Patriots vs Dolphins: Unit Breakdown

NEPD Staff Writer: Ethan Hammerman

The Patriots did a really stellar job this week against the Dolphins. When it mattered, the defense was able to buckle down for the most part. The offense looked stellar. Let’s look a bit deeper though, unit by unit.

Passing — Eat, Drink, and Be Brady

Tom Brady, as usual, was pristine against Miami. He absolutely owned the middle of the field, where he completed 18 of 24 passes for 360 yards, 2 touchdowns and an average passer rating of 128.9. Those numbers are absolutely sensational. Brady was also phenomenal against the blitz, owning the Dolphins to a tune of a 142.3 passer rating.

Also, only 44.9% of the Patriots’ passing yards this week came after the catch, a nice bullet for Pats fans to have when defending their star quarterback. It seems as if Brady has not lost a step from his performance last year.

Rushing — Solid As A Rock

The Patriots running game is not going to overwhelm many opponents, but both Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis were able to make some headway against a supposedly strong Dolphins defensive front. 22 rushes combined for 106 yards in not a bad day in the office: the 4.8 yards per carry average makes those numbers look even better. More impressively, 63 of those yards were made after first contact, and both Patriot backs proved to be hard to bring down: Woodhead spun away from four tacklers in the game, while Law Firm was missed three times.

The direction of choice to run the ball? Behind the right side of the line: Nate Solder helped pave the way nine times for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Receiving – So Many Options

The Patriots receiving corps was pretty darn solid in yesterday’s game. They only had two drops all game long and were able to pick on the Dolphins’ defense. Deion Branch absolutely abused Nolan Carroll when he had the opportunity to do so: Brady looked his way six times when the ex-Terrapin was in coverage, and Branch had five grabs for 73 yards in those instances. Similarly, Wes Welker owned Benny Sapp to the tune of 5 receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

The tight ends were solid all game long as well. Aaron Hernandez could not be defended no matter who was covering him: all seven of his receptions came with a different Dolphin on him. Rob Gronkowski owned the linebacking corps as well. Overall, it was a good day for the Patriots’ receivers, and hopefully they continue to keep this up in the future.

Blocking – Nate Solder Is Our Lord and Master

The offensive line allowed two quarterback hits and nine pressures yesterday, not a bad day at the office. However, the story of the game was rookie Nate Solder, who stepped in for the injured Sebastian Vollmer and slowed down stud Cameron Wake, holding him to one QB hit and three pressures. He had some rookie mistakes, but overall it was a positive debut: funnily enough, for my money, he was more impressive in run blocking, as mentioned above.

Matt Light was a rock all game long, and Dan Connolly did an admirable job when he shifted from guard to center. Overall, Brady was unpressured for 36 of his 49 dropbacks: that’s ridiculous.

Defensive Line – Hey Hey Hey

In his Patriots debut, Albert Haynesworth had a huge impact, racking up a quarterback hit, three pressures and a stop in 30 snaps. However, the real star of the defensive line was Myron Pryor, who had a sack, two hits, three pressures and two stops in the same number of snaps. Pryor seems to be extremely well-suited for the 4-3 defense, and I am hopeful that we will see similar production from him in future games. M

ark Anderson also looked good in his first regular season game, as he led the Patriots with four pressures, while fellow debutant Andre Carter had three QB hits. On the flipside, Vince Wilfork and Shaun Ellis were a bit disappointing: they should bounce back in future games.

Linebackers – Mayoday

Let it be known that Jerod Mayo DOES make plays: he anchored the Patriots’ front seven with four stops, a couple of pressures and six tackles. Gary Guyton did not play as badly as some may think: on two of Anthony Fasano’s deep catches, he was right on his man, but the balls were placed perfectly by Chad Henne. Rob Ninkovich was a force all night as a pass rusher with two hits and three pressures. The linebackers did a pretty good job, though TE coverage will have to improve.

Secondary – Court Is In Recess…For Now

It was not one of Devin McCourty’s best games in a Patriots uniform: he was thrown at 15 times, giving up nine receptions for 151 yards, including 61 after the catch. He also missed two tackles. I think this may be due to adapting to not having a guy like Brandon Meriweather who can provide an over-the-top safety net in case DMC’s bumps fail at the line of scrimmage…plus Brandon Marshall is a pretty darn good receiver. McCourty still had two PDs and flashed the athletic ability that makes him special: we’ll see how he does this week against Vincent Jackson.

On the flip-side, Ras-I Dowling impressed in his debut. He was thrown at six times and only allowed two receptions (one of which was illegitimate.) Pat Chung also had a good game, leading the team with five stops and cleaning up a ton of plays on short dumpoffs. This will be huge in the future: short dumpoffs have killed the Patriots in the past. The secondary wasn’t 400 yards bad, but they do need to improve against a better QB in Philip Rivers next week.

Special Teams – Ups and Downs

Stephen Gostkowski does not look the same. I think he will be fine in the long run, but his injury may have sapped some leg/plant strength. Still, he is a top ten kicker in the NFL. Zoltan Mesko punted well, and the special teams unit did a good job in limiting Clyde Gates.

Awards (For Players Not Named Brady) And Final Thoughts

Offense: As a unit, they played pretty well. Here’s hoping they can carry this momentum into a tough game next week against the Chargers.

O-Three Stars – Welker, Hernandez, Light

Defense: They were not as bad as the statistics indicated, and the 18 pressures/12 hits/5 sacks is a major improvement in terms of getting to the quarterback. Rivers is a tougher match than Henne though: we’ll see what happens next week.

D-Three Stars: Pryor, Haynesworth, Chung

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