Week 1 is in the history books for the AFC East. Buffalo, New England and New York all came out winners and Miami was the only team saddled with a loss. The Bills dominated in a 41-7 blowout at Kansas City. The Jets had an inspired, come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys 27-24. The Patriots and Dolphins put up some gaudy numbers and made for an entertaining game on Monday Night Football, with the Patriots coming out on top 38-24.
Tom Brady. Man, just when you think this guy can’t possibly be any better he goes out and delivers one of the greatest quarterback performances on Monday Night Football. Brady torched the Miami Dolphins defense for 511 yards and 4 TDs, highlighted by a 99-yard touchdown to Wes Welker. He hit eight different receivers in the game, including four players with at least 86 receiving yards and the Patriots offense rolled up 622 total yards of offense. The guy’s just unreal. He’s more a machine than a human being.
The scoring. Each team in the division scored at least 24 points in their game in Week 1. The average number of points scored by each team was 32.5, backed by the Bills’ 41 points and the Patroits’ 38. No other division in football remotely came close to that average or came close to having all four teams score at least 24 points. New England’s 38 points was more than Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indianapolis combined to score.
The Bills. Buffalo pieced together quite an outing in Week 1 with a totally unexpected 41-7 rout against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns. The defense held Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles to just 56 yards and they forced three Kansas City turnovers. It was an all around complete effort from every unit.
The quarterbacks. Let’s go inside the numbers shall we? Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne combined for 12 passing touchdowns and Henne’s rushing TD makes it 13 total TDs from this quartet. Each quarterback threw for at least 2 TDs: Brady and Fitzpatrick each threw 4 TDs while Sanchez and Henne each threw a pair of TDs. They combined for 1,470 passing yards led by Brady’s 511.
Chad Henne’s big night. Yes, the Dolphins lost 38-24 and yes their defense was shredded for 622 total yards of offense by the Patriots. But this was a different Chad Henne than we’ve seen the past few years. Henne looked calm and in command for Miami, and though the Dolphins played from behind for a good portion of the night, the fingers can’t be pointed in Henne’s direction as the reason for the loss. He threw for 416 yards and 2 TDs. In his fourth season with the Dolphins, it’s a make-or-break year for Henne and whether or not he can play consistently throughout the entire 16-game season and prove to everyone in Miami he’s the right guy for the job. He took a big step forward with his play last night.
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The rich just get richer, and it seems that Hernandez and Gronkowski are getting better and better for New England. They’re both becoming favorite go-to-targets for Tom Brady. The tight end duo combined for 13 catches, 189 receiving yards and 2 TDs. In a time where most teams are lucky if they have one reliable tight end threat, the Patriots are blessed with two threats at the tight end position.
Tight end play. Piggy-backing off the above mentioned play from Hernandez and Gronkowski, the tight end production as a whole from the division was impressive. Each of the five tight ends had at least five catches and 61 receiving yards in their respective games. They combined for 28 catches, 395 yards and five scores. Here’s a breakdown of how each tight end fared in Week 1.
- Aaron Hernandez, NE – 7 catches, 103 yards, TD
- Rob Gronkowski, NE – 6 catches, 86 yards, TD
- Anthony Fasano, Mia – 5 catches, 82 yards
- Scott Chandler, Buf – 5 catches, 63 yards, 2 TDs
- Dustin Keller, NYJ – 5 catches, 61 yards, TD
New England’s defense. Brady’s gigantic evening was a great deoderant for the Patriots defense which seemed out of sync and flustered by Miami’s passing attack for most of the game. Now, obviously if the Patriots score 38 points each week, rack up over 600 yards of total offense and Brady throws for 500 yards and four scores it won’t matter a hill of beans what their defense does. But the Patriots will encounter good defensive units as the year progresses and they’ll be in games closer than Monday night. At some point, New England’s defense is going to be relied on to win the game or preserve victory.
Dan Koppen’s injury. The Patriots lost Koppen to a broken left ankle and that’s a huge back breaker to an thin offensive line. New England recently signed free agent guard Brian Waters because starting guard Dan Connolly is dealing with a foot injury and he missed last night’s game. Sebastian Vollmer’s creaky back kept him out of the game and now the Patriots will be without their starting center until sometime in December, if the injury doesn’t force him to miss the remainder of the season.
Miami’s defense. The Dolphins’ defense ranked 6th in the NFL in 2010 and last night, it seemed as though there was a reversal of roles. Last year the defense was the strength and the offense was the weak link, but on Monday night it was the total opposite. In any other game and on any other week, Miami’s 24 points and 488 total yards would be more than enough for a victory. But the defense was dominated, gashed and tormented by Brady and the Patriots, allowing 622 yards of total offense. 511 of those yards came by way of Brady’s arm and the Patriots receiving attack. The Patriots used a lot of no-huddle and used a fast-paced tempo on offense which wore out and gassed the Dolphins’ defense. Miami will have to go back to the drawing board, but on a short week and facing a Houston Texans team that just cranked out 34 points there’s not a lot of time to adjust and correct what went wrong on Monday.
Jets’ running game. The New York Jets got significant contributions from just about every other area of the game except the running game. Mark Sanchez threw for 335 yards and 2 TDs. The defense came up with two crucial turnovers in the fourth quarter and their special teams was lights out. But shockingly for a team that likes to ground and pound, the Jets only got one rushing first down in Sunday night’s win over Dallas. The Jets threw the football 44 times nearly tripling their 16 rushing attempts. Running backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for just 42 yards on 15 carries and the Jets average just 2.8 yards per carry. Maybe it’s a bit of a mirage considering the Jets trailed 24-10 just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter and they had to rely on Sanchez to air it more than they wanted to. But they managed very little on the ground through three quarters against the Cowboys’ work-in-progess defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan. Will this be a trend for the Jets, relying more on Sanchez than the running game this season?