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Patriots Replay Mon Feb 18 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

View from Above: The reaction to an overreaction

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I hate to say, 'I told you so,' but I'll say it anyway.

No one is an honest-to-goodness soothsayer, and few can really predict the future with any real basis for accuracy, unless you love trying Tarot card readings and those magical, mystical 'crystal ball' fortune tellers who always seem to be the only business open somewhere in the middle of a strip mall, with neon signs a' blazin' at night.

And I don't think even they could have seen coming what happened at Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon. Certainly, not to the degree we witnessed.

Have you been able to decipher it for yourself? Here's the thing - the Patriots were prepared, they executed a solid game plan, they were physical, and they were probably a bit miffed at themselves for the previous two performances they had on the road.

Miffed probably doesn't do them justice. P*ssed off might be more accurate. They certainly played with more urgency and more emotion than witnessed in Florida or Michigan during Weeks 2 and 3.

"I thought we got what we needed from our team today," Bill Belichick told the media just after the Patriots had dispatched the Dolphins 38-7. "The players, coaches did a great job this week. The coaching staff - we got a lot of good leadership from our players and they responded today. We got contributions from pretty much everybody...give them all the credit."

There was a physicality to the game plan for Miami that simply did not exist against either the Jaguars or Lions. It was a win in the trenches, and it was a win for the play-calling, which featured a turnaround performance on the ground from rookie running back Sony Michel.

Were you one of those, in your infinite wisdom, who thought the 23-year-old - just two games into his professional career and having missed the entire preseason - was already a b-b-b-bust before he ever got started?

You know who you are.

But I'll give you this. It's just one game. Which is precisely why after two games and a mere 84 spoon-fed rushing yards, you shouldn't have given up so quickly. 25 carries Sunday came with 112 yards and his first NFL touchdown, as the team ground its way to 175 total yards rushing and 449 yards of total offense.

The 100-plus yard performance was the first for a Patriots' rookie back in six years, and more like what you'd expect from a Patriots team. Or, from a first-round draft pick.

"I've known Sony for a long time now," center David Andrews, another ex-Georgia Bulldog, said to BostonSportsJournal.com. "He's a great football player. We knew that we just had to give him some chances, and we finally went out there and did that. He took advantage of them."

"I would say I'm blessed, because going through times that aren't the brightest helps you learn so much," Michel told NESN.com. "I'm blessed to say I had those times that I could learn from. A lot of people don't. A lot of people may have those times coming, and they may not know how to react to them."

Or overreact to them. Which is what many fans - and several in the media - did. One, or even two games does not a season make. How much more proof do you need?

We've mentioned here previously about infamous slower-than-slow seasonal starts, only to see this team continually rebound into contention soon thereafter. Now, we're not saying this year is like any other year. Yes, there is still plenty of football still to be played in 2018.

But we are saying it might be wise to pump the brakes on projecting any immediate, downhill trajectory for this team, or this player, based on a mere sampling of games in a long, 17-week season.

Told ya' so, too.

Picky, picky, picky

Oh, there is always room for improvement. The coaches find it, the players already know it. The question becomes, is it a continual problem, and how do you go about making corrections?

That, of course, is up to the coaching staff. But the Patriots received a quick wake-up call to the physicality of their game plan against Miami on the first snap of the game, a 22-yard pass completion to Kenny Stills from Ryan Tannehill.  

The idea was to not allow so much room to roam over the middle and out of the backfield for the opposing receivers and backs. Which meant being physical at the line, and not allowing a receiver to comfortably get into his route. From Play Number Two-on, that strategy seemed to work well.

Miami gained 35 yards on that opening possession, which still resulted in an eventual punt. They failed to gain as much on every other possession (nine following the first one), before finally scoring a touchdown late in the game.

Message sent and received. Early.


Keeping Tom terrific

Was it a perfect day in the offensive backfield for the quarterback? No, but the mistakes made by Tom Brady are a by-product of having confidence. TB12 knows that.  

"I think anytime you're not playing well, you've got to gain your confidence back," Brady told the media. "You get it from doing it and building trust in each other, and Josh (McDaniels) talks about it a lot - you know, building one play and being in the right spot and learning from it."

Brady will undoubtedly learn from his two interceptions, one of which was thrown into good coverage by the Dolphins' secondary (Bobby McCain switched out in defense of a throw to Phillip Dorsett). The second pick came as Brady was rocked under heavy pressure early in the fourth quarter, also on a pass intended for Dorsett.

The offensive line did not allow an official sack, but there were seven quarterback hits on TB12. It's virtually impossible to keep him completely clean, but he needs to keep his confidence while he's standing in the pocket, and not lying on the ground.

Dropping the bomb

Speaking of Dorsett, his 9-yard touchdown catch just before halftime was an acrobatic thing-of-beauty. A complete layout to the near side of the endzone, the ball literally glued itself to his hands while he somersaulted forward in completing a catch suitable for any highlight reel.

And then, there was one that wasn't.  Early in the third quarter, the Patriots could have turned the lights out much earlier on the Dolphins had Dorsett not bobbled, then dropped a deep pass from Brady toward the Patriots' sideline. It might have been good for another six points.

Or maybe not. But there's an adage that says anytime a receiver can get his hands on a ball, he should catch it. Sometimes, the defender makes a good play to knock the ball away. This wasn't, however, one of those times.


Shoulda, woulda, coulda

After suffering a season-ending leg injury Sunday, Seattle's Earl Thomas left his team's win over Arizona with a specific message for his sideline.

It was a simple gesture made with his hand that generally is considered offensive. At least to some. To him, it's undoubtedly just how he felt at that moment with his leg immobilized by an air cast.

The classless gesture was just that, classless. But in the context of Thomas' road traveled this past summer - holding out for a new contract so he could potentially gain more security for himself and his career after suffering a season-ending injury just two years ago - maybe it's at least understandable?

The Seahawks held fast during his holdout, and Thomas was left in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" moment of clarity. He didn't want to completely bail on his teammates, and he was under contract through this season. An extension and the security that comes with that would have to wait.

Now, it may never come at all. Thomas' career in Seattle is all but over. Pro football is a tough, tough business, largely unfair and unforgiving to many athletes.

I don't agree with the way he went about it, but I certainly understand Thomas' feelings. And his message.

John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is in his 26th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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