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Brady rolls up big yardage, leads Pats by Dolphins

J. Pat Carter/AP | BDN
J. Pat Carter/AP | BDN
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back during the first half of an NFL game against the Miami Dolphins, Monday night, Sept. 12, 2011, in Miami. Brady passed for 517 yards to lead the Pats to a 38-24 victory.
The Associated Press

MIAMI — Tom Brady sat on the bench, his sweat-soaked hair hanging in his face as he fumed about his first interception in nearly 11 months.
A little later he was back in the same seat wearing a wide grin as teammates congratulated him on a record-setting performance.
Brady shook off a rare turnover to throw for a team-record 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yarder to Wes Welker, and the New England Patriots started with a victory for the eighth consecutive season Monday night by beating the Miami Dolphins 38-24.
Defensive end Jared Odrick picked off a deflected pass to set up a Miami touchdown and end Brady’s NFL-record streak of 358 passes without an interception.
Otherwise Brady and the reigning AFC East champions picked up where they left off last season, when he threw for 36 TDs and his team led the league in scoring.
New England totaled 622 yards, the most in franchise history and the most allowed by Miami. Brady’s performance overshadowed Miami’s Chad Henne, who threw for a career-high 416 yards.
The 906 net yards passing by both teams was an NFL record.
“They made some plays on us,” Brady said. “We made a few more than them.”
Brady, who went 32 for 48, became the 11th quarterback to throw for at least 500 yards. Norm Van Brocklin set the record of 554 yards in 1951.
“We’re pleased to have him on our side,” teammate Danny Woodhead said with a smile.
The capper came with 5:44 left and the Patriots leading 31-17. After they stopped Miami on downs at the 1-foot line, Brady lined up in the shotgun on first down and threw from his end zone to Welker, who had slipped behind Benny Sapp near the 30-yard line.
“When I saw the coverage as we lined up, I knew there was a strong possibility I could be getting the ball,” Welker said. “I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity.”
He did, catching the pass in stride and sprinting untouched for the score to complete the longest play in Patriots history.
“I only threw it 25 yards. Wes did all the work,” Brady said. “When I saw him break away, that was awesome. Coach never lets us run that route in practice.”
Brady also threw touchdown passes on consecutive plays. He hit Aaron Hernandez for a 31-yard score, and when a replay review determined the receiver was down at the 1, Brady threw to him again for a TD on the next play.
His other scoring passes covered 10 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 2 yards to Welker.
“Some of their scores ended up looking like it was kind of easy,” Miami coach Tony Sparano said.
Said Brady: “I wouldn’t say it was easy at all.”
He was sacked only once, and good protection gave his receivers plenty of time to work their way open.
Newcomer Chad Ochocino had only one catch for 14 yards. But Welker made eight receptions for 160 yards, and tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski combined for 189 yards on 13 catches.
“It wasn’t a one-man band out there,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We had a lot of contributions.”
The Dolphins’ defense returned virtually intact from last season and was expected to be the team’s strength, but Brady riddled them from the start.
He completed his first eight passes for 127 yards on the Patriots’ first two possessions, and both ended with TDs.
Brady’s first interception since Oct. 17 came early in the third quarter, when he tried to hit Julian Edelman in the flat. Sapp deflected the ball to the 304-pound Odrick, who rumbled 40 yards to the 9. Two plays later, Henne hit Brian Hartline with a 10-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-all.
Brady was so rattled it took him 10 plays to put the Pats ahead to stay. They drove 73 yards and scored on his 2-yard pass to Welker.
Miami’s problems with Brady were nothing new. He and the Pats beat the Dolphins twice last year while outscoring them 79-21. Losing at home was nothing different for the Dolphins, either, who have dropped 10 of their past 11 home games.
There was one change for the Dolphins. They promised a more aggressive, exciting offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and showed it from the start, scoring on a season-opening drive for the first time since 2000.
They lined up 355-pound nose tackle Paul Soliai in their goal-line offense, did damage with quarterback keepers by Henne and gave newcomer Reggie Bush 20 touches. Brandon Marshall gained 139 yards on seven catches, but he and Miami couldn’t keep up with Brady.
“Not the defensive performance we were hoping for,” Sparano said. “That’s an understatement.”
GAME NOTES: Patriots C Dan Koppen rode off in a cart late in the first half with a left leg injury. He was on crutches after the game. … Dolphins DE Tony McDaniel missed most of the second half with a hand injury. … Brady’s previous career high in passing yardage was 410 against Kansas City in 2002. … A statue of founding Dolphins owner Joe Robbie was rededicated before the game. The st atue had been in a storage area during stadium renovations. … Celebrities in attendance included Dwyane Wade, Will Smith and Pitbull.

INDIANAPOLIS — Bill Polian is already looking for the next Peyton Manning.
The Colts vice chairman told radio listeners Monday night that while the team expects Manning to return from neck surgery this season or next and to play at least several more years in Indianapolis, he is already contemplating who could be the heir to Manning.
“Peyton’s at the age now where he recognizes and we recognize that his career is in the homestretch,” Polian said during his weekly radio show.
“While we fully expect he’ll be back and we fully expect he’ll be with us next year, it is time that we give the quarterback position some serious consideration. We do that every year. The question is what pick do you use on a quarterback and how do you structure the contract and that sort of thing.”
Manning is expected to miss at least two months and possibly the entire season after having surgery Thursday to fuse two bones together in his neck. It’s the third surgery he’s had on his neck in the past 19 months, but the only injury that has kept the four-time league MVP from starting an NFL game.
The latest surgery came 3½ months after a less invasive procedure was supposed to fix a nerve problem that affected Manning’s arm. Team officials thought Manning would return in six to eight weeks, a timetable that would have put him back on the practice field at the start of training camp.
But the recovery took far longer than expected, and Manning opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. He was activated Aug. 29. Then, after less than a week of practice, doctors pulled him off the field because of pain in his back.
That prompted the third surgery, which the Colts are hoping will clear up the problem. Projections for Manning’s return range from two to six months, though Polian said Monday that Manning won’t practice again until the doctors clear him, a team-wide policy.
Before the latest surgery, Manning had told reporters he wanted some input in that decision.
“There is a recovery period and when that takes place, hopefully, it will go according to plan and it will be complete,” Polian said. “We are still left with the question about when the nerve in the arm, which controls the triceps muscle, will regenerate.”
“The fact is he will not be allowed back onto the field until the doctors say he’s 100 percent. His long-term health is our No. 1 priority,” Polian said. “We constantly told him from the time that he came back that ‘If you’re not 100 percent, you will not be allowed to go out there.”’
Polian’s comments came one day after Manning’s streak of 227 consecutive starts, including the playoffs, ended in Houston.
Kerry Collins replaced Manning and lost two fumbles deep in Colts’ territory in the game’s first 15 minutes. Houston turned both miscues into quick touchdowns and wound up routing the Colts 34-7. Collins finished 16 of 31 for 197 yards with one touchdown and a rating of 82.3, a better rating than Matt Schaub’s 78.5.
But the dismal performance has stirred up a new debate over the Colts’ depth and whether the team needs to bring in another quarterback.
Polian did not talk about the two names generating the most discussion in Indy — former Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard or former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer — and did not say whether they would use a high draft pick on a quarterback in 2012.
Clearly, they are looking, though.
Last year, the Colts brought in two quarterbacks for pre-draft workouts, Andrew Dalton and Colin Kaepernick. Both were taken in the second round.
A team spokesman confirmed that Polian was in North Carolina over the weekend to watch Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. The game also served as a family reunion for the Polians, whose son, Brian, is an assistant at Stanford. Polian has a home in North Carolina, where he plans to retire.
There are more reasons to start planning for a long-term future without Manning than the neck injury.
Manning, now age 35 and in his 14th NFL season, signed a five-year, $90 million contract just before training camp opened July 30.
The Colts believe in working out early transition plans. In 2008, they picked Jim Caldwell as the successor to Tony Dungy, who left after that season. Bill Polian has already turned over most of the day-to-day personnel decisions to another of his sons, Chris, now the team’s general manager.
So finding a successor for Manning — who nobody is pushing out yet — would fit the Colts model.
“You look at every position, and Peyton and I did talk when we did his last contract that the time is approaching to look at new quarterbacks and we have to evaluate whether they could be starting quarterbacks for the Indianapolis Colts,” Polian said.
“We took a look at a couple of quarterbacks last year, they didn’t fall to us. But had they, we may have taken them. We’re going to scout them (quarterbacks) as if we will take them, but that’s a long process between now and then (the draft).”

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