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Brady becomes fastest QB to 100 wins
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.
Tom Brady should never forget his 100th NFL victory.
It wasn’t just the fact that Brady now has reached the century mark faster than any other quarterback in the Super Bowl era. The manner in which Brady hit that milestone is what made Monday night’s 41-14 road win over Miami so memorable.
This one was unlike many of his previous triumphs. This time Brady wasn't the main reason that New England smoked a division rival. Neither were his usual partners in crime: wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
Instead, an obscure cast of characters — Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Tate, Patrick Chung, Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kyle Arrington — did more than help a household name make NFL history. Their efforts made New England the first team to score touchdowns via run, pass and three different types of returns (kickoff, interception and field-goal block) in the same game.
And most lopsided. New England (3-1) outscored the Dolphins 35-7 in the half, a significant accomplishment by a team that had struggled in the final two quarters throughout this young season.
The Patriots hadn’t embarrassed the Dolphins on special teams this badly since Doug Flutie drop-kicked an extra point in the 2005 season finale. The only thing missing Monday night was Charlie Brown in an aqua jersey.
“We all messed up and it needs to get fixed,” said Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake, one of Miami’s few bright spots in a second straight AFC East loss. “My head is still spinning.”
Tate was the first Patriots player to rock Miami’s world. A 2009 third-round draft pick who barely played last season because of a college knee injury, Tate opened the second half with a 103-yard kickoff return. He credited Patriots coach Bill Belichick for pointing out a flaw in Miami’s coverage unit at halftime.
“After the first return, we saw it was going to be open,” said Tate, who also scored on a kickoff return in New England’s season opener. “[Belichick] told me just get to the outside and run.”
Tate zoomed so far past Miami’s tacklers that he high-stepped for the final 15 yards into the end zone.
“You’re getting all hyped up ready to go out there and throw the ball around and then you see Brandon [Tate] take it back for a touchdown and you take a seat on the bench,” said a smiling Brady, who raised his arms in celebration as Tate scored. “I’ll take that any time.”
Chung made the two other big special teams plays. The second-year safety blocked Miami’s first punt of the third quarter, setting up a 12-yard touchdown run by Green-Ellis. Chung later swatted a Dan Carpenter field goal attempt that Arrington — an undrafted second-year cornerback from a college that abolished its football program (Hofstra) — returned 35 yards for another score. And then there was the play that turned this game into a laugher: Chung intercepting a Chad Henne pass and returning it 51 yards for a touchdown with 6:30 remaining.
Arrington joyously yelled “Player of the Week!” when asked about Chung’s performance. Maybe so, but the runner-ups were darned good as well.
Arrington helped keep star wide receiver Brandon Marshall (five catches for 50 yards) from causing major damage. Ninkovich — an outside linebacker released by the current Dolphins staff in 2008 — ended two Miami drives with interceptions when the game was still close. Woodhead, a New York Jets castoff from Division II Chadron State, continues to show he is NFL worthy with an 11-yard touchdown catch. Ninkovich and Woodhead also were part of the blocking wedge that sprung Tate on his touchdown.
And then there was Brady himself. He weathered three sacks to complete 19 of 24 passes for 153 yards without an interception. Brady had few opportunities to throw deep with Miami rolling its coverage toward Moss, who was held without a catch for the first time since joining New England in 2007. The Patriots, though, mounted scoring drives of 16, 13 and 12 plays thanks to Brady’s pinpoint short passing to five other receivers and the Green-Ellis/Woodhead rushing tandem.
“That’s so important,” Brady said. “As an offense, you want them to defend everybody. If they‘re only defending one guy and that’s the guy you keep throwing to, that’s not a very good offense.”
With a 100-31 career record, Brady needed eight fewer games to reach the 100-victory plateau than childhood idol Joe Montana. Brady tried downplaying the accomplishment, but Belichick did his part to honor his greatest player. A smiling Belichick sent backup Brian Hoyer in for the game’s final snap and met Brady with a handshake and affectionate slap on the helmet as he headed to the sideline.
“I heard earlier this week (about the record) but didn’t think about it,” Brady said. “I played on a great team for my entire career, the same organization that’s committed to winning. I’m privileged to be the quarterback for this team. I hope I’m here forever.”
If he keeps receiving contributions like Monday night, Brady will be adding to his win total for a long time to come.
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