MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - There was a fan in the end zone at Dolphin Stadium yesterday wearing a No. 72 Dolphins jersey with Undefeated where the player’s name would be. Maybe the Patriots Pro Shop should start loading up on 07 Patriots jerseys with Unstoppable on the back.
Playing the unworthy successors of that 1972 team, the only one in NFL history to record an unbeaten and untied season (17-0, including playoffs), and with its coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula, in attendance, the Patriots continued their march toward perfection with a 49-28 evisceration of the winless Dolphins.
So, can the Patriots go undefeated like those ‘72 Dolphins?
"I don’t know, nor do I care, really," said Miami defensive end Jason Taylor. "I know the ‘72 team will talk about it at some point, but it is still early. It is tough to go undefeated in this league, as evidenced between the period of time between now and when it was last achieved.
"They’re good enough to play in the Super Bowl, I know that, and win it. They’re a heck of a lot better than they were last year and heck, they should have been there. They kind of gave it away in Indy."
There was a better chance of snow squalls in South Florida than the Dolphins (0-7) handing the Patriots (7-0) their first loss. New England, which had been shut out (21-0) the last time it played in Dolphin Stadium, in December, scored a franchise-record 42 points in the first half on its way to a 42-7 advantage.
Tom Brady, who has had his struggles against Miami, turned Dolphin Stadium into his personal playground, throwing for a franchise-record six touchdowns - five in the first half - and completing 21 of 25 passes for 354 yards.
By the time Brady, who now has thrown 27 touchdown passes this season, three more than last season, threw his first incomplete pass when he bounced a ball into the ground to avoid a sack with 5:23 left in the first half, the Patriots were ahead, 35-7.
No. 12 completed his first 11 passes for 220 yards and four touchdowns. The 220 yards were 2 more than he threw for against Miami in two contests last season.
"I thought our team played well, offensively, especially," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "I thought our team moved the ball and scored a lot of points, something that we haven’t done very much of down here, so it was good to feel that and experience it."
Brady was 16 of 19 for 291 yards in the first half, as the Patriots rolled up 336 of their 443 yards of total offense.
Wes Welker finished with nine catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns in his return to Miami. Randy Moss had four catches for 122 yards and two more touchdowns, giving him 10 on the season. Moss is the first Patriots’ receiver since Stanley Morgan in 1986 to have 10 or more touchdown receptions in a season. Both Moss and Welker had 100-yard receiving games by halftime, and Donte’ Stallworth kicked off the scoring with a 30-yard catch-and-run on the Patriots’ first drive.
"Man, your eyes are just as good as mine. They are amazing," running back Laurence Maroney said of the Patriots offense. "I’ll be on the sidelines sometimes and I feel like a fan just seeing our offense go out there and do the things they do."
If this were the video game version of football, Miami simply would have hit the reset button after Moss’s pair of jaw-dropping touchdown receptions. Moss gave the Patriots a 35-7 lead.
The first, with 10:44 left in the second quarter, had Moss posterizing Dolphins safety Cameron Worrell, who was in perfect position to knock down Brady’s 35-yard parabola.
Instead, it was another Moss Moment.
For an encore, Moss hauled in a 50-yard heave from Brady with 6:47 left in half. This time Worrell had some company, as Moss fended off Worrell and fellow safety Renaldo Hill. Adding injury to insult, Hill hurt his knee on the play and never returned.
Here’s a scary thought for defensive backs: Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs said we haven’t even seen the best of Moss.
"You all are seeing good catches, but he’s making the best ones in practice," said Hobbs. "Those are the best ones. You’re missing [them]. He does his thing and it’s not a secret."
After Welker’s first touchdown, which came 25 seconds before halftime, most of the Patriots could have headed to a South Beach soiree for the rest of the game and it wouldn’t have mattered.
After backup Matt Cassel briefly replaced Brady in the fourth quarter and threw an interception that Taylor returned for a touchdown, Brady returned on the next possession and threw his sixth TD pass of the day, much to the delight of the remainder of the pro-Patriots crowd of 71,951, which was chanting, "Let’s go Red Sox!" during the second half.
"We got our [tails] kicked in the first half and the second half, and if they turned the scoreboard off we were still getting our [tails] kicked," said Taylor.
Miami showed why it is winless following its only first-half score, a 4-yard run by Cleo Lemon. The Dolphins’ Jay Feely tried to kick away from Hobbs and pin the Patriots to the left sideline. Willie Andrews fielded the short kickoff and took it back 77 yards for his first NFL touchdown.
Even 35 years older, the ‘72 Dolphins may have been better competition.
Obviously, the ‘07 Dolphins aren’t the measuring stick for the Patriots. They’re not chasing the ‘72 Dolphins either. They’re pursuing perfection. Hobbs said the only message the Patriots were trying to send was to themselves.
"Let’s not play down to their level. Let’s play at our level, the Patriot way," said Hobbs. "We’re not just trying to win. We’re trying to win in good Patriot fashion, and that’s what we’re trying to do all the time."