Patriots Report Card: Brian Waters Earns Unsung Hero Award in Pats Win, Helps Contain ‘Predictable’ Dolphins Defense

Patriots Report Card: Brian Waters Earns Unsung Hero Award in Pats Win, Helps Contain 'Predictable' Dolphins Defense MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Patriots got off to a great start Monday night against the Dolphins by a 38-24 margin. New England was solid in each phase of the game, so let's break out the grades.

OFFENSE

Jeff Howe: A

Tom Brady was great, and his supporting cast backed him up. Every bit as important, the Patriots answered the Dolphins' first three scores with touchdown drives to eliminate any chance for Miami to build momentum.

What grade would you give the Patriots offense?

DEFENSE

Jeff Howe: B+

It looks like a high grade for a defense that surrendered 24 points and 488 yards, but the Dolphins piled on the stats once the Patriots relaxed their defensive approach in the fourth quarter. Miami compiled 213 yards on its last three possessions (in the final nine minutes of the game), which was a stark contrast to the 162 yards the Dolphins tallied on their previous nine possessions. New England changed the game on the goal line and was stout on third down, allowing 2 of 14 conversions.

What grade would you give the Patriots defense?

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jeff Howe: B-

Julian Edelman will be an important asset in the return game if he stays healthy all season.

What grade would you give the Patriots special teams?

COACHING

Jeff Howe: B+

I liked the defensive game plan to contain Davone Bess, and Bill Belichick played the right personnel to contain linebacker Cameron Wake, even though right tackle Nate Solder was making his first career start. It also appeared to be the right call to start cornerback Ras-I Dowling and safety Josh Barrett, while making the tough decision to sit Chad Ochocinco through a strong majority of the game. But even though Belichick made the right calls, this game was all about the players' execution.

What grade would you give the Patriots coaching?

OPPONENT

Jeff Howe: C

I hated how predictable the Dolphins' defense played, particularly by keeping Wake on the same side of the field all night. And there was far too much reliance on running back Reggie Bush, who touched the ball 20 times over the course of the game. Credit New England's coverage and pass rush for that, but Bush couldn't beat the Patriots by himself. Again, the offensive numbers looked great for Miami, but the garbage-time totals distorted the first three and a half quarters.

What grade would you give the Dolphins?

GAME MVP

Jeff Howe: Tom Brady

After quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton garnered a weekend's worth of attention, Brady reminded the planet that the league's only unanimous MVP isn't too bad himself.

UNSUNG HERO

Jeff Howe: Right guard Brian Waters

On a night like this, there could be plenty to choose, but Waters came up big when the Patriot truly needed him. He started at right guard but rotated series with Dan Connolly because, quite honestly, Waters wasn't in shape after signing with the Pats a week ago. Yet Waters was pressed into fulltime duty when Dan Koppen went down and Connolly moved to center. The 34-year-old had no choice, and he handled himself well, especially in that disgustingly humid weather.

Yardbarker

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