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MIAMI (AP) — Desperate to slow down Tom Brady, the Miami Dolphins tried playing 12 men on defense.
That didn’t work. They drew a penalty. Using only 11 defenders was even worse.
Brady threw for a team-record 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yarder to Wes Welker, and the New England Patriots opened their season Monday night by beating Miami 38-24.
Brady and the reigning AFC East champions picked up where they left off last season, when he was a unanimous choice for NFL MVP, and his team led the league in scoring.
“He’s a great quarterback,” teammate Aaron Hernandez said, “and the world knows that.”
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 was an NFL record.
“They made some plays on us,” Brady said. “We made a few more than them.”
Even by Patriots standards — they’re 1-0 for the eighth consecutive year — this was a fast start.
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 was close to flawless.
Brady went 32 for 48 and became the 11th quarterback to throw for at least 500 yards. Norm Van Brocklin set the record of 554 yards in 1951.
“I enjoy scoring points,” Brady said. “So whatever we need to do to score points, that’s what I want to do.”
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.
“Awesome,” Brady said. “I only threw it 25 yards. Wes did all the work.”
Brady also threw touchdown passes on consecutive plays. He hit 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 was targeted three times and had only one catch for 14 yards. But Welker made eight receptions for 160 yards against his former team, 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.”