Kisha’s Korner: Patriots ‘Fin’ish Leave Impressions
By Kisha Tapangan
When a team enters the final game of their regular season, sometimes it is the beginning of the end of their season. But for a team like the New England Patriots, this final game is part of the intricate process for preparation before the playoffs.
Entering the game on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, there was no question that Bill Belichick would play all of his starters. Interestingly enough, three of Tom Brady’s favorite targets were inactive: Wes Welker, Deion Branch and rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez.
The Patriots routed the Dolphins with a final score of 38-7 to finish the regular season at 14-2, the best record in the NFL and the best record entering the playoffs.
Brady explained on WEEI Radio how this season’s team differs from the struggling Patriots of 2009. “This team is really -- everything that we set for earlier in the year, we've earned.”
Earning the number one seed in the AFC East, a bye week and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Patriots have already begun preparation for whomever their opponent may be.
Patriots’ Lasting Impressions
The Miami Dolphins struggled to show any strength against the Patriots as their only scoring drive occurred in the fourth quarter. Combined, Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen were 16 of 37 passes, sacked five times, intercepted once and had a single touchdown.
One the other side of the field, Tom Brady continued his effectiveness by completing 10 of 16 passes for 199 yards, no sacks, no interceptions. Brady was not the only one leading the offense for the Patriots as backup Brian Hoyer was able to get some time on the field.
The Patriots rushing attack has left one of the most surprising lasting impressions on the season. With Laurence Maroney out of New England, the possibility of a vanishing rush attack for the Patriots seemed likely. That was until undrafted free agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis slowly but surely began to earn starts that equated to more carries more overall production.
|Green-Ellis broke 1,000 yards on the season vs Miami. (AP Photo)
For the first time since the Corey Dillon era, the Patriots finally found a running back that can do what needed to be done: Balance the passing game and gain as many yards as possible.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the perfect fit. When he was asked to describe his running style after reaching 1,000 rushing yards during the Sunday’s game, Green-Ellis simply said,
“Whatever it takes.”
Green-Ellis commented on his impressive accomplishment, “ Its not really an individual accomplishment. For one person to say that they [got] 1,000 yards by themselves they would be lying to you.”
As there was really nothing on the line for the Patriots against the Dolphins, it was a prime chance for some players who haven’t had as much playing time to make a statement. Second year utility player Julian Edelman was waiting for a chance.
That opportunity presented itself in the second quarter off of a Dolphins punt and with Edelman on the receiving end. And in an instant with a few cuts and sprints, Edelman was headed to the end zone for the longest punt return for a touchdown in franchise history.
Just like that, Edelman made his way into the Patriots record books.
Edelman may not have had as stellar of a season as he did during his rookie year, but the young receiver was anything but disappointed.
“My role has changed a little bit this year. I had to take on the punt returning role a little bit more to get my plays.” Edelman continued, “Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do because they’ve given me my opportunity to play in this league and I’m very thankful for that. “
...And Some First Impressions
There were several other players that got an opportunity to show what they’ve been practicing all season on the practice fields in Foxboro.
Back up quarterback Brian Hoyer impressed many spectators during this season’s training camp by beating out Brady in the always entertaining trash bin drill. The drill measured a passer’s accuracy and also gave them some bragging rights.
|Brian Hoyer threw his first career TD vs Miami. (AP Photo)
Brian Hoyer was the winner of this drill.
Hoyer showcased his passing ability finishing the game completing seven of 13 passes for 122 yards and his first career touchdown pass that came in a form of a 42 yard bomb to wide receiver Brandon Tate.
Tom Brady spoke volumes of Hoyer, “...He really performed well when he gets the opportunity, since the day that he's gotten here. And I think he's earned it. He's going to be a great player in this league.
Another notable first appearance was by 2010 third round pick wide receiver Taylor Price. Price who struggled in training camp has been inactive for most of the season. The rookie managed three catches for 41 yards and averaged 13.7 yards per catch.
Bill Belichick was happy with Price’s first appearance. "I thought he did some good things, caught the ball inside, caught it in some traffic...I thought he showed up and made some positive plays for us."
The Dolphins game was filled with surprising plays and unexpected player rotations. Nose tackle Kyle Love was spotted lining up for kickoff coverage. When asked about the unusual placement, Belichick replied, “You never know when you might need an extra guy.”
Defensive leader Vince Wilfork gave a bit more insight on the move.
“The more you can do around here the better you are. Once again, like I said, it started with Dan Connolly [returning punts] and now Kyle Love running down on kickoffs. I don’t know what’s next.”
The Patriots’ dominance over the Miami Dolphins is undeniable and the impressions left in their final regular season game have rippled through the league and has solidified them as the team to beat.
With a bye week ahead, the Patriots have plenty to prepare for as their opponent will be a mystery until the end of next week.
The New England Patriots await to face their opponent in the AFC Divisional Championship game which is set to take place on January 16, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kick off is set for 6:30 p.m. EST.
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
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