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Monday, September 22, 2008

I Don't Want to Live in a World Where Joey Porter is a Prophet

After a misleading win over the Jets last Sunday, the New England Patriots started to realize what they're missing since Tom Brady went down with a season-ending injury. The Miami Dolphins-losers of 18 of their last 20 games-came into Foxborough and thoroughly dominated the Pats, leaving with a 38-13 win that didn't even seem that close.

A fully healthy Ronnie Brown was the best player on the field. He ran 17 times for 113 yards (with a nine-yard catch), 4 touchdowns and he threw a 19-yard TD pass to tight end Anthony Fasano. Miami used a Wildcat formation (the Wildhog look that Arkansas used the last few seasons with Darren McFadden). Apparently, the Pats and none of their coaches have turned on a college game lately as Brown and Ricky Williams (16 carries, 98 yards; 2 catches, 21 yards) repeatedly gashed the New England defense for huge gains.

Things never seemed right from the start, even against such a bad team in a very winnable game at home. Brown started his scoring binge with a 2-yard plunge in the first quarter. Once again, Matt Cassel (19 for 31, 131 yards, touchdown, interception) and the Patriots offense struggled in the red zone. Stephen Gostkowski got New England on the board with a 37-yard kick in the beginning of the second quarter.

Brown answered with a 15-yard run to put Miami (1-2) up 14-3. Clearly, the Pats (2-1) couldn't keep settling for field goals when their defense wasn't making any stops. Gostkowski added a 44-yard field goal and New England was lucky to get that. Cassel's pass for Wes Welker (6 catches, 55 yards; 1 carry, 19 yards) went through a Dolphin's arms and Welker grabbed it for a 21-yard gain.

Cassel threw an interception to Miami defensive end Randy Starks, who returned it eight yards. Brown's 5-yard TD run with less than a minute left in the half was a killer as it put Miami up 21-6 going into the break.

New England would make radical adjustments at halftime, right? Not really. Chad Pennington (17 for 20, 226 yards) kept finding open receivers down the field while the Patriots' D could never get off the field.

Fasano hauled in the 19-yard pass from Brown to give the Dolphins an insurmountable 28-6 lead in the third quarter. New England received a temporary boost when Cassel found Jabar Gaffney for a 5-yard TD pass but it was too little too late.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Brown went 61 yards for his final score. Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter added a 39-yard kick to make the final margin 38-13.

Randy Moss (4 catches, 25 yards) was completely nonexistent for the second week in a row. The bye week actually comes at a fitting time for New England as they have to go back to the drawing board. This ultra-conservative play-calling isn't working and they have to figure out how to improve things on defense or else there will be a bunch more ugly games like yesterday.

Their schedule is still cake and although the Bills are 3-0 (and probably the class of the AFC East), their division is still miserable. It's one game and it will probably force the Patriots to look in the mirror and realize that Brady ain't coming back this season so they have to develop a new identity. They can't get much lower than yesterday.

In a sign of how bad it was, the best player for New England was probably Ellis Hobbs who returned six kicks for 237 yards, including an 81-yard burst. Joey Porter, who is washed up and talked trash during the week to the three people that paid attention, backed it up with three sacks.

After next week's bye, the Pats will travel to San Francisco then San Diego.

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