I can't help but think of Walter Mattheau in Grumpy Old Men.
  • While I'd never admit it to anybody in person, games like this one make me wish for a season where 8-8 is seen as a huge improvement. It must be very cathartic to have expectations for your team that don't center completely around winning a Super Bowl.
  • Reggie Bush on Dont'a Hightower is a huge mismatch. Don't know what the coaching staff was thinking there.
  • It seems like the Patriots had two plays yesterday: a quick screen or a long ball that resulted in an incompletion. Neither were all that effective.
  • Glad to see New England solidifying against the run in the second half.
  • It seemed like Miami was playing binary football yesterday; it was either a 3 and out or a long, sustained drive that ended in points.
  • You didn't need to look any further than the number of holding penalties Miami drew to see just how effective the Dolphins pass rush really was.
  • When Brady isn't comfortable, he can look downright mediocre at times.
  • How to beat the Patriots: limit the run, create pressure with your front four, and take away the middle of the field with your linebackers and safeties. Three of the four teams left on New England's schedule can do that. Crap.
  • Towards the end of the third quarter, I was much less nervous when the defense was on the field than when the offense was. Very weird feeling.
  • Was Reggie Bush ever a Charger?
  • Really missed Gronk yesterday. None of our receivers were taller than any of Miami's defenders.
  • Took them long enough to get to the no-huddle, didn't it?
  • How about the Patriots only play in Miami early in the year from now on...how does that sound? I'm also willing to travel to Miami in Week 17, provided the game is meaningless at that point.
  • I think this game might bring the team's points per game average down a bit.
  • I think it's time for announcers to stop saying that you don't see Wes Welker drop the ball that often. Welker drops the ball once per game. Usually it isn't a very meaningful play. Other times, it's the play that likely would have sealed a victory for your team.
  • My Tom Brady Christmas ornament fell off my tree almost immediately after Brady took his second sack of the goal-to-go drive that started at the two and ended at the 12. If that isn't a horrible omen, I don't know what is.
  • Hmm...Patriots with a two score lead in the 4th quarter. If history is any indicator, then this game is pretty much in the bag for the Patriots. NO WAY they blow a two score lead late. Nope, not gonna happen.
  • Why doesn't Jerod Mayo blitz more?
  • Oh good. No Edelman. It's not like the team was passing the ball well anyway.
  • The running game looked good late, which made me think that a turnover was imminent. Glad to see I was wrong there
  • Does Bill Belichick consider "sucking a big one all game and then coming alive late" situational football? Was that part of his gameplan?
  • That is the kind of catch Brandon Lloyd makes no matter where on the field he is.
  • I see that big fat guy in the silver facepaint at almost every Dolphins game. Big fat guy in the silver facepaint, if you're reading this, please email me and tell me your name. I'd like to give you a personal shout-out.
  • Dan Dierdorf was really impressed with the Danny Woodhead wood head helmets that those two hydrated guys in the stands were wearing. He thought they were incredibly innovative and creative. Those helmets started showing up about two games after Woodhead joined the team. Dierdorf either never saw them before (unlikely) or has a short term memory of about 45 seconds (a mathematical certainty).
  • But that still didn't stop Dierdorf from giving me a fricking heart attack when he said that Tommy B fumbled on 3rd and goal from the 2. Dan, I don't need your help destroying my ticker. I have a steady diet of fried garbage and wings that has me remarkably ahead of schedule in that department.
  • Brian Hartline was wide open all game. Not even open - like my mouth at a Chinese buffet open.
  • Is anyone even remotely surprised that Miami scored in about 45 seconds?
  • How great would it have been if Brandon Lloyd had caught that onside kick, made everyone miss, and ran 60 yards into the end zone?
  • What a nail biter that was. But hey, at least we aren't the Jets, right? I'll take the AFC East the same way I used to take my dates: any way I can get it.
  • Based on Bill Belichick's postgame press conference, he most certainly does not share my opinion. He was as curt and brief as he is after a loss. The only time he said more than ten words at a time was when a member of the media asked about one of the Dolphins players.

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