By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17 on Sunday.
While the team did get the victory, they still have a lot of work to do moving forward. Here is my report card for week eight. —
Offense Grade: C –
The first half was abysmal for the offense. The second half was much better and the coaching staff made some adjustments to get the team in gear. One disappointing aspect was the benching of running back Stevan Ridley to start. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards and added 12 touchdowns in 2012, but the team continues to feature LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. While Blount and Bolden can be in the mix, Ridley should be the featured guy. He carried the ball 14 times for 79 yards and added a spark for a lethargic unit.
The passing game struggled as well, despite having wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski on the field for the first time this season. The unit was 2-for-10 on third downs, which continues to plague the offense. Brady was sacked four times and he threw his sixth interception of year early in the first quarter. The consistency and efficiency of the unit is — and should be — in question.
Aaron Dobson was a big positive for the team. It seems the rookie receiver is developing a stronger rapport with Brady. He caught four passes for 60 yards and got into the end zone for the second time this season. On the flip side, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins were very quiet in the contest.
Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan has forced a turnover in back-to-back games.
(USA TODAY Images)
There is reason for concern moving forward. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer broke his leg in the contest, which will end his season, and Tom Brady’s throwing hand was very swollen. There’s not enough information on Brady to know what is ailing the Pats signal-caller, but it’s obviously worth monitoring.
Defense Grade: B+
The biggest positive from a defensive perspective was the pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. New England recorded six sacks in the contest and generated a strong pass rush in key situations. The team also continued their streak of 35 games with a defensive takeaway, which is the longest in the NFL.
New England’s run defense started stout in the middle, but holes opened up for the Dolphins tailbacks. Miami started shying away from the run, which seemed to be a big mistake on their part. The Patriots struggled to contain featured running back Lamar Miller and the Dolphins ground attack, as they generated 5.0 yards-per-carry in a 156-yard performance.
The pass defense struggled at times with Aqib Talib out. Miami only threw for 192 yards, however, the strong performance of the front seven definitely helped out a banged up New England secondary.
Despite his incredible interception, Marquice Cole was beat often in coverage. He’s a strong special teams player, but he cannot be relied upon as a cornerback. Kyle Arrington also left the contest. He could be dealing with a groin injury and has not played as well as he did to start the year.
Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan, who was benched to start the game for the crotch grab celebration in week seven, was solid again. He has emerged the past two weeks with some huge plays and has earned more playing time moving forward.
Overall, it’s hard to ask the defense to do any more than holding Miami scoreless in the second half.
Special Teams Grade: A –
The Patriots continue to play very good on special teams.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski made both field goal attempts, including a long of 48 yards. He is now 20-of-21 on the year and his strong kickoffs have added to an exceptional performance this season.
Chandler Jones blocked field goal in the forth quarter was icing on the cake for the special teams unit. Not only has his play been strong on the defense, he showed his incredible ability on the 39-yard attempt.
Sebastian Vollmer’s injury is another tough task the Patriots must overcome this season.
(USA TODAY Images)
Overall Grade: B
Overall this was a good win for the Patriots. Was it pretty? No. But there aren’t pictures next to the final score when the clock hits zero.
This was a game of two halves. The Patriots played some of their worst football of the season to start the game, but came back with a strong third and forth quarter to come back. The team had not scored a touchdown in the third quarter through seven games, but the team hit pay dirt twice in week eight’s contest.
New England has done a great job overcoming huge injuries throughout the season, but how much is too much? Brady’s throwing hand is a mystery; Amendola and Gronkowski have missed significant time; Talib and Tommy Kelly have been sidelined recently; day-to-day nagging injuries every NFL deals with; Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo out for the season; and now, Vollmer’s injury leaves a big hole to fill on the right side of a struggling offensive line. Call it unlucky or however you want to label it, but the Pats have to continue to overcome several big losses. A tough task for the team moving forward.
In any case, the team now holds a 6-2 record and host the 2-5 Pittsburgh Steelers in week nine. The Patriots will look to go into the bye week with another victory, so be sure to check back for my pre-game thoughts later in the week.
Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!