But there is one issue, something that potentially could hinder the march to 16-0 and, more importantly, toward a possible fifth Super Bowl title for Brady and Coach Bill Belichick in tandem: Will Brady have enough healthy, capable offensive linemen left by season’s end to continue doing what he does?
Guard Tre’ Jackson suffered a knee injury Thursday night, the severity of which was not immediately clear. The Patriots already have had to patch together a starting offensive line. Left tackle Nate Solder is on the injured reserve list because of a torn biceps. Marcus Cannon, who became a starter at tackle after Solder’s season-ending injury, was on the inactive list Thursday because of a toe injury. That has elevated Cameron Fleming, recently promoted from the practice squad, to the starting lineup at tackle.
Will it matter? Probably not. Brady is so ridiculously good, he covers for even significant flaws elsewhere on the New England offense. He knows exactly where the football needs to be and gets it there so quickly that the burden on his blockers is reduced tremendously. It certainly won’t matter when the Patriots face middle-of-the-road teams like the Dolphins or the Washington Redskins, their next opponent a week from Sunday.
But maybe, just maybe it could matter against a team with a dominant defense like the Denver Broncos, or on the biggest stage of all at the Super Bowl. It is, at the very least, worth monitoring.
Otherwise there was little to see Thursday night. The Patriots upped their record to 7-0. Brady was practically flawless again, connecting on 26 of 38 passes for 356 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His evening ended early, with backup Jimmy Garoppolo finishing the game in mop-up duty. For the season, Brady has 20 touchdown passes and one interception.
The Dolphins had won their two previous games under Dan Campbell, their interim coach, by a combined margin of 82-36. But going on the road and beating the Patriots with a short work week to prepare was way, way too much to ask. The Dolphins’ performance Thursday was much more reminiscent of the way they’d played during their 1-3 start to the season under the coach they fired, Joe Philbin.
They managed all of 15 rushing yards. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions. The Dolphins handed the Patriots an early safety when the football was snapped to Tannehill in shotgun formation before he was ready for it. The Miami defense had no answers for Brady and standout pass rusher Cameron Wake exited with what was called an Achilles injury.
The Dolphins weren’t ready for prime time Thursday. They certainly weren’t ready for the Patriots.