A narrow 23-16 win over the Miami Dolphins for the New England Patriots means that this week’s review edition will take a look at three players who played well for the Patriots and three players who had off games.
1. CB Kyle Arrington
I’ve been really impressed with Kyle Arrington’s play over the past three weeks, and he’s stepped it up in a big way after previously being the worst player on the team through the first ten weeks of the season. Arrington is no longer a liability, and he held Davone Bess to just 13 yards on one reception. He did have some lapses in coverage and was helped by a drop or two from Bess, but Arrington played a good game overall. He added six tackles and provided some good pressure on Ryan Tannehill from the slot. In my opinion, Arrington is one of the best blitzing corners in the NFL.
2. TE Aaron Hernandez
He’s back at his best, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With Julian Edelman down now in addition to Rob Gronkowski, the need for Hernandez to step up has never been bigger. He finally looks healthy, and I bet Bill Belichick saw this coming as he named backup TE Visanthe Shiancoe a healthy scratch for this game.
It took a little bit of time for Hernandez to shake off the rust, and he finished with 97 receiving yards on eight receptions. He caught 62% of everything thrown his way and was clearly the best player on offense for the Patriots. Wes Welker was solid overall and was terrific in crunch time, but Hernandez was just on another level. The Dolphins- minus a pick from Reshad Jones that was an incredible one- just could not stop him.
3. CB Aqib Talib
Talib is so lucky that Brian Hartline was much worse than he was in this game, because Talib got beat on several sideline plays. He wasn’t terrible, but he was one of the players on the Patriots defense- on of the very few- who did not enjoy a good game against Tannehill and the Dolphins. Hartline had just five catches on ten targets, but the telling statistic is that each catch went for nearly 17 yards (84 receiving yards in total). Talib was getting burned bad, and this is his second bad game after a Week 11 performance in which he got owned by the Indianapolis Colts.
4. DT Vince Wilfork
Wilfork has simply been monstrous ever since the bye week, and he has proven to us that there is no decline here. He is still one of the best defensive tackles in the game and absolutely battered a considerably weaker Dolphins interior. Wilfork finished the game with three tackles and a fumble recovered, and he made veteran guard Richie Incognito look like a rag doll.
5. Offensive line
Brady had no time in the pocket once Dan Connolly was replaced by Nick McDonald at right guard early in the game due to a back injury, because the wheels fell off in the trenches for New England against an incredible Dolphins pass rush. Sebastian Vollmer didn’t look healthy at all against a dominant Cameron Wake, who had one incredibly quick sack on Brady that had ever Pats fan cringing. This was a terrible game for the line, and the evidence is in the 18 targets thrown to Wes Welker. His 12 catches went for about 8.6 yards per reception each, which means that Brady was constantly throwing it to his favorite slot receiver on low, short passes due to the insane amount of pressure. All he could do was get it out there quickly, and it’s the real reason why he didn’t risk any downfield throws to Brandon Lloyd. The line was poor in this game, so hopefully Connolly’s injury is only minor.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.