FOXBOROUGH – Look at the bright side. The last time the New England Patriots started 0-2, they won the whole thing.
That’s about all the “bright side” you can come up with. The Patriots hung in as long as they could against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. But in the end, mistakes and not being able to make the winning plays when they had to doomed the home team. The Patriots did a nice job in containing Tyreek Hill, but too many other nameless Dolphins stepped up and helped to pull off a 24-17 win.
Mac Jones almost pulled off the win, but he had a costly interception and was sacked four times. Pop Douglas had a nice catch at the end of the first quarter, but he put the ball on the ground and never was targeted again for the rest of the night. Needing to get off the field in a one score game in the fourth quarter, the defense gives up a one play touchdown drive on a run up the gut by Raheem Mostert.
The Patriots were in a position to tie the game with about a minute left. Jones had been sacked on first down, but got the Patriots to the Miami 33 yard line, facing fourth down and four. The Patriots were out of timeouts. They had to convert the play.
Jones was almost dropped for a loss, but broke free and found former Miami tight end Mike Gesicki in the left flat. With Justin Bethel right there to make the tackle, Gesicki turned around and tried to find someone to lateral to. He found Cole Strange, and Strange caught the lateral and lunged forward. At first glance, it looked like he made the first down. Naturally, the play was reviewed by the booth.
Belichick burned a challenge on a first down spot earlier in the game, and lost the challenge when Rhamondre Stevenson could not gain a single yard. On most reviews for a first down spot, the call on the field usually stands because it is too hard to see exactly where the spot should be. On this play, the call was reversed as it showed that the ball had not reached the line to gain when Strange’s knee hit the ground. Miami took over and ran out the clock.
All night long, the Patriots seemed to have one goal in mind: contain Hill. He had five catches for 40 yards, but one touchdown, a two-yard pass that only Malcolm Butler could have defended. Overall, except for the touchdown, mission accomplished.
But Miami has many other weapons. Jaylen Waddle had four catches for 86 yards, not too damaging but still more than Belichick would have liked. Mostert had the 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that provided the final margin of victory; he finished with 121 yards rushing on 18 carries, and that was a killer for the Patriots. Along the way, guys named Salvon Ahmed, De’Von Achane, River Cracraft and Durham Smythe had big plays that more or less surprised the Patriots.
And of course, Tua Tagovailoa beat the Patriots again. He is now 5-0 against the Patriots, and finished 21 of 30 passing for 249 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a 92.2 passer rating. He was sacked only once, and never seemed to be uncomfortable all game long.
This game more or less showed the world that Miami has a much better team than the Patriots. The Patriots needed a perfect game to beat the Dolphins, and would have done so if they had come perfect. The Patriots made some plays on both sides of the ball, but in the end not enough to win the game. The Patriots once again did well to bring the game down to the final play for the second straight week, but the bottom line is that they are 0-2 and that is all that really matters.
The Patriots had two chances to turn the game around in the second half, but whiffed on both. With 3:39 left in the third quarter, Jason Sanders lined up for a 49 yard field goal, but Brenden Schooler blew in from the left side and smothered the kick. Kyle Dugger recovered at the Miami 49. But the drive ended at the Miami 22, as Jones tried to hit DeVante Parker on the right sideline despite him being covered by Xavier Howard, and the ball went right to Howard and the Dolphins took over at the Miami 3.
In the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa tried to hit Hill on a deep left sideline pass and Christian Gonzalez picked it off, his first career NFL interception. The ensuing drive was a three and out for negative-10 yards as Jones was sacked on second down.
Jones finished 31 of 42 passing for 231 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a rating of 84.5. He was sacked four times, and once again failed to lead his team to a clutch touchdown at the end of the game. You sense that Jones almost can pull it off, and someday he likely will, but at this time this was another game that Brady would have won if you can turn back the clock a few years.
Miami’s defense put the clamps on the Patriot running game, and was probably more bothersome than the Philadelphia defense was last week. As a team, Patriot running backs had 88 yards rushing on 25 carries for a 3.5 per carry average. Only a few nice runs by Stevenson late in the game prevented worse stats.
Parker (also a former Dolphin) and Hunter Henry each had six catches and they combined for 109 yards and a touchdown (Henry early in the fourth quarter). These are really pedestrian stats, and the Patriots need Jones to step up and produce more.
Next week, the Patriots go to the Meadowlands and will play the Jets, who are in deep trouble with Aaron Rodgers lost for the season. Zack Wilson is back at the helm, and they got pasted by Dallas today 30-10.
If anyone says that the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is “this much”, believe them. Be it two feet or ball placement, those two elements are why the Patriots are 0-2 and not 2-0. The two losses were close losses, but they are still losses. Somehow, the Patriots of 2023 need to learn how to win games like these.
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Posted Under: Patriots News