By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots took care of business on the road Monday night in Miami with a 41-14 victory against the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. This was a win that might have been surprising to many media experts in Boston. However, I really thought the Patriots would come back from Miami with a victory.
My prediction prior to the game was a 35-24 win for the Pats. I really believed that Tom Brady would light up the Dolphins secondary, and I thought the Pats defense would do enough so Miami could not keep pace. I never imagined the way the Patriots would take over this game. I also was very surprised of the defenders who were the play-makers in this matchup.
On offense, the Patriots Monday night were very efficient, but not overpowering against the Dolphins. The running game for the Pats was also extremely effective. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 76 yards on 16 carries. He had a 4.8 yards per carry average, which is excellent. Overall, the Pats running game had 119 yards.
The passing game was very good, even though Tom Brady did not throw for many yards. His statistics were 19 completions in 24 attempts for 153 yards. He also threw for one touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead. Again, the offense has had better games, but they did enough to be very effective.
On defense, the Patriots showed their vulnerability, but they also made big plays when it really counted. The Patriots continued to struggle in stopping the run, as Miami finished with 95 yards on 20 attempts. Their yards per carry average was 4.8 which was great for the Dolphins, but obviously something New England will want to continue to work on.
The passing game for Miami looks impressive, but the statistics are deceiving. Chad Henne had 29 completions in 39 attempts for 302 yards, and also threw for two touchdowns. On the surface it looks like Henne had a great game. However, the great equalizer for the Patriots defense had to be the three interceptions.
The Dolphins at times looked like they could move the ball on the Patriots at will. However, last night reminded me of the “bend don’t break” 2001 Patriots. Henne was able to move the Dolphins down the field, but on many occasions the Patriots defense would make a play to stop a Miami drive. The Patriots defense also capitalized on bad mistakes by the Miami offense.
The Special Teams unit was spectacular Monday night. This group changed the game several times in the Patriots favor in the second half. Brandon Tate started this unit off in the second half with a kick-off return for a touchdown. Patrick Chung blocked a punt, and a field goal which led to touchdowns. Overall, this unit embarrassed the Miami Dolphins.
As I stated earlier, I really felt going into the game that the Patriots had a very good chance at coming away with a victory. I was just surprised in the manner that the game was decided. But, if you really break it down it was a complete effort in all three phases of the game. I thought I was in a time warp back to 2001.
This was a “team” win and it was on the road in the division. The Pats now are in great shape going into the bye week at 3-1. We have a long way to go in the season, but this victory was a step in the right direction for the Patriots.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Dolphins “ which I posted last week prior to Monday night’s game.
1. The Special Teams unit needs to put the Patriots in favorable field position in the start of drives. I honestly never thought this unit would have this huge of an impact on this game.
Stephen Gostkowski consistently put the Dolphins in bad field position to start drives. He actually had 5 kick-offs that were not returned. That is an incredible number in one game. He really was a huge factor for the Patriots.
On kick-off returns for the Patriots, all I need to do is point to the beginning of the second half. Brandon Tate ran back a kick-off for a touchdown. I guess you can say the Patriots special teams unit changed field position on that play.
Zoltan Mesko was also good last night. He had 3 punts last night with an average of 41 yards per punt. He also had one punt for 61 yards that totally changed field position.
Overall, the Patriots really succeeded in this key. The Special Teams unit stepped up big time in Miami.
2. The Patriots Outside Linebackers need to be disciplined and active. These linebackers have been really criticized this season for not doing their job. Prior to Monday night I have heard discussions that the outside linebackers were not stopping the run or putting pressure on the quarterback. How would they play last night?
Well, against the run they still struggled at times setting the edge. However, against the pass would be a completely different story. Jermaine Cunningham was able at times to put some pressure on Chad Henne. The real story though was Rob Ninkovich. In this key I mention that the linebackers needed to be active. Ninkovich was extremely active. He intercepted Chad Henne twice, and sacked the quarterback once. All three plays made a big difference in this game.
For all of the negativity I have heard about these outside linebackers, they definitely made a difference against Miami. This key was an overwhelming success for the Patriots.
3. The Patriots secondary needs to contain Brandon Marshall. The Patriots secondary did a nice job on Marshall. He didn’t even have a catch in the first half. He ended up with 5 receptions for 5o yards. The Pats secondary had two players on him for a good portion of the game.
With the Patriots containing Marshall, it did open up Davone Bess for having a very good game. However, I would much rather have Bess be a factor in this game over Marshall. The Patriots secondary totally succeeded in this key.
4. The Patriots tight ends need to be active in the passing game. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski definitely had a positive impact in the passing game. Hernandez caught five passes and Gronkowski had one. These tight ends continue to be major factors in the passing game.
5. Tom Brady needs to take control of the game in the second half. Going into the game I kept hearing how badly Brady played last season in the second half of away games. Well, in this game, Tom Brady and the offense in the second half definitely capitalized on their opportunities.
After a blocked punt by Patrick Chung, the offense immediately scored to increase the lead for the Patriots. After Miami came down and scored to cut the Patriots lead in the second half, again Tom Brady and the offense scored a touchdown on a pass to Danny Woodhead.
Brady and the offense answered their critics and stepped up with mutliple touchdowns in the second half. The Patriots again succeeded in this key.
So what did we really learn from this game? I think we saw a team that is still learning about itself. This club will make mistakes, but I think it is improving in all three phases of the game. We are only a quarter into the season, and I thought you saw players stepping up to make plays. It is a work in progress, but last night we saw a positive first step in this process of coming together as a team.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 41-14 win over Miami.