With the bye week over and a new challenge on the horizon, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is through reflecting and ready to move on to the second half of the season, which promises to be a tough test as New England aims for a playoff berth.
Boston is a tough place to play for any professional athlete and even one as successful as Brady is not immune to criticism. Brady has had his share of cheers and jeers this season as he battles with consistency and control issues in the aftermath of undergoing major knee surgery, but he still feels lucky to be regarded as one of the most critically acclaimed athletes in the region.
"I haven't heard a whole lot of criticism," Brady said. "I think I've been very lucky over the years, to play on a great team where we won a lot of games. If that's criticism, then I welcome that. It's been pretty good for me."
In some ways, Brady has been more cautious this season when it comes to firing the ball down the field. The Patriots haven't completed as many deep passes as they did in Brady's last full season in 2007, but they're still finding ways to score points.
Over their last two games, they've resembled the offensive juggernaut they were two years ago, albeit against inferior competition in the Titans and Buccaneers. Nonetheless, the offensive resurgence is a positive sign as they head into the second half.
"What we've seen all year is when we execute well, we produce points, we move the ball, we get first downs," Brady said. "And when we don't execute well, we don't move the ball, we don't convert on third down, we don't get the ball in the red area. If you're the quarterback and you have guys open and you overthrow them by five yards, you're not gonna score points.
"That's understanding plays we've had where we haven't done what we were coached to do. That's just not the way you play football."
The irony in all this is Brady may actually post some of his best numbers outside of the ridiculous totals he accumulated in 2007. He's on pace to throw for close to 4,645 yards, which would be his second-best career total. He's also on pace to finish with a 65.9 completion percentage, 34 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He might also finish with a career-low 18 sacks, beating his previous best of 21 in 2007.
Along the way, the Patriots have added some balance to the offense. Their pass-run ratio has been relatively equal in recent weeks; they threw 35 passes and ran the ball 24 times two weeks ago against Tampa Bay. Against Denver in Week 5, they ran it 26 times and attempted 34 passes.
Ultimately, though, Brady realizes, "That's not the kind of team we're going to be."
Now, with the second half set to start and Brady rounding into form, the Patriots may become a more pass-oriented team down the stretch -- even with the weather getting colder as the season wears on.
At the end of the day, the Patriots will do what works best for them, not what the weather -- or conventional wisdom -- suggests they should do. Brady might bear the brunt of some major criticism if they fail, but it appears he's ready to handle the responsibility.
SERIES HISTORY: 85th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series 48-36, but Patriots have had the upper hand at home with a 25-17 record against Miami, including 5-2 at Gillette Stadium. New England lost to Miami last year at home before avenging that early season loss on the road.
--The Dolphins are in rare company when it comes to playing the Patriots. They're one of just six teams to have defeated New England more than once in the last nine seasons, 2001-09. The other teams are Denver, New York Jets, Indianapolis, San Diego and Pittsburgh.
--The Patriots are 40-12 against AFC East opponents since Bill Belichick took
over in 2001. However, half of those losses have come to Miami. The Patriots are 10-6 against the Dolphins during that span, 13-5 against the Jets and 17-1 against the Bills.
--In four career games against the Dolphins, his former team, Wes Welker has caught 28 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns, averaging seven catches and 90.5 receiving yards per game - Welker's best against any team he has faced more than once in his career. He also has two 100-yard games against Miami.
--Brady, who threw three touchdown passes against Tampa Bay, has reached that mark 22 times in his career. Brady also has thrown for two or more touchdowns in 66 games, including four this season; the Patriots are 58-8 in those games, which displays their reliance on the aerial attack.
--Since 2006, Brady is 12-1 in October; the Patriots are 25-5 in October since 2003.
--What may come as a surprise is the Patriots have also won 17 consecutive games against NFC opponents. The Patriots are 2-0 against the opposing conference this season. Dating back to 2003, Brady is 13-0 against the NFC, which includes the teams' wins over Tampa Bay and Atlanta this season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- The number of field goals Stephen Gostkowski needs to take over fourth place on the team's all-time field goal list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All of them. Every single one of them." -- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when asked if the Miami Dolphins remind him of any team Bill Parcells has coached.
Hot Topic: Official Game 8 Thread: Dolphins vs Patriots
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