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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC East, FACT

Last year, the Miami Dolphins came into Gillette Stadium and shocked the Patriots and the NFL by unveiling their old-time offense, the wildcat. It spurred an AFC East title for Miami along with a nation-wide infatuation with this simple offensive system.

Yesterday back at Gillette and with a healthy Tom Brady, the Patriots held off the Dolphins 27-17 in an early season divisional showdown.

It was no surprise that Brady (332 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) and Randy Moss (6 catches, 147 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 two-point conversion) were the best players on the field.

Miami (3-5) tried to control the clock with its powerful running game led by Ronnie Brown and a cleaned up Ricky Williams, as evidenced by their ten minute drive to start the second half.

The difference was that New England's (6-2) offense had the quick-strike ability while Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne is still trying to find his way as a starter.

After rookie cornerback Vonte Davis (remember that name) picked off Brady on the game's opening drive, Miami kicker Dan Carpenter hit a career-long 52-yard kick to give the Dolphins an early 3-0 lead.

The Patriots responded with a one-yard touchdown run by Laurence Maroney. Having to carry the load, Maroney did a decent job with 82 yards on 20 carries. Moss set up the easy six with a one-handed grab that was good for 36 yards. Davis couldn't do anything to stop that absurd catch.

Stephen Gostkowski continues to prove why he's one of the NFL's best as he had three field goals in the second quarter alone. In between, Williams ran for a 15-yard score out of the wildcat.

New England led 16-10 at the half as Gostkowski hit a 34-yarder as time ran out. Once again, the Patriots' struggles in the red zone continued against good teams.

Brown capped off Miami's long drive to start the second half as he threw a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joey Haynos. Using backup quarterback Pat White, the Dolphins started to find a rhythm against a confused Pats defense.

Three plays later, Moss and Brady connected for a play which you'll see for the rest of the season. On third and 1, Brady hit Moss on a crossing pattern. Moss juked Davis then stiff-armed him and outran him 71 yards for the touchdown. It was the 140th career touchdown catch for Moss, tying him second all-time with Terrell Owens and behind the incomparable Jerry Rice.

The Patriots defense didn't get any turnovers but Adalius Thomas returned from the dead with a key sack as New England held Miami scoreless the rest of the way.

Jerod Mayo led the Patriots with 12 tackles while Brandon McGowan (11 tackles), Tully Banta-Cain (9 tackles) and rookie Darius Butler added seven tackles.

Backup center Dan Connolly also did a nice job for New England after Dan Koppen went down with a knee injury.

The win sets up a huge matchup which I'm already peeing my pants (PG-rated version) over: Patriots at Colts (8-0) on Sunday night.

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