One arrived with more fanfare than any other addition to the Patriots roster in recent memory. The other was unknown even to football diehards, the 253rd player chosen in the 2009 NFL draft. Facing each other Friday night guess which one had the better game?
Chad Johnson was a huge disappointment with the Patriots in 2011. The six-time Pro Bowler had caught 139 passes for 1,878 yards and 13 touchdowns over the previous two season, but did next to nothing with the Patriots: 15 receptions for a mere 276 yards and just one touchdown. After being released the theory was that he was stifled in Foxboro, and being able to be himself in his hometown Miami would return him to a productive season.
Chad Johnson whiffed on the only pass thrown to him Friday night
After trading Brandon Marshall the most glaring weakness for the Dolphins is wide receiver. It’s a perfect opportunity for him to resurrect his career, having as little competition at the position as there is on any NFL team. On the opening drive the Dolphins had a 3rd and 4 and quarterback Matt Moore threw a perfect pass to an open Johnson that would have given Miami a first down at about the twenty yard line. Johnson dropped the pass – check that, he completely whiffed on the pass as it sailed right through his hands. Miami had to settle for a long field goal which was missed, Tampa Bay marched down the field for a score, forced the Dolphins to punt on their next possession, and then the Bucs scored again on the subsequent possession. Miami was down 14-0 and both team’s starters were done for the night.
“I was anticipating, as I hoped they were anticipating, they would play better,” Philbin said of his team. “No question about it.”
“What we didn’t necessarily do a good job with was, we’re looking for guys who can make plays, impact plays, whether it be third down, a defensive end beating a tackle and sacking a quarterback, a receiver beating a corner in a one-on-one matchup, a running back eluding a tackle and making a play in space. Those we didn’t make enough of; Tampa Bay made more. We didn’t make the plays and they did.”
In case there was any question about whether or not he was referring to Chad Johnson, Philbin left no doubt. “You’ve got to make those catches. “There’s no question about it. I’m sure Chad would agree with that. It looked like a relatively good ball from the angle that I had and looked like an uncontested ball. You’ve got to make those catches and move those chains. Again, that’s a perfect illustration of why the outcome ended up as what it was.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Johnson did not have a single pass thrown his way after that miss. It seemed eerily familiar to what happened in New England, when both Tom Brady and the Pats coaching staff lost faith in him early in the season. Walking into coaches meetings and going on expletive filled tirades is not going to win him over with the new coaching staff in Miami. I don’t mean to make too much of one play or one game, but it seems like I’ve seen this movie before.
Tiquan Underwood had three receptions for 76 yards
On the other side of the field was that 7th round draft pick, Tiquan Underwood. Reunited in Tampa Bay with his coach from Rutgers, Greg Schiano, Underwood flashed his speed and opened some eyes. Last year Underwood was most well known for being cut on the eve of the Super Bowl after dressing for the final six games and appearing in five of them, primarily on special teams (Underwood had three receptions for 30 yards).
On the Bucs’ second drive of the game Underwood beat Vontae Davis for a 23-yard sideline completion, and then came right back three plays later and beat Sean Smith for a beautiful 44 yard reception in traffic. In the following drive he had another catch; finishing the night with three receptions, all for first downs. Underwood caught every pass thrown his way to lead both teams with 76 yards receiving.
Two receivers released by the Patriots. One seems to be making the most of his opportunity for a fresh start. The other seems to be more interested in his image, and getting face time on television.
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