"It's Troy Brown," said the voice next to me.
Dumb question. Of course it was a first down. Brown got eight yards, extending a drive that would eventually lead to a second field goal in a 6-0 lead.
On the Patriots first field goal, the key play of the drive was an 11-yard pass to Brown, also on third down, getting the ball to the Dolphins' 18.
The Patriots first touchdown, putting them ahead 13-0, Brady threw a low 10-yard strike to a falling Brown in the end zone. It was a play we've seen so many times over the last 14 years.
"I just slipped the guy inside and Tom saw me in there and he just threw it down low where you need to throw it in the end zone," said Brown. "I made a play on the ball down there."
It sounded so simple. And if he had been the receiver of choice over the last three or four seasons, it might not be as newsworthy. But the 35-year-old former special teams star and defensive back has been in hiding on the offensive side of the ball for a few seasons now.
And let's be honest. If Brown, now in his 14th season, all with the Patriots, isn't playing wide receiver yesterday, the Patriots lose an embarrassing game to an embarrassing team. Instead, the Patriots win 20-10 and go into their bye week at 4-1 in the AFC East.
The Patriots, a week removed from one of their great regular-season wins under Bill Belichick in Cincinnati last week, looked more like the semi-confused offensive unit they'd been the first three weeks, without the go-to wide receiver.
Enter Brown, who most people wrote off to retirement this offseason. In fact, most people in the know wrote him off two and even three seasons ago when wide receiving position was a strength rather than the weakness it is now here in Foxboro.
Brown is slightly offended by that analysis of his receiving corps. Or at least he says, it's not the whole story.
"We have come a long way from Day 1," said Brown, who led all Patriots receivers in catches (5) and yards (58). "Doug (Gabriel) has been here five weeks. Reche (Caldwell) has been here just the offseason. It takes time. I think we are getting better. You've got to be realistic, man, and give us some time."
We can't help it. The Patriots are in the midst of a dynasty and in great financial shape in terms of payroll and future draft picks (two first-rounders next year). Super Bowls are the rule than the exception around here.
Which brings us back to Brown.
Yesterday, he was more like the guy who owned third-down receptions when Drew Bledsoe owned this region for most of the 1990s. Brown used to follow what other receivers, especially former Jets third-down specialist Wayne Chrebet, were doing to move the chains.
Yesterday, Brady sounded like Bledsoe in 1998.
"I always know where he is going to be," said Tom Brady. "And part of it just I think he is a big clutch player. He has played in a lot of big games for us, so you try to get the ball to guys like that."
Coach Belichick joined the Brown For President brigade, and gave his receiver a big pat on the back after Brown's touchdown reception in the second quarter.
"Troy is amazing," said the coach after the game. "He kind of splits up the week in practice and meeting times. He does the offensive stuff and then he comes over to the defensive stuff. He is ready to go in everything. That is the guy you know you can count on. It doesn't matter what it is, offense, defense and special teams."
What did Belichick do on the punt after Kevin Faulk fumbled in the third quarter?
He replaced Faulk as the punt returner with Brown, of course.
"You guys make a big deal about things, but it's not any different," said Brown. "I just do what I'm told. I love to play this game. I just want to play."
In the lackluster second half, Brady threw three more passes Brown's way (two on third down). Brown caught one for a first down, a 14-yard reception over the middle to get the Patriots from inside their own 20. The other third-down pass never reached Brown.
Brown's best play in the second half, though, was not a reception but a block on Laurence Maroney's game-clinching first-down run around the left end for 11 yards, allowing the Patriots to run out the clock and take a knee.
"This is football," said Brown. "It isn't all about stats. If I have to make a block, I make the block. It doesn't matter."
What matters is that come late December or early January, the Patriots will no doubt be clawing their way toward a first-round bye, and they might want to remember a picture-perfect afternoon on Oct. 8 when Troy Brown came through again.
Bill Burt is executive sports editor of Eagle-Tribune Publishing. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.