A Tale of Two Halves
A funny thing happened on the way to another home blowout win over the Dolphins on Sunday. Miami regrouped in the second half as Ryan Tannehill was tremendous in the final 30 minutes and the Patriots needed a Duron Harmon interception in the end zone with two seconds left to preserve a 31-24 win on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
With the victory, the Patriots improve to 2-0 and are a game up in the division over the New York Jets. Miami and Buffalo are already two games back at 0-2. The Patriots got off to a lightning fast start with Jimmy Garoppolo eviscerating Miami’s defense. In the first quarter, the Patriots outgained Miami 204 -12.
Jimmy G. looked positively Brady-esque completing 18-27 for 234 yards and three touchdown passes in the first half as the Pats raced out to a 24-0 lead before Miami knew what hit them. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Danny Amendola and another to Martellus Bennett in the first half.
But his last completion as he rolled out to his right was a costly one. Kiko Alonso hit him and drove him to the turf as he let go of the pass and Garoppolo hit the turf hard on his shoulder. He was immediately helped off the field and didn’t return.
The good news was that X-rays came back negative although he was reportedly in the hospital, presumably to get an MRI. His leaving ignited the Dolphins who drove down to kick a field goal at the end of the first half and carried the momentum into the second half.
Jacoby Brissett took over and played ok, completing 6-9 for 92 yards in relief and will undoubtedly get his first NFL start on Thursday against the Houston Texans. Miami’s offense made adjustments in the second half and their wide receivers were all getting open. Tannehill went to the no-huddle attack which stopped the substitutions by the Pats and wore down their pass rushers who got very little pressure down the stretch.
Tannehill ended up going 32-45 for 389 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Both Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker went over 100 yards receiving as Miami stormed back from a 31-3 deficit in the third quarter to 31-24 with about six minutes to go.
Blount, Bennett Shine: The Patriots got tremendous games from both RB LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett this afternoon. Blount started slowly but he gradually began to wear down the Miami defense. He ended up with 29 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown, a nine-yard run up the middle to open the third quarter.
Blount had another highlight reel play when he hurdled Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell early in the fourth quarter. The 26-yard run put the Patriots in good position at midfield but a penalty on Joe Thuney killed the drive.
The Patriots want him to be a closer and he was particularly effective doing just that. With 6:06 left the Patriots began on their 25-yard line and the Dolphins knew they were going to run but Blount was the major factor in the Patriots driving to the Miami 26 before they stalled with just over a minute to go. Normally a chip shot field goal, but he pushed it wide right and what should have been a clinching drive gave Miami a final chance.
Bennett played a heck of a game a week ago as a blocker, this week he was leaned on more as a pass receiver and was outstanding. He caught 5 passes for 114-yards including a 20-yard scoring pass from Garoppolo in the first quarter.
He also caught a huge 16-yard pass on the Patriots final drive to keep the chains moving and to give them the opportunity to kill the clock further.
Defense Must Improve: After a mainly very impressive first half, the defense was picked apart by QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill went 22-27 with 273 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. He and coach Adam Gase made their adjustments, going to a shorter passing game and he was on fire in the second half.
After falling behind 31-3, the Dolphins scored touchdowns on their next three drives — 21 unanswered points to make this one a nail-biter. Kenny Stills had a 24-yard touchdown catch with 5:45 left in the third, on a play where Miami’s RT Ja’Wuan James jumped way before the snap and should have been called back for a false start. Jordan Cameron had a 12-yard touchdown catch early in the third between two defenders (Pat Chung and Jamie Collins), and then Kenyan Drake had a seven-yard touchdown run with 6:06 left in the game. Drake’s touchdown caught the Patriots in a blitz from the left side, as Miami ran to the right and Drake scored easily.
The secondary wanted to keep the play in front of them and avoid the big chunk plays. But in effect, they did neither in the second half. Parker and Landry were consistently beating the corners off the line and the Patriots pass rush was mostly a non-factor in the second half.
Chris Long had a good game, providing good QB pressure and recovered a fumble.
Special Teams Letdown: After being largely responsible for the win a week ago in Arizona, the Patriots STs were partly to blame for the game nearly going to overtime. When a field goal would have put the game away with a minute to go, Stephen Gostkowski has to make that kick. A 39-yarder is little more than an extra point for him and was a huge miss at crunch time. He’s normally as automatic as there is in the NFL.
Ryan Allen’s punting was poor on Sunday. While he did down two inside the 20-yard line, his four punts went for an average of only 32 yards with a long of just 37. Miami took a page out of the Patriots book and mortar kicked to Matthew Slater who could only get back to the 18-yard line. Danny Amendola was the lone bright spot returning three punts for 33 yards, including a 19-yarder.
Now with the Patriots facing a very short week and the Houston Texans coming to town on Thursday, there is very little time for Brissett to get ready to now be elevated to the starter’s position.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Adam Gase Bill Belichick Chris Long Danny Amendola Devante Parker Duron Harmon Jarvis Landry Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman Kenny Stills LeGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Martellus Bennett Miami Dolphins New England Patriots NFL Ryan Tannehill Tom Brady