Some thoughts coming off of Sunday night’s loss:
1) The lack of continuity up front remains an issue, which unfortunately was on full display again Sunday night during the New England Patriots’ 24-17 loss to the Dolphins.
Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu returned to the line-up for the first time this season, and while both players had a tough time, Strange ended up being the one who got off to a shaky start.
The second-year offensive lineman picked up the wrong player on a block on New England’s first drive, which ended up being a brutal error. Linebacker David Long came in untouched as Strange instead took the inside player with center David Andrews, leaving Long to bury Mac Jones on a 2nd-and-12 for a 9-yard loss. That sack put them in a 3rd-and-21, which came after they had just crossed midfield.
It killed their momentum and led to a punt, but it’s also part of the problem when a player like that misses most of preseason with an injury.
Also sidelined was Trent Brown, which led to Vederian Lowe starting at left tackle while Calvin Anderson anchored the right side. As a result, the only returning players from last week were Andrews at center and Anderson at right tackle.
Unlike Philadelphia, Miami did a better job disrupting New England’s offense. That kept Jones and company from getting into a rhythm and it remained a problem for much of the evening, especially as the Dolphins built a lead and forced the Patriots to have to try and play from behind.
2) With their offensive line issues, this was yet another frustrating outing for Jones and looking at the film one day later, it was just a comedy of errors that contributed to an already irritating situation.
As mentioned, those problems started on the opening drive when Jones put together a decent start but got leveled on the missed block by Strange. They adjusted on the next series, and Jones again put together another solid possession, with the third-year quarterback getting them inside the Miami 30 on a nice play to rookie wideout, Demario Douglas.
But after seemingly picking 10 yards and moving the chains on a 3rd-and-8, Douglas instead ended up with linebacker Bradley Chubb coming in and knocking out the football, forcing the turnover and killing what seemed to be a potential scoring opportunity.
That turnover not only cost the Patriots the football, but Bill Belichick benched Douglas for the remainder of the game, taking away a weapon from an offense that was already undermanned with Kayshon Boutte coming in to Sunday night’s game on the inactive list.
The worst part was up to that point, Jones had gotten off to a good start. He completed 8-of-9 for 53-yards and it seemed like New England was on their way to getting their first points of the night. But instead, the turnover grabbed the momentum for the Dolphins, who went 73-yards the other way on 11 plays, and they finished it off with an 8-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert, which put them up 10-0.
Like last week, that ended up being a sign of things to come as the Patriots were again forced to try and overcome what ultimately turned out to be another insurmountable deficit.
3) The other killer was Jones’ lone interception on the night, and how it happened was more frustrating than the turnover itself.
It came on the next possession following the blocked field goal by Brendan Schooler on a puzzling playcall when the Patriots had driven down to the Dolphins’ 22-yard line.
On the play, Jones targeted DeVante Parker on a deep throw down the right sideline where Parker got boxed out and was out of bounds and then didn’t even go up and fight for the football or break up the pass. The ball, instead, easily landed in Xavien Howard’s hands as he got inside leverage on Parker and made the better play on the throw, and came up with the turnover.
Both Jones and Parker have had little luck the last two seasons when it comes to those 50/50 types of throws, so why it was attempted in that situation was certainly questionable.
For a player who is supposed to be a big physical presence, especially when it comes to contested throws, Parker is just incredibly inconsistent and hasn’t tended to hold up his end of the deal.
(PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
4) One area that was a positive Sunday night was how good Jones was on some moments where he got off several throws to extend drives Sunday night with pressure bearing down on him.
He was under duress for much of the evening as the Dolphins sacked Jones four times and hit him eight times, with all four of the sacks being plays where he literally had no room to step up or extend the play given how fast they got there.
Jones also made some nice plays outside the pocket, including two really throws on the run, one of which came on the touchdown throw to Hunter Henry where he got the ball in just between two defenders rolling to his right. That play came early in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 17-10 with 11:21 left to go in the game.
The final throw to end the game was another good play on his part given what he was up against. That one came on fourth down during their final possession as linebacker Bradley Chubb beat David Andrews inside and came straight through, with Chubb bearing down on Jones. However, Jones kept his eyes downfield, but it forced the ball out of Jones’ hands sooner than he wanted and kept him from being able to step into the completion to tight end Mike Gesicki.
Unfortunately, the pass, instead, arrived just short of the sticks, with Gesicki having to come back for the football. With his back turned, former Patriots defensive back Justin Bethel came in and wrapped Gesicki up from behind, which left him with no other choice than to attempt the lateral to Strange that ended up being just short of the marker.
Looking back at the film, Jones actually had several throws where he was able to get it out even despite the pressure, which like week one, has been one bright spot so far this season. Still, so far, there have been a fair amount of “what if” type of moments that they continue to come up on the wrong end of.
PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
5) With both Onwenu and Strange back in the line-up, the Patriots had better success running the football Sunday than in Week 1, with Rhamondre Stevenson picking up 50 yards on 15 carries, averaging 3.3 yards per rush along with a rushing touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott also had a couple of good moments as he carried 5 times for 13 yards.
Onwenu didn’t last the whole contest, playing in just 62% of the snaps as Atonio Mafi ended up finishing the night. It’s not known why Onwenu didn’t finish, but the fact he was out there was at least a positive sign after he missed all of training camp and was inactive last week.
The biggest takeaway is just the fact this is hopefully the start of this group getting some continuity back on the interior. Inside pressure is certainly the most difficult to deal with, and it’s something that has hampered them through the first two weeks of this season.
6) Bryce Baringer ended up being with another solid outing, booming all four of his punts along with landing 3 of them inside the 20-yard line.
He had a couple of occasions again where he flipped the field position for the Patriots and got them out of trouble. He had a big one in the second quarter after the Patriots had a drive stall at their own 35 where he pinned the Dolphins in a their own 16, followed by another good one where they had reached midfield and couldn’t convert a 3rd-and-1, with Stevenson getting dropped for a 4-yard loss. He hit a 38 yard punt that pinned the Dolphins in at their own 8-yard line, and that ultimately led to the blocked field goal.
He’s been an underrated part of things so far, to say the least. Although, the fact one of their bright spots is their punter speaks volumes of some of the other frustrations we’ve seen so far.
7) Christian Gonzalez really played well for the second straight week. His interception late in this one kept the Patriots in the game, with Gonzalez making an incredible leaping grab to take away the football from Tyreek Hill on a deep pass attempt by Tagovailoa down the left sideline.
Gonzalez tracked the ball and made a terrific turnover in front of Hill, which ended a potential scoring threat and kept Miami’s lead at 17-10 with 9:56 left to go in the game.
So far, he’s been as advertised and he’s been a fantastic addition to a defense that was extremely thin at cornerback Sunday night.
8) JuJu Smith-Schuster remains a frustrating name through two games, with the veteran seemingly having a tough time getting open again for the second-straight week. Following reports earlier in the week about the coaching staff questioning his reliability, he caught five passes off of six targets for 28-yards, with the former Steelers and Chiefs receiver certainly not looking very explosive.
Thus far, watching him play is concerning and it’s hard not to wonder if the intel they got back in March on his situation was accurate in terms of his overall prognosis and his rehabilitation with his knee injury. He’s yet to appear on the injury report, which says that he’s healthy where it’s not an injury issue. Still, he hasn’t been the same player, and it’s left New England with not much to work with on the offensive side of the football, and they definitely could have used a little more help than they got from him Sunday night.
What happens from here remains to be seen. Next up is the Jets, who with Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup got blown out against Dallas on Sunday. Of all the teams to potentially get right against, this would be it.
Whether or not they’ll be able to is obviously the question we’ll all be wondering as they turn the page before heading down to MetLife next weekend.
Posted Under: Patriots News