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MORSE: 15 Observations from Game 1 Loss to Dolphins

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 years ago at 9:51 am ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: 15 Observations from Game 1 Loss to DolphinsBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Some observations from Sunday’s game:

  1. Mac Jones’s play in this game was good enough to win.  If Harris doesn’t fumble the Patriots would have at least a chip shot FG.  Jones was spectacular at times.  He started a little shaky by grounding the ball on a backward pass to Jonnu Smith who smartly pounced on the ball.  However, the big loss of -9 yards on 1st down forced them into 3rd and long and the drive stalled.  Mac looked like a rookie on that play.  He settled down and was under heavy blitz pressure all day and losing starting right tackle Trent Brown in that 1st series didn’t help.  Jones finished 29 of 39 (74.4%), 281 yards, a TD pass, and no interceptions.  He had a 75.3 Quarterback rating.  His 74.4% completion rate is the highest ever recorded by a rookie starting his 1st  game.  Miami threw some exotic blitzes at Jones and he didn’t wilt under the pressure.  In fact, the Patriots were 11 of 16 on 3rd down (66%).  Bill Belichick was 38-0 coming into the game when his team converted on 60% of their 3rd downs.  Jones did miss Jakobi Meyers on a short rollout right and underthrowing him.  If the pass hit him in stride Meyers would have caught it and made the line to gain. Jones took nine hits and one sack in the game.  He was more mobile than I thought he would be.  Jones had some receivers coming open deep if he would or could hold the ball a bit longer.  The play calling was understandingly conservative.  Jones took the check-downs rather than throw downfield.  There is a lot to like about Jones’s opening game performance.  His third-down efficiency was terrific.  Jones exceeded my expectations and it was a shame they didn’t win this game.
  2. Evan Lazar had a great article on Saturday highlighting the Dolphins “0” defense. The zero defense should be familiar to Patriots fans as we ran this several times in 2019.  Zero means no deep safety in the middle of the field.  Mac Jones’s pre-snap read appears to be a huge hole in the middle of the field.  However, this is a disguise as Miami shifts just prior to the snap and drops a safety into the middle.  The second version of this drops a DT into the middle linebacker position stopping the short crossing pattern.  The linebackers play an amoeba look where no lineman has a defined position and many are in a standup position.
  3. The Patriots Defense held Miami to 74 yards rushing for a 3.2-yard average. They allowed the opening drive of Miami for a TD, and FG (48 yards) at the end of the half, and the opening drive of the 2nd half and held Miami to 17 points.  If the Patriots are able to hold a team to 17 points at home they are usually going to win.  I thought the secondary played too soft which allowed easy completions.   Tua was 16 of 27 for 202 yards a TD passing and a TD running, with one INT, and a 40.1 Quarterback rating.   Miami utilized a no-huddle offense on that 1st drive that confused the Patriots and kept them from making situational matchup changes of personnel.  Further, this tactic was meant to tire out the personnel that was on the field.  It was hot out there (for New England) and the Patriots were wearing their all blues (dark) uniforms.  Miami was much better acclimated to hot weather, and this weather was actually cooler than southern Florida temps they are used to practicing in.
  4. The Dolphins coaching staff with former Patriots coaches Brian Flores (Head Coach), George Godsey (Offensive Coordinator) and Josh Boyer (Defensive coordinator) know the Patriot’s tendencies.  They had all off-season to prepare for this game and because of a strange quirk of scheduling had two weeks to prepare for the rookie QB Jones, once Cam Newton was released.  The Dolphins scripted plays to start their 1st offensive series and at the start of the 2nd half were just enough to squeak out a win.
  5. The Patriots knew the Dolphins defense was a ball-hawking defense that likes to strip the ball. It was reported that Damien Harris was carrying a ball with him all over the Patriot’s practice facility in preparation for Miami’s ball stripping ability.  It didn’t sink in!  Rahmondre Stevenson fumbled after a 9-yard reception in the 2nd series and we never saw him in the game the remainder of the game.  Stevenson has a fumbling problem as he had one in pre-season and is now in the opening game.  In his 2019 college season, Stevenson fumbled twice in only 65 carries.  Bill Belichick won’t stand for fumbling.  One scribe stated that Stevenson is now in the witness protection program and we might not see him for some time.
  6. Penalties, 8 for 84 yards killed many drives. This is not the Patriot way and it was so disappointing that it came from veteran leaders.  Of particular was a call on Matt Judon out of bounds by the Miami bench and the second being a call for a blindside block on Shaq Mason.  The Patriots had 24 new faces on their 2021 opening day 47 man game roster.  That’s more than half.  I would love to be a fly on the wall for Monday’s film review with the team and Bill Belichick.
  7. The secondary was playing too soft, allowing free releases off the line of scrimmage. Tua and the Dolphins took advantage of this for easy 10-15 yard gains.  Perhaps the threat of Tua running forced this.  Kyle Dugger led in tackles and Adrian Phillips played a great 2nd half.
  8. Jake Bailey only punted twice and averaged 49.9 yards per kick.  His long kick was a 65-yard beauty.
  9. Trent Brown went down after the first series with an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the remainder of the game. That hurt a lot.  Replacement Justin Herron was awful at RT and was later replaced by Yasir Durant.  Yodny Cajuste was inactive for the game.   The Dolphins were allowed to pressure Jones with all types of blitzes.
  10. The high-priced free-agent TEs came through with 8 receptions on 8 targets. However, they were underused in the first half.  It wasn’t until the second half that Jones even looked at Hunter Henry.
  11. Personnel decisions were a curious choice. Devin Asiasi and JJ Taylor were inactive.  If you were going to run the ball, why wouldn’t Asiasi be on the field?  In hindsight, the decision of Stevenson over Taylor was a mistake.  Where were Christian Barmore and Henry Anderson?  Did they even play?  Donta Hightower was invisible.  This bears watching, with Hightower coming off a missed season due to opting out due to COVID.  Has Hightower lost a step or is he just rusty?
  12. The Patriots dominated the time of possession yesterday from 36:43 to 23:17. If Harris doesn’t fumble, the TOP would have been worse as the Phins kept the ball the last 3 minutes of the game.  This was a typical Bill Belichick game.   Conservative playcalling, run the ball to dominate Time of Possession, keeping the Miami Defense on the field and your defense off.  They had three 14 play drives.  Keep the games close and win the game on the final drive.  If Harris doesn’t fumble, the Patriots would have at least a game-winning FG attempt.  Instead of allowing Jones the chance to win the game, Belichick and McDaniel decided to run the ball and take time off the clock.
  13. Why was Juwhan Bentley in the game during critical stretches of the 2nd half? Bentley is too slow to be an effective linebacker in the NFL.  I was screaming at the TV when Bentley came out to the sideline to cover running back Salvon Amed.  What a mismatch and Miami tried to exploit it twice, one was successful and the other was not.
  14. This gem is from Mike Giradi of NFL Network. Mac Jones is the 4th QB since 1950 to pass for 275+ yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, and 70% completion percentage.  All the other QBs won.
  15. The Patriots were 1 for 4 in the Red Zone. This was also a problem in the pre-season, settling for FG rather than TDs.  Consequently, Miami was 2 for 2.

If you just looked at the statistics, you would have thought the Patriots would have been the winners.  I can’t believe they actually lost this game.  The fumbles and penalties (8 for 84 yards) killed the Patriots.   Here is another stat that was important to the outcome.  Miami passed on 6 Run-Pass Options for 70 yards (of the 202 total passing yards).

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season
Tags: Miami Dolphins New England Patriots

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