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Week 1 (9/12): Patriots 38, Dolphins 24

FootballMiami DolphinsTom BradyNew England PatriotsSun Life StadiumReggie BushYeremiah Bell

The Dolphins spent the past several weeks promising things would be different this season. There'd be a different, more aggressive offensive philosophy. A different approach from coach Tony Sparano, who promised to be less conservative. A different, improved Chad Henne.

And at times here against the New England Patriots on Monday night at Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins made their words a reality. But some things, apparently, haven't changed – like the Dolphins' defensive ineptitude in this series, and their inability to stop Tom Brady. Brady, the Patriots quarterback, has had one of the most decorated careers in NFL history.

But he'd never passed for more yards than he did on Monday night during the Patriots' 38-24 victory. Brady completed 32 of his 48 attempts for 517 yards, which was 107 more yards than his previous career high of 410 – a mark he'd set in 2002.

"Embarrassing," Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said afterward when read Brady's stat line. "We knew what they were doing. They came out doing something a little different than we expected but at the same time we caught onto it."

But the Dolphins couldn't stop it. The Dolphins' inability to defend Brady and the Patriots (1-0), which used an array of multi-dimensional formations and routes to keep the defense off-balance, spoiled a career performance from Henne.

He completed 30-of-49 attempts for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for another.

Henne's improved play wasn't the only positive for the Dolphins (0-1). As promised, Sparano and the offensive coaching staff called a more aggressive game.

Newly-acquired running back Reggie Bush added a spark to the passing offense and Brandon Marshall, who spent much of last season disgruntled, was involved and active. He caught 7 passes for 139 yards.

But the Dolphins defense didn't give the team much of a chance.

"We gave up too many big plays, again," Sparano said. "Started right out of the hop there with a deep ball on us. And we said it during the week: Big plays are going to kill you against this team.

"Can't make it easy for 'em and, you know, at the end of this, some of their scores ended up looking like it was kind of easy."

Brady continually passed through the Dolphins' linebackers and secondary. After throwing an interception that enabled the Dolphins to tie the game at 14 early in the third quarter, Brady responded by leading his team on two consecutive touchdown drives later in the quarter.

Between those plays, the Dolphins drove near the Patriots goal line, but had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter. That was a consistent problem for the Dolphins' offense a season ago – settling for three points when they really needed touchdowns.

When the Dolphins most needed a touchdown, just past the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Dolphins instead settled for nothing when they failed to convert a 4th-and-goal from the 1. On the next play, Brady completed a 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, who broke free and easily outran the defense.

The 99-yard touchdown helped the Dolphins to a dubious distinction. Never before had they allowed a quarterback as many passing yards. Brady's 517 easily outdistanced the 479 passing yards that Ken O'Brien accumulated against the Dolphins in 1986.

While Welker celebrated the touchdown with his teammates, Sun Life Stadium began to empty. The Dolphins scored a few moments later, a Bush catch and run from 2 yards out, but there was barely a cheer. Those who'd remained to that point had already seen this familiar show.

abcarter@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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