EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 24, 2008

Hector Longo's Two Minute Drill


BIG SHOWS

1. Randy Moss — Gosh, he's good. He looks like he's never run a full-speed sprint in his life, yet he makes the big plays, over and over again.

2. Matt Cassel — Although his 114.0 passer rating was excellent, it doesn't come close to telling how good a day Cassel had. The interception actually was one of his best throws (it looked like Moss could have caught it) in a 30-of-43, 415-yard day full of them.

3. Vince Wilfork — He, and to a lesser extent Richard Seymour and Ty Warren, absolutely locked down the Miami running game. Wilfork finished with four solo tackles.

NO SHOWS

Ellis Hobbs — He's back where he belongs, baby. Hobbs got abused all afternoon by the mighty (Ted) Ginn. Ginn caught five balls for 88 yards and could have had a Hall of Fame afternoon had the second-year man not dropped a couple of easy ones.

Ben Watson — Never has one man done so little for so few on a team that is accomplishing so much without him. One catch against a Miami defense that gave new meaning to the word porous.

Tedy Bruschi — The only play you make all day can't be when the runner is out of bounds, costing your team 15 yards.

Grading the Groups

Offense

Line (C+): The numbers might look OK, but Matt Cassel got banged around a bit more than usual. There were a couple drive-stumping, first-half holding calls. If the early sacks were all Cassel holding the ball too long, many of the big gains through the air were in spite of the O-line getting beat.

Backs (B+): If you don't love Kevin Faulk, you don't know football.

Receivers (A+): Wes Welker, Moss and Jabar Gaffney collectively dominated. The unit played its best game of the year.

QB (A+): Can we start talking about Cassel's chances of making the Pro Bowl?

Defense

Line (A): This is why three top picks are expended on the defensive line. Wilfork and Seymour took dead aim on Ronnie Brown. In their last meeting, he had 17 carries for 113 yards and 4 TDs and threw a TD pass. Yesterday he was a non-factor with 37 rushing yards.

Linebackers (C): A quiet day at best. These are supposed to be the playmakers. Jerod Mayo (4 tackles) struggled a bit after his all-world game a week ago.

Secondary (C-): Clearly exploitable, again. Chad Pennington threw for 341 and three scores.

Turning point

Midway through the third quarter with the Pats up 24-21 and Miami in the "Wildcat" set, Vince Wilfork, who was a disruptive force in the middle all day, drew a holding flag on Samson Satele. The 2nd-and-20 hole was too much to overcome and the Pats forced a punt.

Wes Welker delivered the huge back-breaker, a 64-yard catch and run to set up Kevin Faulk's 21-yard TD. Up two scores at 31-21, the Pats never looked back.

Biggest embarrassment

If Matt Light was looking to prove to the NFL that he had a little class, he has a strange way of showing it.

He ripped Channing Crowder's helmet off from behind, then pulled on his dread locks and finally punched him in the head repeatedly after a field goal.

The two players were ejected, although Crowder probably didn't deserve it. His ejection was probably more from a rookie referee's (Alberto Riveron) fear of the wrath of Bill Belichick.

Light showed a hint of his fear of Crowder, when the two walked off the field to the same tunnel, Light, who was helmet-less, put his hat back on.

There were words but no second battle.

For the record, the rookie official and his crew did not have a good afternoon, hitting both sides with penalties that never happened then ignoring egregious infractions.

How does a team commit six penalties in one half and none in the second. At worst, the refs were impressionable.

The flags started flying after the fourth-quarter scuffle, clearly because this crew was panicked about losing control.

Take the good with the bad

Matt Cassel's emergence in the four- and five-receiver sets has been fun for the fans of this football team.

Cassel's back-to-back weeks of over 400 yards passing are reminiscent not of the 2007 Patriots but more of the 1970s Dan Fouts-led Chargers.

"First one to 40 wins" is an enjoyable scheme, but ... Can this team take that kind of attack into January?

Few have.

At some point, New England is going to be asked to run the ball out of necessity. Right now, this offensive line hasn't proven that it can open holes when it matters.

Yes, the Pats ran 25 times for 122 yards, but the huge chunk of those came in the spread, basically facing a very soft Miami front.

What about this week coming up against Pittsburgh? Especially if Matt Light is suspended.

Even the Pats of a year ago, with all the Brady-to-Randy Moss records, got back-to-back 122-yard rushing games from Laurence Maroney in the AFC playoffs.

Patriots 48, Dolphins 28

New England3141417—48

Miami7777—28

First Quarter

NE—FG Gostkowski 30, 10:08.

Mia—Camarillo 3 pass from Pennington (Carpenter kick), 5:23.

Second Quarter

NE—Cassel 8 run (Gostkowski kick), 14:54.

Mia—Pennington 7 run (Carpenter kick), 5:05.

NE—Moss 25 pass from Cassel (Gostkowski kick), 2:14.

Third Quarter

Mia—Cramer 2 pass from Pennington (Carpenter kick), 11:28.

NE—Moss 8 pass from Cassel (Gostkowski kick), 6:12.

NE—Faulk 21 run (Gostkowski kick), :00.

Fourth Quarter

Mia—Williams 13 pass from Pennington (Carpenter kick), 13:11.

NE—Moss 29 pass from Cassel (Gostkowski kick), 8:52.

NE—FG Gostkowski 30, 7:08.

NE—Green-Ellis 1 run (Gostkowski kick), :37.

A—67,146.

NEMia

First downs3023

Total Net Yards530392

Rushes-yards25-12219-62

Passing408330

Punt Returns2-200-0

Kickoff Returns5-968-158

Interceptions Ret.1-191-17

Comp-Att-Int30-43-124-41-1

Sacked-Yards Lost2-72-11

Punts1-49.04-43.0

Fumbles-Lost1-10-0

Penalties-Yards6-388-60

Time of Possession33:1026:50

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—New England, Faulk 8-53, Morris 8-35, Green-Ellis 7-20, Cassel 2-14. Miami, Brown 10-37, Williams 6-21, Pennington 2-3, Cobbs 1-1.

PASSING—New England, Cassel 30-43-1-415. Miami, Pennington 24-41-1-341.

RECEIVING—New England, Moss 8-125, Welker 8-120, Faulk 6-52, Gaffney 5-88, Morris 2-14, Watson 1-16. Miami, Camarillo 6-75, Ginn Jr. 5-88, Bess 5-87, Martin 4-60, Williams 2-19, Brown 1-10, Cramer 1-2.

MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.