Tom Brady picks apart Dolphins as 517-yard, 4-TD opener fuels Pats
MIAMI -- Tom Brady sat on the bench, his sweat-soaked hair hanging in his face as he fumed about his first interception in nearly 11 months.
A little later he was back in the same seat wearing a wide grin as teammates congratulated him on a record-setting performance.
Brady shook off a rare turnover to throw for a team-record 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yarder to Wes Welker, and the New England Patriots started with a victory for the eighth consecutive season Monday night by beating the Miami Dolphins 38-24.
Defensive end Jared Odrick picked off a deflected pass to set up a Miami touchdown and end Brady's NFL-record streak of 358 passes without an interception.
Otherwise Brady and the reigning AFC East champions picked up where they left off last season, when he threw for 36 TDs and his team led the league in scoring.
New England totaled 622 yards, the most in franchise history and the most allowed by Miami. Brady's performance overshadowed Miami's Chad Henne, who threw for a career-high 416 yards.
The 906 net yards passing by both teams was an NFL record.
"They made some plays on us," Brady said. "We made a few more than them."
Brady, who went 32 for 48, became the 11th quarterback to throw for at least 500 yards. Norm Van Brocklin set the record of 554 yards in 1951.
"We're pleased to have him on our side," teammate Danny Woodhead said with a smile.
The capper came with 5:44 left and the Patriots leading 31-17. After they stopped Miami on downs at the 1-foot line, Brady lined up in the shotgun on first down and threw from his end zone to Welker, who had slipped behind Benny Sapp near the 30-yard line.
"When I saw the coverage as we lined up, I knew there was a strong possibility I could be getting the ball," Welker said. "I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity."
He did, catching the pass in stride and sprinting untouched for the score to complete the longest play in Patriots history.
"I only threw it 25 yards. Wes did all the work," Brady said. "When I saw him break away, that was awesome. Coach never lets us run that route in practice."
Brady also threw touchdown passes on consecutive plays. He hit Aaron Hernandez for a 31-yard score, and when a replay review determined the receiver was down at the 1, Brady threw to him again for a TD on the next play.
His other scoring passes covered 10 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 2 yards to Welker.
"Some of their scores ended up looking like it was kind of easy," Miami coach Tony Sparano said.
Said Brady: "I wouldn't say it was easy at all."
He was sacked only once, and good protection gave his receivers plenty of time to work their way open.
Newcomer Chad Ochocinco had only one catch for 14 yards. But Welker made eight receptions for 160 yards, and tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski combined for 189 yards on 13 catches.
"It wasn't a one-man band out there," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We had a lot of contributions."
The Dolphins' defense returned virtually intact from last season and was expected to be the team's strength, but Brady riddled them from the start.
He completed his first eight passes for 127 yards on the Patriots' first two possessions, and both ended with TDs.
Brady's first interception since Oct. 17 came early in the third quarter, when he tried to hit Julian Edelman in the flat. Sapp deflected the ball to the 304-pound Odrick, who rumbled 40 yards to the 9. Two plays later, Henne hit Brian Hartline with a 10-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-all.
Brady was so rattled it took him 10 plays to put the Pats ahead to stay. They drove 73 yards and scored on his 2-yard pass to Welker.
Miami's problems with Brady were nothing new. He and the Pats beat the Dolphins twice last year while outscoring them 79-21. Losing at home was nothing different for the Dolphins, either, who have dropped 10 of their past 11 home games.
There was one change for the Dolphins. They promised a more aggressive, exciting offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and showed it from the start, scoring on a season-opening drive for the first time since 2000.
They lined up 355-pound nose tackle Paul Soliai in their goal-line offense, did damage with quarterback keepers by Henne and gave newcomer Reggie Bush 20 touches. Brandon Marshall gained 139 yards on seven catches, but he and Miami couldn't keep up with Brady.
"Not the defensive performance we were hoping for," Sparano said. "That's an understatement."
Patriots C Dan Koppen rode off in a cart late in the first half with a left leg injury. He was on crutches after the game. ... Dolphins DE Tony McDaniel missed most of the second half with a hand injury. ... Brady's previous career high in passing yardage was 410 against Kansas City in 2002. ... A statue of founding Dolphins owner Joe Robbie was rededicated before the game. The statue had been in a storage area during stadium renovations. ... Celebrities in attendance included Dwyane Wade, Will Smith and Pitbull.
- Pete Morelli