There are few things that will burnish a quarterback's stat line quite like yards after the catch made by his receivers. Of course, the performance of New England Patriots signal caller Tom Brady wasn't in need of much polish by the time Wes Welker turned a ball that traveled approximately 20–25 yards in the air into a 99-yard score. The record-tying play provided the exclamation point at the end of a dominant Pats' victory and a historic night for Brady.
After the Patriots' defense halted a Dolphins drive at the 1-yard line to preserve a 31-17 lead, Brady and his offense trotted back on to the field. Conventional wisdom states that an offense playing with its heels on the goal line will play conservatively, handing the ball off to avoid a potential safety or interception and to give itself some breathing room in case it needs to punt. Initially, the Pats lined up with diminutive running back Danny Woodhead standing just off Brady's right hip, but Woodhead quickly went in motion and lined up wide right before the snap came. Brady took the snap from the shotgun formation and began his progressions. He held the ball in his right hand for one.. two.. three seconds before he fired off a laser to Welker flying up the left side of the field. Welker caught the ball in stride at the 17-yard line. Dolphins cornerback Benny Sapp made a last-ditch attempt to wrangle Welker but whiffed on the tackle. By the time that Welker reached midfield he was entirely alone, sprinting unmolested for the far endzone for a 99-yard score.
The long scoring play pushed Brady north of 500 yards passing for the night. He would finish with 517 yards and four touchdowns. That yardage total is more than the combined Week 1 marks of Donovan McNabb, both quarterbacks who played for the Bengals, Jason Campbell and Brady's former understudy Matt Cassell. And if you add Alex Smith's opening game passing yield to the mix then those six quarterbacks combined for only 43 more yards than everyone's favorite Ugg pitchman.
Now, if comparing Brady to the dregs of his position seems too easy then how about the fact that he threw for 205 more yards than Aaron Rodgers? Or 17 more yards than Matt Schaub and Ben Roethlisberger combined.
After the game, Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco told the Boston Globe, "that's some video game [expletive]."
Brady completed 32 for 48 of his passing attempts as he become just the 11th quarterback in NFL history to amass at least 500 yards in the air. In fact, the loquacious Ochocinco, who had just one catch for 14 yards was one of the few players running routes who didn't have a big impact. Welker, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski all had at least six grabs and 85 yards receiving as Brady spread the wealth -- and the Dolphins' beleaguered secondary. According to ELIAS, this is the first time in history that an NFL receiving corps has put up such numbers.
The only silver lining for AFC teams hoping to compete with the Patriots this season is that they surrendered an astounding 488 yards of total offense to the Dolphins, including 416 in the air to Chad Henne. In 2010, the Patriots allowed 259 yards per game in the air, the third highest total in the NFL.