NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
I touched yesterday on what happened during the game, but let’s dig a little deeper and see exactly why the Patriots were able to open the 2011 NFL season with a big win.
Here were the six keys to victory:
1. HURRY UP OFFENSE
The Patriots were smart to stay in the hurry up, especially after the Dolphins surprised everyone on their first drive. Not only did it push the momentum back on the Patriots side, but it also helped them dictate the pace of the game. Playing defense in Miami in September alone will tire you out, not having time to line up will allow 517 passing yards.
2. TIGHT ENDS/SOLDER
I’ll put these together because without one, you don’t have the other. Nate Solder taking on Cameron Wake head on and being so effective allowed Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to run free and do what they do best: catch passes. I was afraid Solder would struggle trying to defend the Dolphins pass rush, which would force Gronk to stay inside to help. Obviously that wasn’t the case and Gronk and Hernandez had incredible games.
I should also mention the 21 snaps Dan Gronkowski played. He did a great job staying inside and giving Brady the time he needed to throw.
3. DANNY WOODHEAD
Woodhead dominated the snap count in week 1 over Green-Ellis. I wouldn’t expect the 58:22 ratio to hold all season, but it show the strengths of both of these players. When the Patriots are going no-huddle heavy, expect to see a lot of Woodhead. Woodhead’s a player who gets lost in the shuffle a lot of the time when I’m watching the Patriots, but he still manages to amaze me 2-3 times a game with his shiftiness. When you see Woodhead get the ball, don’t you just assume the Pats are going to get somewhere between 4-8 yards out of the touch?
We didn’t get to see Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen (inactive) in week 1, but as the season progresses and our backs become less healthy, there will be a solid rotation to go around. Dane Fletcher and Hernandez spent some time lining up at fullback. That will continue without a Sammy Morris around any more.
4. DEFENSIVE LINE
For some reason the Dolphins kept thinking it was a good idea to run Reggie Bush up the middle. Not only was it ineffective, but that’s also a great way to get your “bellcow” injured. With the new 4-3 alignment, the Patriots have shown a difficulty in stopping outside rushes and scrambles from QBs.
That continued tonight, but I blame our linebackers (Gary Guyton) more than our line. The line showed great persistence in getting to the quarterback (credit the rotation) and did a great job stopping Bush from getting much room to run up the middle. That will happen when you have 700 pounds of human being up the middle no matter who’s playing DT.
5. RAS-I DOWLING
It was a big surprise to see Dowling start the game off at LCB. With how little reps he got in preseason action, I expected more Vereen treatment. Not only did Dowling start, but he impressed. He was extremely physical against Brandon Marshall and I’d say he actually fared better against Marshall than Leigh Bodden or Devin McCourty.
With so many teams lining up three wide receivers, you need three solid CBs. More Dowling means less Kyle Arrington and that my friends, is a good thing. Unless Arrington is lining up at DE, because that’s just fun.
6. PATRICK CHUNG
It’s fair to say that if Chung wasn’t on the field, Bush would have had a much bigger game for Miami.
As the last line of defense Chung was in on almost every run Bush had that cut to the outside. Where our linebackers were ineffective, Chung took over and at least limited the impact of the speedy running back.