“It’s not what I expected, no.”
That’s what Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano stated in the post game press conference regarding a question about the Patriots special teams scoring.
The Dolphins and majority of the Boston media could agree with this statement for the outcome of the Monday night match-up. The Patriots’ success on all facets of the game was surprising, to say the least.
During the highly anticipated match-up, the Patriots set a record as the only team in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked field goal for a touchdown and return an interception for a touchdown all within the same game.
While the record set was impressive, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reminded everyone what the most important thing was: a Patriots win. “They played unselfishly and we got the win,” Belichick stated. “That is what we came down here for.”
The Patriots dominated the Miami Dolphins on Monday with a final score of 41-14. New England improved to 3-1 in the AFC East as the Dolphins fall to 2-2.
Playing Effective Defense
Without a doubt, the Patriots’ most obvious weakness Monday night was their young defensive unit. With Vince Wilfork as a solid anchor at nose tackle, it was the young corners and safeties who raised concerns over not stopping the Dolphins. Also to consider was that the pass rush for the Patriots has been non-existent up until Monday night.
Standout plays came from one of the most unexpected players. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich, a 2006 fifth round pick, is now making a name for himself a solid starter for the Patriots. The Purdue alum had an illuminating game with two interceptions, one sack and three total tackles. By the second interception, it looked as if Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne was targeting Ninkovich as the outside linebacker made the catches with such ease.
When Belichick was asked as to just how good Ninkovich’s hands were, he praised the outside linebacker’s effort.
“He has pretty good hands. He does some deep snapping and handles the ball pretty well. But those were two good catches.” Belichick continued, “He really had to extend, reach out and catch the ball.”
Not to be overlooked was safety Patrick Chung’s defensive efforts that dominated the second half of the game. Chung recorded four total tackles, blocked a punt, blocked a field goal attempt and even managed to return an interception 51 yards for a touchdown.
Quarterback Tom Brady already knew that Chung was capable of this level of play. “He's been ready to break out. He's worked his butt off all off season and really showed tonight what he's capable of,” Brady noted.
Newly signed safety Jarrad Page also recorded his first interception.
Overall, the Patriots defense managed to improve their standings by only allowing 14 points from the Wildcat offense of the Miami Dolphins. Patriots amassed more rushing yards, 119 in total, than the Dolphins who had a meager 95 yards. The Patriots defense was also successful in containing wide receiver Brandon Marshall who completed the game with just five catches for 50 yards and no touchdowns.
Truly Special: The Patriots Special Teams
Scott O’Brien, the Patriots special teams coach got a little bit of praise from head coach Bill Belichick on his unit’s efforts Monday night.
“They were all right.” Belichick explained while laughing, “It was a great effort. Those guys really worked hard, they work hard every week in practice...they go through a lot of little things and really do a good job of preparing so I was really happy for the success they had tonight.”
The special teams unit for the Patriots had plenty to be satisfied with. Patrick Chung’s blocked punt and field goal were some high points. As was cornerback Kyle Arrington’s 35 yard touchdown as a result of Chung’s blocked field goal kick, this was Arrington’s first defensive touchdown. Arrington has recently been starting in place of second year cornerback Darius Butler who has struggled in the games against New York and Cincinnati.
Arrington discussed how special teams is just as important in winning a game, “Special teams as you can see is as important phase of the game as offense and defense and you know we got a couple touchdowns off it and you know that was a big lift for us,” he said.
Wide receiver and special teamer Brandon Tate is making quite a niche for himself. Tate charged into the end zone from a kickoff return for the second time this season. Tate also caught four passes for 39 yards but it was his 103 yard kickoff return that really set the stage for a dominating second half by the Patriots. The University of North Carolina alum didn’t hesitate to credit his teammates on a winning performance, “I’ve got to give all the credit to my teammates for doing their assignments. Without them it wouldn’t be possible.”
Other things to be noted for the special teams is that for the first time, long snapper Jake Ingram struggled on snaps which forced punter Zoltan Mesko to compensate in having ball down in time for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Wide receiver Wes Welker also had a rare fumble on a punt return, Welker confessed, “...I hate being the lone guy that screwed up tonight on special teams.”
Welker’s mistake was vastly overshadowed by his teammates performances, as Welker clarified, “..No harm, no foul..”
Hard to believe that it wasn’t the Tom Brady-led offense that was the highlight of the game against the Dolphins. Although it was a monumental game for the quarterback, Brady reached his 100th win in just 131 career starts, his performance was nothing that needed to be spectacular to secure the win.
Brady finished the game by completing 19 of 24 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown, three sacks and a passer rating of 107.1.
Offensively, the Patriots rushing attack was effective with running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis leading the way with 16 carries for 76 yards and one touchdown. Danny Woodhead had eight carries for 36 yards and also recorded his second career touchdown, an 11 yard catch from Brady. Woodhead’s first rushing touchdown was just last week against the Buffalo Bills.
The surprisingly effective running back has received the respect of fellow undrafted standout player. “That’s what you love to see.” As Wes Welker spoke about Woodhead, “Put the size and everything to the side because the guy can play some ball.”
Patriots receivers took the backseat during Monday’s game as Welker managed eight catches for 70 yards while Randy Moss had no receptions.
With another divisional win for the Patriots, the problems in the defensive front are starting to decrease. An emerging group of linebackers and safeties are beginning to show their strength and the offense continues to flourish.
The Baltimore Ravens are a much different opponent for the Patriots. Quarterback Joe Flacco has a deep roster of targets that include the likes of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Not to mention, the Ravens defensive has kept their opponent’s scoring attempts to under 17 points. The Patriots are currently the highest scoring offense in the league. It will be a tough match up on all aspects of the game.
The Patriots will face the Baltimore Ravens following their week five bye. The game is set for October 17 at home at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check back for regular updates by Kisha