The Patriots lost their SNF game against the Dolphins and fell to 0-2, And this one had so many of the same issues that have plagued the team in the past two seasons. Fall behind big, try to mount a comeback, scratch, and claw back into the game, but ultimately fail. As my podcast partner Derek Havens pointed out on Twitter, it was like “wash-rinse-repeat.”
But as the game was unfolding on Sunday night, and as Mac Jones and Co. were beginning the final drive in an attempt to tie the game, I was struck by the fact that the Patriots had no business truly being in that position. They had been outplayed all game, especially in the trenches.
Sloppy play, bad mistakes, and penalties continue to haunt this team into very slow starts. And after falling behind 17-3, watching your speediest, most dynamic player sit on the bench was frustrating. Especially considering the speed on the opposite side of the field. But it is what it is.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Dolphins game.
Mac Jones had to deal with a leaky offensive line and the lack of a running game but still had the team in position to tie or win the game at crunch time at the end of the game. I say win because after being outplayed, and by chance, they had scored a TD on that final drive, I’d have gone for two. It would have rivaled the Brinks robbery.
Jones moved extremely well in the pocket, perhaps his best such game in his career. And on plays where he was forced to improvise, he made several nice plays, including the TD pass to Hunter Henry and a couple of different rollouts hitting JuJu Smith-Schuster for first downs. And the throw to Rhamondre Stevenson on a fade under pressure was a really nice play.
But the interception to DeVante Parker was a poor throw, where Parker had no chance of hauling it in, which was a black mark on the overall grade. The pass should have been longer and higher… more to that below.
Jones was 31-41 for 239 yards with a TD and an INT. He was reportedly pressured on 36 percent of his dropbacks. It felt like more than that. The Patriots have several issues plaguing the team. Mac Jones isn’t among them.
Running Backs: C-
The Patriots running game averaged 2.8 yards per carry against the very stout DL of the Eagles. This week, Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott only averaged 3.2 yards per pop. And this was going against the defense that was gashed last week by the Chargers for more than 230 yards. That isn’t nearly good enough.
Again, the main issue centers around the offensive line’s play (or lack thereof).
Stevenson rushed 15 times for 50 yards with a two-yard TD run. He added three catches for 10 yards. Elliott rushed for only 13 yards on five carries.
Wide Receivers: C-
DeVante Parker was back in the lineup and caught six passes for 57 yards. However, on the interception from the Jones pass, he ran too close to the sideline and allowed himself to be pushed out of bounds by Xavien Howard. While it was a bad pass from Jones, Parker was completely out of bounds.
Kendrick Bourne wasn’t the factor he was in Week 1; he finished with four catches for 29 yards. The coaches tried to scheme up some deep passes for him, but the Dolphin defense wasn’t fooled, and all were incomplete.
JuJu Smith-Schuster had a really nice catch at the goal line and some other tough grabs but ended up with just 28 yards on five catches.
Demario Douglas started off well, grabbing two passes in the first quarter. And his receptions both produced YAC (yards after catch), an area in which the Patriot offense is sorely lacking. But on the second catch, Bradley Chubb knocked the ball loose, and Miami recovered. That was the end of Douglas’ night offensively.
Parker and Smith-Schuster reportedly were seen limping in the locker room after the game. Not a good sign.
Tight Ends: B+
Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki were productive for the Patriot offense, grabbing 11 passes for 85 yards and a TD combined on 13 targets. If anything, they were underutilized and should have been targeted more, given the way the WRs were having issues.
Henry caught six of seven targets for 52 yards and a score. It was his second red-zone TD of the season, and he and Mac Jones are refinding their chemistry that missing a year ago. The trust factor is big between the two. He had only 2 TDs last year after hauling in nine in 2021.
Gesicki caught 5-6 passes for 33 yards and made a smart play by lateraling the ball to Cole Strange on the Patriots’ final offensive play.
Offensive Line D
The offensive line performance, while not a Titanic-esque disaster, was in the area code. Trent Brown was out with a concussion, and Vedarian Lowe got the start. He was overmatched at times and gave up a sack.
Calvin Anderson had a nightmarish game. How many times did we see Andrew Van Ginkel flying off the edge? He lived in the Patriot backfield all night. Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu played for the first time this season, and the rust was apparent.
The unit allowed four sacks, eight QB hits, and 15 pressures. Those numbers could have been worse if not for good movement in the pocket by Jones.
Defensive Line: D
The defensive line had a very rough night against the Miami running game. And for the most part, they were manhandled at the point of attack. This was most visible on Miami’s final TD, where Davon Godchaux and Daniel Ekuale were sealed off, allowing Raheem Mostert to go untouched for a 43-yard score.
They did a poor job of setting the edge and got only one pressure on QB Tua Tagovailoa, but part of that was scheme-related, as Tua was getting the ball out lightning quick.
Miami rushed 30 times for 145 yards and two scores, averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt. That won’t cut it.
Matthew Judon had a sack and two QB pressures. Josh Uche added four pressures coming off the edge. Marte Mapu was flagged for 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. Belichick was furious, stating correctly that he was playing the ball. However, Mapu did make contact with Jalen Waddle’s head, leading to a concussion.
Uche and Jahlani Tavai were victimized repeatedly for failure to set the edge. Even the very consistent Ja’Whaun Bentley missed some tackles. Tackling was an issue all night long as the Miami runners and receivers consistently broke tackles.
The secondary depth was put to the test this week, especially at CB. Jack Jones is on IR, Jon Jones was out with an ankle injury. So, the Patriots went with Marcus Jones until he was injured, forcing them to move Myles Bryant to the boundary corner. The secondary also had issues in the running game.
Bryant played well moving from the slot to the outside, but the high marks went to Christian Gonzalez, who (with safety help) took Tyreek Hill pretty much out of the game, allowing him just five catches for 40 yards. Gonzalez had six tackles, a PD, and an INT.
Jaylen Waddle had a very solid game with four catches for 86 yards. The secondary, acknowledging Miami’s speed, played a three-deep safety umbrella in the first half. That didn’t work out, and they adjusted in the second half with better results.
Special Teams: A
Joe Judge, Cam Achord, and Joe Houston did their homework this week. They noticed a tell from Jake Bailey on Miami’s field goal attempts, something they obviously were familiar with given Bailey’s time with the Patriots.
So, they put Brandon Schooler out wide, and he perfectly timed his rush down the line and easily blocked a field goal attempt.
“[Joe] Judge, [Joe] Houston, and Cam [Achord] dialed up a really good scheme for that block and saw a weak point on their field goal operation. We worked it during the week and felt pretty confident about it going into the game. Just had the right opportunity, counted out my steps properly, and just timed it up well. As soon as the ball was snapped, I felt myself and the momentum carrying. I knew I was going to get there. I just wanted to make sure I got a hand on the ball.”
“I had never seen it ever before. It was new for me, and I think it was new for a lot of guys on the team. Like I said, we trusted our coaches, and we are going to go out there and compete,” Schooler said after the game.
On his podcast, Pat McAfee, who knows a thing or three about STs, broke the play down perfectly.
Chad Ryland hit his first FG attempt of his career, and Bryce Barringer once again did a solid job, pinning Miami inside the 20-yard line three times, including a 58-yarder.
Coaches: D +
The coaches were concerned about Miami’s speed and put together the three-deep safety look. This may have worked in the past with some of the Dolphins’ past coaches, but Mike McDaniel just took what they gave him and ate them up with short passes underneath.
They did make adjustments in the second half and played better, but the damage was done. Putting Gonzalez on Hill was considered a bad pregame move, but that worked out. The defensive coaches, Steve, Bill Belichick, and Jerod Mayo, were slow to change up after the Dolphins were feasting on the edge runs.
There isn’t much Bill O’Brien could do, considering the OL is still a mess. But sitting Douglas after his fumble hurt. At the same time, it is understandable (to a degree) to send a message about ball security. But sitting him for the rest of the game really hurt the offense. Whether it was an O’Brien or a Belichick decision, it was a back-breaker.
That’s a wrap for the Dolphins week. We’re on to the J-E-T-S.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Brendon Schooler Hunter Henry Jaylen Waddle Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon Miami Dolphins Mike Gesicki New England Patriots Tua Tagovailoa Tyreek Hill Xavien Howard