You could call it Brady Being Brady. Or you could call it an old fashioned shootout. Any way you slice it, the Patriots started off the 2011 regular season right where they left off the last.
Tom Brady showed off his reigning league-MVP mettle, throwing for a record 517 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the Pats to a 38-24 victory over the Dolphins on Monday night. Aiding those numbers was an incredible 99 yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, tied for the longest in NFL history.
Welker was the night's leading receiver with 8 receptions for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Deion Branch held his own with 93 yards on 7 receptions.
Breakout stars Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski looked as vital as ever to the Patriots' offensive production, combining for 13 receptions and 189 yards. Gronkowski added a touchdown on the evening, reminding everyone of his reputation as a major red zone target.
The New England defense definitely looks to be working out some kinks, allowing Chad Henne alone to rush for 59 yards on 7 carries including a nearly 9 yard rushing touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
The defensive backs were the bright spot on their side of the ball, with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung lead the defense with 11 and 9 tackles respectively, including a Chung sack. It's also worth noting that Kyle Arrington intercepted Chad Henne in the red zone to end the game and prevent a possible garbage-time score.
With the loss, the Dolphins have dropped 10 of their last 11 home games. Despite having a top ten league defense in 2010, the Dolphins were outscored by the Patriots 79-21 in their two meetings. Tonight's shellacking continues to expose Coach Sparano's issues combating the high-powered New England offense.
After the game, Brady was asked about how he could follow up his performance with an encore.
"Well, it was a good night in that sense, we executed pretty well at times," he said. "Look, it's a team sport. Those guys were making some great plays catching the ball. Aaron (Hernandez), Gronk, Chad (Ochocinco), Deion (Branch), Wes. There was a lot of tough looks out there that we got and guys really stayed aware of the situations. We made enough plays to win. That's the goal."
Brady also went on to talk about the in-game injury to offensive lineman Dan Koppen, speaking about the loss and describing their relationship.
"I think he and I have a great chemistry between the two of us, we always have. He's one of my great friends, and hopefully he's back at some point."
The Patriots now look ahead to Sunday, when they will make their 2011 debut at Gillette Stadium against the San Diego Chargers at 4:15 p.m.