After a 38-24 drubbing of the Dolphins on Monday Night Football, the Patriots look like a team destined for a deep playoff run. Here are some of the top performers and a look at those who disappointed.
1. Tom Brady: It was just another day at the office for Tom Terrific. The reigning unanimous MVP, playing without his starting right tackle and a backup center, threw for a MNF-record 517 yards. Brady’s execution of the no-huddle offense and pinpoint accuracy was simply too much for the Dolphins defense to handle.
2. Gronk & Hernandez: These two should open up a law firm (no pun intended, BenJarvus). After exceeding expectations as rookies, the sophomore duo took their game to a new level in the season opener. Gronkowski’s blend of size, power and ability to get open are elite, and Hernandez’s athleticism is unmatched at the position. They combined for 13 catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Offensive line: With Sebastian Vollmer out with a back injury, rookie Nate Solder drew the start. While he was supposed to be the swing tackle, the 17th overall pick was faced with the tough task of shutting down Miami’s sackmaster Cameron Wake. Outside of a questionable holding penalty and a coverage sack, Solder did just that. The 6-foot-8, 319-pounder kept Brady clean in the pocket and neutralized Wake for most of the game. After Dan Koppen went down with a broken ankle, Dan Connolly finished the game at center and was solid as was new right guard Brian Waters.
1. Secondary: While Devin McCourty defended a few passes, overall it wasn’t the cleanest performance for a young group. McCourty and Co. didn’t do a good job shutting down Brandon Marshall (seven catches for 139 yards) and gave up a few big plays. Rookie Ras-I Dowling looked solid in his first game, preventing two goal-line touchdown attempts. The safeties didn’t make much of an impact, although Pat Chung was around the ball. But, giving up 416 yards to Chad Henne is unacceptable.
2. New additions: After a poor preseason, Chad Ochocinco’s struggles continued. The veteran wideout caught one pass for 14 yards on only 18 snaps. While some of this can be attributed to the no-huddle offense, Chad needs to get the playbook down if he wants to see significant playing time. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth got some decent push, but recorded only two tackles and no quarterback hits or sacks. His conditioning is still an issue, but I think he’ll begin to make an impact soon.