15-0 .. 1 to Go
Partriots Pound on History's Door
It's wall-to-wall Patriots. NFL Network, ESPN, local channels, the radio, the internet. For the first time since the early days of the Super Bowl, an NFL game will be broadcast on multiple networks. You can't get away from them. But for the pile of Peyton Manning commercials, there's no escape. No wonder everyone else is sick of them.
We arrived here via a little jog against Miami. New England sprinted out of the blocks and coasted to the tape. There was nothing in the game unexpected. The Patriots didn't show anyone anything they hadn't seen before. If anything, they showed people (potential future opponents) nothing that they wanted to see.
28 - - - 7
Laurence Maroney ran the ball. Just 14 times, but he ran it effectively against a pathetically porous defense. Tom Brady threw to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney. And he threw to Moss. And he threw to Moss. And he threw to Moss.
It was almost as if the Patriots want to think they Maroney and Moss are the two focal points -- the only focal points -- of the offense. Moss was double-, triple-covered almost consistently in the second half. Brady kept throwing to him. Other receivers had to be open. But the Patriots invited Miami to cover Moss.
Grumpy 'Old' Men -- Thirty-two-year-old linebacker Mike Vrabel and 34-year-old safety Rodney Harrison sack Miami quarterback Cleo Lemon in the second quarter of Sunday's 28-7 win.
Photo courtesy: Boston Herald / Nancy Lane
New England placed third-stringer David Thomas on injured reserve after Week 4. Starters Ben Watson and Kyle Brady both were inactive Sunday. That left Stephen Spach whom the Patriots signed before Week 15's Jets game. Spach has yet to catch a pass from Tom Brady except maybe in practice.
Against the Dolphins, New England's starting offense consisted of Tom Brady, five linemen, Moss, Welker, Gaffney, and Donté Stallworth, and Maroney. Nearly a third of all offensive plays employed a halfback/fullback or two-running back set, a relative rarity this season.
Spach took the field in all of 9 offensive plays. Offensive tackles Ryan O'Callaghan and Wesley Britt lined up as tight ends for the extra blockers. O'Callaghan lined up as a tight end 9 times; Britt, 8 times. With the exception of Moss's second touchdown on the quick slant on which O'Callaghan lined up at tight end, any time either tackled lined up as eligible, Maroney ran the ball or when Tom Brady took a knee. About three quarters of them came in the second half and most on the final drive.
The status of Watson and Kyle Brady will be of key interest Saturday and heading into the playoffs.
The team stats predictably showed a lopsided game, even with New England's offense doing nothing in the second half. The Patriots, who converted 6 of 7 third downs in the first half, were still 50 percent (7 of 14) on the day. Miami was just 4 of 16. New England's offense was 2-for-2 in the red zone, both attempts in the first half, and 1-for-1 in goal-to-go. The Patriots' defense held the Dolphins to 0-for-2 in the red zone and 0-for-2 in goal-to-go.
Despite second-half offensive ineptness and the defense allowing the Dolphins to move the ball late in the game, the Patriots outgained Miami, 400 net yards to 241. Miami punted 10 times.
Breakway .. Score! -- Miami had 10 players "in the box" at the line of scrimmage. The 11th was on the right side. Patriots running back Laurence Maroney ran left and no one touched him in the course of his 59-yard touchdown.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Reuters photo
The Patriots scored on four of their five first-half drives (not counting a half-ending knee). The first of those drives as a 10-play, 5-minute, 15-second traversal of the field covering 70 yards. It was by far New England's longest drive of the game in terms of time and number of plays. The Patriots simply had no problem moving the ball in the first half.
Defensively in the first half, New England forced four 3-and-outs and limited a fifth drive to four plays. The Patriots allowed two long drives, on of 9 plays, but for just 27 yards, the other for 10 plays and 65 yards, but Miami forsook a field-goal attempt and tried to punch in a touchdown as the half came to a close. Bad decision.
And so the Patriots are on the doorstep, and the world has a scant three-day wait to see if their name will be etched in history.
New England held a walk-through practice today, so the team is not required to release an injury report.
Touchless Defense -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threaded the needle to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who coasted into the end zone with hardly a Dolphins defender in the same zip code.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Matthew J. Lee
Mr. Patriot 'Returns' -- Patriots jack-of-all-trades Troy Brown returns a punt. Brown received several ovations from the Gillette Stadium crowd as he also returned to New England's game-day roster for the first time this season.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Jim Davis
Junior Citizen -- He sacks. He celebrates. Patriots linebacker Junior Seau will be 39 on Jan. 19. Enough said.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Matthew J. Lee and Jim Davis