MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - 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.
The Dolphins' inability to defend Brady and the Patriots (1-0) offense, which used an array of multi-dimensional formations and routes to keep the defense off-balance, spoiled a positive performance from Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne.
Henne began with confidence and passed the team down the field on Dolphins' first drive of the game a drive that culminated in his 9-yard touchdown run. He completed 30-of-48 attempts for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns.
Henne's improved play wasn't the only positive that was different for the Dolphins (0-1). Earlier on opening drive, Sparano did what he might not have done a season ago: Instead of attempting a field goal, he elected to go for it on a 4th-and-1 from the Patriots' 21. The gamble worked.
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 left the game late in the fourth quarter after suffering an apparent knee injury.
Still, the Dolphins defense didn't give the team much of a chance.
Brady continually shredded 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.
On the first of those, Brady found Wes Welker for a 2-yard touchdown pass. Brady later completed a 1-yard touchdown pass Aaron Hernandez.
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-andgoal from the 1-yard line. On the next play, Brady completed a 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, who broke free after an out route and easily outran the defense for the touchdown.
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.
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