Taking a look at the television copy of Monday night's regular season opener against the Dolphins and offering some second quarter observations:
1) In the pass-protection department, one of the plays that stands out for the Patriots was the lofted pass from QB Tom Brady to WR Wes Welker, after Brady had nearly seven seconds to look for a receiver. This wasn't a rare deep route for Welker -- just a set of intermediate crossing patterns between him and TE Rob Gronkowski. With LDE Cameron Wake making an inside move on RT Nate Solder to flush Brady out of the pocket, Brady couldn't hit either Welker or Gronkowski at a good point in their patterns. Solder was able to smother Wake on the ground, but Brady's next best option from far from ideal -- lofting a pass to Welker over a defender. The pass protection wasn't ideal either for Brady, even with all the time he had to throw.
2) Rotating in at right guard with Brian Waters through the early parts of the game, Patriots RG Dan Connolly had three consecutive negative plays late in the second quarter. The first came on a missed block of LDT Randy Starks, who also could not be corralled by Solder before tackling RB Danny Woodhead for a 1-yard gain on a run to the left side of the line. On the next play, Connolly was beaten outside by Starks, who flushed Brady out of the pocket. On third down, Connolly was beaten outside by Wake, forcing another incomplete pass and a punt.
3) One of the most impressive changes the Patriots have made has come along the front seven, with the defensive line in particular. With a two-deep rotation across the four-man line, there wasn't the drop-off in play one would come to expect with the likes of Albert Haynesworth or Vince Wilfork sitting on the bench. Players who did not start the game -- DE Mike Wright and DT Myron Pryor in particular -- came up with big plays, and gave the Dolphins offensive line fresh bodies to work against. Even without a dominant pass rusher, this rotation will still allow the team to put pressure on opposing offenses.