After reviewing the first quarter, it's very interesting to see how many young players were thrown directly into the fire. I was impressed by Nate Solder's poise at right tackle, as well as Ras-I Dowling's play at right cornerback. Josh Barrett was successful at safety, although I would have liked to see Sergio Brown on the field to cover Dolphins' tight end Anthony Fasano. While the Patriots looked terrible on defense on the opening drive, they definitely recovered and seemed to improve. There's a lot to discuss, so here are some points:
Can't really blame Dowling for Brandon Marshall's circus catch to open the game. Perfectly placed and impossible to defend.
Can't really blame Guyton for Anthony Fasano's one handed catch to get the Dolphins near the goal line. The ball was in a place where only Fasano could make a play. It would have been nice to see Guyton turn his head because he could have made a contact play to hit Fasano and knock the ball away.
Speaking of Guyton, he was extremely rough in run defense. He was porous. He was out of his lane a couple times, he was sealed off by Mike Pouncey for others. He was almost useless against the run because he forced Jerod Mayo to watch out for the center of the field.
There was very little pressure to speak of in the first quarter. Shaun Ellis was quiet at left end. Ninkovich had the most pressure.
Run defense was solid, other than Guyton. Albert Haynesworth made some incredible stops and drew a holding penalty. There was no where for the Dolphins to run, other than right at Guyton, and that's where they got multiple first downs (including the 4th down try and the Henne rushing touchdown).
Devin McCourty looked solid at cornerback and it's clear that the Patriots intend to have McCourty, Dowling, and Leigh Bodden on the field as much as possible. They looked good against the pass.
Jerod Mayo looked solid and it was clear that the Dolphins took him out of the plays by putting All Pro left tackle Jake Long on Mayo blocking duty the whole quarter.
Pat Chung was solid the whole quarter.
Tom Brady was electric. No issues there.
Chad Ochocinco had a rough start, but the "Illegal Formation" call was because Gronkowski was called into motion before the play. He should have stepped back, but he missed it.
Wes Welker was awesome. Julian Edelman was awesome. Deion Branch was awesome. Matthew Slater was awesome. Aaron Hernandez was awesome. Rob Gronkowski was awesome.
Dan Gronkowski is an extremely solid blocker and he looked great next to his brother.
Brian Waters impressed after only having a couple weeks in the system. He looked really good.
So did Nate Solder. Wow. Impressive opening.
Matt Light was knocked backwards a couple time, but he was solid, as was the rest of the offensive line.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was productive and a strong runner. He's powerful, but he doesn't seem explosive.
Danny Woodhead was great and saw a lot of action. He picked up a couple great blocks and was helpful running the ball.
Great play calling on offense.
Special Teams Notes:
Stephen Gostkowski looked good. No questions there.
Julian Edelman was electric on both returns.
1: Tom Brady - No question, Brady was awesome in the first quarter.
2: Albert Haynesworth - Haynesworth came up with some great tackles and was overall extremely disruptive.
3: Rob Gronkowski - He was blocking at a high level and he was a threat as a receiver.
1. Gary Guyton - He struggles against the run and was vulnerable against the pass. He made the other players around him have to worry about his play, which is not a good thing.
2. Chad Ochocinco - He didn't do much with his time on the field.
3. Pass Rush - Where was it?
Marshall catches an undefendable ball on the sideline. Ras-I Dowling in coverage, Rob Ninkovich with tremendous pressure.
Reggie Bush with a big receiving gain, Jerod Mayo in coverage. Mismatch.
Reggie Bush with a big run, Gary Guyton is stone walled out of the play by the center and Mayo is taken out by Jake Long.
Quick pass to Brian Hartline even though it questionably hit the ground. McCourty in coverage. Short gain.
Pat Chung as the nickelback, tight coverage on Davone Bess, incomplete pass.
Leigh Bodden in the slot, Jerod Mayo in coverage of Bush, 3rd down stop. Brings up 4th and 1.
Henne calls a TO.
Lex Hilliard runs up the gut for a first down. Guyton is pushed backwards and takes out the linebackers from the gap.
Pat Chung tackles Bush, but sticks his hand in the back of his helmet.
Reggie Bush up the middle again. Mayo blocked by Long, Guyton stonewalled as well. Holding on Albert Haynesworth brings the play back.
Brandon Marshall reception on McCourty, no YAC. No pass rush this drive.
Anthony Fasano with an incredible one-handed catch on Guyton. Can't stop those plays, but you'd like to see Guyton at least turn his head.
Henne calls another TO.
Andre Carter and Mike Wright with pressure, Carter with the sack.
Haynesworth with a great one armed tackle of Bush while being blocked by Long. Huge tackle and strength.
Henne runs into the end zone. Guyton moves to cover the already covered wide receivers to the side, leaving his lane. Henne takes advantage and scores. Great call by the Dolphins. One of the only successful 3rd down plays all game.
Julian Edelman with a nice return.
Tom Brady gets the Dolphins to jump with a hard count. Five free yards.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis with a nice strong run around the end.
Brady goes deep to Matthew Slater. Brandon Tate ran that route all last season and never connected. Slater looks like a valuable deep weapon. Bravo.
BJGE with a small gain. Nowhere to go.
Brady with a quick toss to Welker.
Brady with a big throw to Rob Gronkowski up the seam. Dangerous hit, leading Gronk to contact, but he holds on to the ball.
BJGE with a ridiculous spin for a touchdown. Like to note how well Nate Solder and Brian Waters played on the first drive. The Gronkowski brothers make a pair of fantastic blocks on the line while Aaron Hernandez makes a nice block up the field.
Stephen Gostkowski kicks the ball out of the end zone.
Bush runs right into Haynesworth. Small gain. Haynesworth has been huge against the run.
Chung swings Bush out of bounds after a quick reception.
Chung slows Bush on the 3rd down and Ninkovich makes the tackle to prevent the conversion.
Brandon Fields punts to Edelman who makes a really nice return.
Brady with a nice pass up the seam to Gronk, brought back due to a Chad Ochocinco illegal formation. While it's a bad play, he was fine until Gronkowski was motioned over to left side and put Ocho in an illegal spot. Bad play by Ocho, but that's the reason.
Brady to Deion Branch for a nice gain. Almost a first down. 3000th completion for Brady.
Brady to Hernandez for a nice gain. Woodhead a nice block on a delayed linebacker blitz to give Brady some extra time.
Brady goes to Welker for a huge gain to move the chains. Throwing very quickly.Woodhead runs for a short gain, trying to catch the Dolphins' run defense off guard.