1. Historic night for Brady the competitor. If anyone had doubt about how much Tom Brady has left in the tank, this performance was enough to answer all those questions. When I think about Brady the competitor, the game itself is the easy part for him. The hard part is all the preparation he puts in during the week, the work off the field, the meetings with Coach Belichick, Bill O'Brien, his receivers and the entire offense, and taking that out on to the practice field, running that offense, getting everyone on the same page with the upcoming game plan. By the time Saturday comes around, and he gets on the bus and drives to the stadium, he's at peace. He knows what is going to happen, he knows what he's supposed to do. You see him on the field, you see his fire and his competitiveness, but I've seen him even more competitive on the practice field. That's where he puts the work in, so he can let it flow on game day. This type of performance (517 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception) is no surprise. Monday in Miami, I had the privilege of working with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and I think he put it well by saying, "This is exactly what Jordan and Gretzky looked like when they were at the top of their games."
2. Recalling Brady's Pro Bowl story. There is a story I like to tell when it comes to Brady and his pursuit of perfection. I think about this performance he had, and I know he'll look back on it and find what was wrong with it. It's never good enough for him. He throws for 300, he feels like it should be 400. He throws for 400, and it should be 500. And so on. It's the same thing with championships. One championship is not enough, two isn't enough, three isn't enough. He's going to keep playing until he can't play anymore and get as many championships as he can. A prime example of this came at the Pro Bowl after the '04 Super Bowl. The Pro Bowlers from the Patriots that were there were me, Adam Vinatieri, Larry Izzo and Brady and one of the perks is that you get called out last for the game for pregame introductions as Super Bowl champions. We're stretching, getting ready to be called, and he looks at us and says "You know what guys, no one has ever won three in a row." We all looked at each other and felt a sense of determination, and were like, "Yeah, that's a goal we should have." But at the same time, part of us thought, "This guy is crazy. We just won a Super Bowl last week, just had a parade, we're vacationing in Hawaii, about to play in the Pro Bowl, and he's already thinking about winning another championship." Part of us wanted to say, "Relax Tom, we'll get to that; enjoy yourself." But that's not who Tom Brady is. He's always thinking about the next challenge to overcome, the next pass to complete, and the next championship to be won.
3. Center Dan Koppen a tough loss. The center is the quarterback of the offensive line, the one who makes all the line calls and is in direct communication with Brady, taking orders from him and getting the offensive line on the same page. So the offensive line has lost its leader with Koppen injuring his ankle and being carted off, which is never a good sign. You often hear about the connection between Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday in Indianapolis. Well, Koppen is Tom Brady's version of Jeff Saturday. There is something to be said about a quarterback/center relationship. A consistent center just provides a level of comfort to a quarterback -- knowing how the ball is going to be snapped, the communication, setting the protections without the quarterback telling him every time. By the nature of the position, there is a connection there; sometimes you just don't want to get used to another lineman's butt.
4. Disappointing performance from Dolphins. Offensively, the Dolphins came out and did what was expected. It was what we talked about in the weekly podcast and in Bruschi's Breakdown; offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called a good opening series and kept the Patriots off balance. They threw it up to Brandon Marshall, and if not Marshall, they hit Reggie Bush on the checkdown. Tight end Anthony Fasano made a great one-handed catch, and then came a great call on the QB draw for a touchdown. That first drive was positive, but the Dolphins just didn't have the consistency to maintain it for an entire game. Chad Henne's inaccuracy showed up. It didn't look like he was on the same page as Marshall as the game progressed. And as solid as Bush looked at times, you need more to beat the Patriots. Meanwhile, defensively they did absolutely nothing to stop Brady and the Patriots' offense. They had the one turnover on the quick screen, but they needed more. There were few attempts to disguise coverages, so Brady had pre-snap answers all night long. There wasn't a concerted effort to re-route receivers off the line, which has to be done to disrupt this Patriot passing game. The equipment manager won't have a tough time cleaning Brady's jersey. It was clean all night. Brady was sacked once, by Cameron Wake, but he was well protected beside that.
5. Nate Solder rises to the challenge. The rookie offensive tackle did an outstanding job on Wake. At one point, Wake started to find some answers, but the overall matchup went to Solder. What impressed me most about him is that even though he's a young lineman it hasn't taken him long to learn it's OK to hold. You just can't hold for too long. He has strong hands and uses his grippers well. There has to be a certain clock in an offensive lineman's head that tells him when to let go, because officials, and defenders, know that offensive holding occurs on almost every play. The flags get thrown when a lineman has "held" a little too long. Solder seems to have developed that knack for timing. You usually only see that with veterans. When Solder did get called for holding there was nothing he could've done. It was the one time Wake had beat him clean. Solder had to make a decision: Hold Wake or let him strip sack Brady. Another good decision.