The Patriots leave Miami searching for answers after losing to the Dolphins 33-20 in week one. (USA TODAY Images)
The New England Patriots opened the 2014 season on the road to face the Miami Dolphins. Sunday’s contest¬†was a hot-and-cold performance, resulting in a 33-20 Dolphins victory.¬†The Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory, last place in the AFC East and the only team in the division to not get a victory in week one.
Expectations are high¬†in New England, so naturally Sunday’s performance was uninspiring to say the least. There’s a lot to digest after this game, but let’s start with these five thoughts on the contest. –
Patriots Crumbled in Second Half:¬†New England had a rough start to the game, but settled down to a produce a solid first half. The Patriots led 20-10 through the first 30 minutes of play, then the bottom fell out. The offense could not get on the same page, the defense struggled to contain and the Dolphins ran away with the early division showdown.
There are several areas of concern, but the coaching staffs inability to adjust and put the players in the best position to succeed stood out. Of course, the team needed to execute better too. Just an all-around bad performance by the team.
Dolphins Dominate Line of Scrimmage:¬†Miami took care of business in the trenches Sunday, having their way on both sides of the ball. The rebuilt Dolphins offensive¬†line took advantage of a light 3-4 New England front, allowing running back, Knowshon Moreno, to gash the Patriots defense for 134 yards. The lack of gap integrity and poor tackling was frustrating, especially after the return of Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, the core of the Pats defense.
Chandler Jones was quiet, stone-walled by Pro Bowl left tackle, Brandon Albert. While Bill Belichick might want to play a 3-4 defense, a 4-3 front looks like the better fit for the current personnel. An adjustment of Wilfork paired with Sealver Siliga in the middle, with Jones and Rob Ninkovich on the ends could be worth a try. Playing Jones as a 3-4 defensive end, does not maximize his athleticism on the edge.
The Dolphins defensive line outmatched New England’s offensive front Sunday as well. Cameron Wake and the Miami pass rush sacked Tom Brady four times. The Patriots rotated at center and right guard throughout the game, which could be a reflection of the coaching staff not confident in their best unit moving forward.
Brady, Passing Attack Out of Sync:¬†The Patriots offense was a mess for the majority of Sunday’s contest. Brady did not look like himself, delivering one of his worst games in recent memory. Blame it on the offensive line, his injured calf, the bugaboo of playing in Miami, whatever; it wasn’t good enough.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, though. Rob Gronkowski 11 targets, 4 receptions; Kenbrell Thompkins 10 targets, 5 receptions; Brandon Lafell 6 targets, 0 receptions; Amendola had 3 catches for 16 yards, simply not good enough all around. Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman were stellar in the first half, but were not as involved in the second half; one of the many coaching criticisms from Sunday.
Special Teams Meltdown: An often forgotten element of football games is special teams, but it reared it’s ugly head Sunday. After a three-and-out to start the game, long-snapper Danny Aiken’s snap skipped to punter Ryan Allen allowing the Dolphins to block and recover. Allen struggled in other attempts, too. Kickoff return men, Matthew Slater and Patrick Chung, could not make anything happen, something that has been lacking for way too long.
Overshadowed Performances: While the overall result was poor, there were several players that had strong performances Sunday. Linebacker Jamie Collins flew around the field, forced a fumble and delivered some big hits. Edelman had six catches for 95 yards, building off his strong summer. Shane Vereen had 71 total yards and got into the endzone, his versatility gives the offense an extra dimension.
Overall, time to regroup and make the correct adjustments moving forward. Back to the film room — and the drawing board — before week two at the Minnesota Vikings.
Do¬†you have a Twitter account?¬†Be sure to follow me:¬†@PatriotsHaven!