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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Brady's performance praiseworthy -- just not from Patriots

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- This was like Tiger Woods, pre-marriage woes, shooting 51.

This was Michael Jordan going for 105 points, with 35 highlight-reel dunks.

This was watching Michelangelo sculpt David in only a couple of days.

That's how great New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was Monday night. Then again, great doesn't do him justice.

We've seen that from him many times in his career -- his page full of records and three Super Bowl rings are proof of that.

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No, this was different.

This was a reminder to all of us, and especially the rest of the NFL, that Brady can do what he wants when he wants.

Brady passed for 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yarder to Wes Welker, as the Patriots blew out the Miami Dolphins 38-24 at Sun Life Stadium.

The 517 yards was fifth most by a quarterback in an NFL game, and the scary thing is that it could have been even more. He saw a drop of a deep pass by Matt Slater that would have put him near 600 and past the record of 554 yards held by Norm Van Brocklin.

Amazingly, Brady came into this game with only one 400-yard passing game in his career.

You would think this type of historical game would warrant some sort of celebratory talk, maybe treating Brady specially or his teammates raving about him.

Somewhere else you might get that.

Not from the Patriots. Not from team-first New England.

Coach Bill Belichick, in his usual kill-the-party tone, was asked about Brady. He blabbed on and on about team, and finally said this:

CBSSports.com Grades
New England Patriots
New England Patriots
A
The Patriots would tell you they had a turnover and allowed two TDs; anyone else would tell you New England was dominant in a season-opening road victory. QB Tom Brady had a career-best in passing yards, the OL played well and the defense choked the life out of Miami in the second half.
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
D-
Miami, which was 1-7 at home last season, was strong early in this one but weak late. The Dolphins' defense got riddled by QB Tom Brady (career-best passing day). New England's TEs crushed the Dolphins. The capper to the night was New England's 99-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter. Absolutely terrible.
By Chris Perkins
RapidReports Correspondent

"It was no one-man band out there."

Maybe not, but go ahead and take away the lead singer and I bet the music sounds worse than Roseanne's rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.

What I can't figure out is why the Patriots never embrace individual greatness. At times, it warrants it.

This is one of those times.

Yet as I made my way through a player-sparse locker room -- do they set records for getting out of there to avoid saying anything? -- the players barely even acknowledged the greatness they had just been a part of and witnessed.

From tight ends Aaron Hernandez to Rob Gronkowski to receiver Wes Welker to running back Danny Woodhead, they all acted like they just watched some high school kid throw for 150 yards.

"We just go out and do our jobs, and whatever the stats are, that's what it took for us to win," Welker said. "Sometimes that's what it is. You can't make a big deal out of this and that."

Even Brady offered those sentiments.

"Look, it's a team sport, man," he said almost aw-shucks like.

Nobody would bite. Do any of them realize how amazing it is for a quarterback to throw for 517 yards? Only four men in history have done better than that.

I get the feeling that when and if Belichick's kids brought home report cards with perfect grades, he would probably say they needed to do it more often and to get upstairs and clean their damn rooms.

"We had good protection; we got a lot of production from our receivers," Belichick said. "Tom did a great job throwing the ball. So it was a complimentary game."

The Patriots dictated tempo all night. They spread the Dolphins out at times. They used double-tight end sets at others. They overloaded one side or the other with receivers, and Brady put the ball into tight spots the entire game. He hit eight different receivers, with Welker leading with eight catches for 160 yards.

"He always puts it in the right spots," Hernandez said. "With a quarterback of that caliber, anything can happen."

Hernandez is in his second season, so he grew up watching Brady. I asked him if he's even better than he thought he was.

"He's OK," Hernandez said.

What, a loose moment in the Patriots locker room on a special night?

"Nothing shocks us," Hernandez said. "If he throws for a thousand yards, I wouldn't be shocked, either."

This is a New England offense that doesn't have real deep speed. That's the knock on it. But with Brady spreading the ball around the way he does, behind an offensive line that kept him clean most of the night, it doesn't matter.

Welker, a so-called possession receiver, showed he could get deep. On the play, Brady checked to a pass with Welker split left in man coverage. He blew by Benny Sapp, hauled in a perfect pass and ran in for the score.

This was a Miami team that was supposed to have good cover players on the back end. Brady cut them up like a comedian would an obese man in the front row.

"It's a fine line between putting pressure on a defense and playing out of control," Brady said. "I think at times, we did both. It was good pace at times. It gave them problems and other times they adjusted to it. We have to find a way to execute better."

Can they get any better?

With friend and foe Peyton Manning out for at least two months, Brady took 60 minutes to remind us who sits atop the quarterback hierarchy. As long as he's standing up, the Patriots are a Super Bowl contender.

Chad Henne threw for 416 yards for Miami and the two teams combined for 906 passing yards, the most in NFL history. It was a passing delight.

How would you like to be Henne and roll up that total, and you're second best?

Get used to it. Anytime Brady is on the field now, especially with Manning not playing, the other guy is always second best.

Since nobody associated with the Patriots would even acknowledge what they saw, I will.

Thank you, Tom. As a lover of the passing game, it's a game I won't soon forget.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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