I had a difficult time giving out this week’s game ball, but I decided to settle on Aaron Hernandez as the recipient. The New England Patriots star tight end made a huge statement in the first game since Week 1 in which he has actually looked healthy. He started off the game slow whilst shaking off some rust, but he ended up finishing with nearly 100 receiving yards.
Those yards were crucial, because the Patriots only won this game against the Miami Dolphins by a touchdown. Hernandez really turned it up when it mattered the most, and that culminated in eight receptions for 97 yards in total. He led the offense with a 5.1 EPA and caught 62% of everything thrown at him. That ended in an average of 7.5 yards per attempt, and he did a good job consistently making plays to move the chains.
Wes Welker also finished the game strong, and I kind of want to make this a co-Game Ball sort of thing. In fact, I’m going to do just that. Welker also started the game slow but finished strong and was incredibly clutch in the end. He caught Tommy B’s lone touchdown pass of the game to help keep the streak going, and he eclipsed the century mark with 12 receptions for 103 yards.
18 targets is quite a bit, but it’s all good when you catch two-third of them. The offensive line played their worst game of the season, as Sebastian Vollmer looked beat up against the dominant Cameron Wake. It wasn’t just Vollmer, because things fell apart when Dan Connolly aggravated a back injury. I really hope this isn’t a serious one, because the Patriots need Connolly to be healthy going forward otherwise the right side of the line is going to be a problem.
The struggles against the Dolphins excellent pass rush play into Welker’s importance in this game, because Brady always looks for Welk when he’s under pressure. Brady makes sure to get it out of there as quick as possible to his reliable slot receiver, and Welker delivered. The evidence? The 18 targets all for just 8.6 yards per reception.
Aaron Hernandez had the better statistical performance, but both players really carried this unit and were the two most important players in this one. I also want to note Trevor Scott and Kyle Arrington as two players who made key impacts on the game defensively by rising to the occasion against Miami.
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