All week, we all had the same question: “Was the win over Buffalo signs that the team had turned a corner, or was that big win just an outlier?” Unfortunately, it seems that the answer was the latter and not the former.
And it wasn’t just the offense that was bad. The defense shared in its misery against Miami, who have owned New England in South Beach for most of the nearly 60-year history between the two teams. Costly mistakes, penalties, turnovers… haven’t we heard this ad nauseam for the past two years?
Miami won 31-17, but with the game clock waning, the Patriots still had a puncher’s chance. Mac Jones had hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for his first (?) TD as a Patriot to make it a one-score game at 24-17 with 8:30 left in the game. Which was plenty of time.
But Miami’s four-minute offense chewed up the clock, as well as the Patriots’ defense. They faced a third-and-one from the Patriots’ 31-yard line with 2:48 left. What happened was a microcosm of the season. Tua Tagovailoa ran play-action. Kyle Dugger bit on it, rushing up into the box. Both Jack and Jonathan Jones followed Tyreek Hill. That left Jaylen Waddle all alone in the middle of the field for a too-easy touchdown. Ball game, place your trays in the upright position for the long flight back to Boston.
Offensively, Mac Jones isn’t able to elevate a team with problems along the OL, and without better weapons at the skill positions. And the rest of the team doesn’t have the juice to elevate Jones. What a conundrum.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Dolphins game.
Mac Jones started the game much like last week, and there was optimism early. Kyle Dugger snagged an interception off of Tua that set the Patriots up well inside Miami territory. Jones then zipped a 24-yard TD to Kendrick Bourne, putting NE up 7-0.
But after Miami took a 14-7 lead, Jones had a chance to tie things up at the end of the half. He moved them down the field and had a 1st and 10 at Miami’s 23 with 2:00 minutes to go in the half. Then Jones did what he’s done too many times this season. He had pressure on him and threw off of his back foot across the field. Jalen Ramsey picked off the wounded duck easily and then ran it back 49 yards to the NE 40.
This had nothing to do with arm strength but with mechanics and a piss-poor decision-making. There was plenty of time left on the clock, and forcing the throw off his back foot on first down was inexcusable. The resultant swing was six, possibly ten points.
He was sacked three times, hit seven, and was pressured on more than 43 percent of his dropbacks.
Jones finished 19-29 for 161 yards with two TDs and an interception for a passer rating of 88.5. That isn’t nearly good enough facing a Miami offense that can light up the scoreboard.
Running Backs: C+
The Patriots’ running game averaged 4.1 yards per carry, which isn’t bad, but they could only manage 77 yards on 19 carries, which also, frankly, isn’t enough. Rhamondre Stevenson and Zeke Elliott both ran hard but, many times, were getting yards on their own as the blocking was hit-or-miss.
Stevenson finished with 10 carries for 39 yards (3.9-yard average), while Elliott garnered 36 yards on seven carries, a 5.1-yard average. Stevenson added two catches for 11 yards.
A change of pace 3rd-down back is sorely needed. They had one with Pierre Strong, who had a 41-yard catch out of the backfield on Sunday and averages 4.6 yards per carry for Cleveland. The player he was traded for, tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr., has yet to appear in a game this season offensively. He dressed for two games and has five (5) STs snaps.
Wide Receivers: C-
Kendrick Bourne had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. But he was injured, and it was reported that he tore an ACL in Miami and is through for the season, possibly with the Patriots, as he is a free agent in 2024. He’s been Jones’ most reliable receiver this season with 37 catches, 406 yards and four TDs.
Demario Douglas caught five passes but for only 25 yards. DeVante Parker had one catch for 14 yards and was later taken out on a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit that inexplicably went uncalled. It was one of several bad calls for this officiating crew. JuJu Smith-Schuster also only had one catch for a three-yard TD. Jalen Reagor was targeted twice but was 0-0-0.
When people say that the Patriots are talent-deficient, look at the stats. All told, the WRs had 10 catches for 78 yards. Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle combined for 15 catches for 133 yards and two long TDs.
Tight Ends: B
The tight ends were pretty productive as a group, catching seven passes for 72 yards on eight targets. Pharaoh Brown had another chunk play for 24 yards, tying Bourne for the longest play from scrimmage. He had two catches for 33 yards. He played more snaps than Mike Gesicki, which was a bit of a surprise.
Hunter Henry had three catches for 28, including two on the Patriots final scoring drive. He had a 16-yard chunk play as well, while Gesicki had two catches for 11 yards.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line did a fairly good job in the running game but was, once again, far too inconsistent. The pass protection was spotty as well. Jones was pressured on more than 43 percent of his dropbacks.
Trent Brown was laboring with a sore knee and ankle, and on the sack he allowed, apparently thought the play was over. He was seen limping badly in the locker room after the game, according to Mark Daniels. But he played 100 percent of the snaps.
Antoni Mafi and Sidy Sow both had issues at right guard and switched out. The OL allowed three sacks and seven QB hits. But some blame belongs to Jones for holding the ball too long on a few occasions.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line played well for the Patriots but was disappointing, considering Miami was down three offensive linemen. They did a decent job of disrupting Tua in the first half, but as we’ve seen so many times, they wilted in the South Florida heat.
However, Christian Barmore turned in another impressive performance. He logged five tackles, a sack, a QB hit, and a tackle for loss. Deatrich Wise played sparingly, as his shoulder injury definitely limited him.
However, the DL did an excellent job of shutting down Miami’s running game. The Dolphins averaged only 3.0 yards per carry and rushed for 78 yards (less than half of their season average) on 26 carries.
Ja’Whaun Bentley had to leave the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury that hurt. Mack Wilson came in for Bentley and played well with seven tackles and a tackle for loss. Anfernee Jennings has been filling in Matthew Judon quite well, doing a terrific job as a run stuffer and edge setter. He recovered a fumble that could have been a turning point, but the offense couldn’t capitalize.
Jahlani Tavai missed a few tackles on the edge but also had a couple of nice splash plays as well. However, the unit struggled in coverage, which brought down the grade a bit.
The secondary had some bad breakdowns and their own share of tackling issues. J.C. Jackson had a rough afternoon. He and Marte Mapu both bit on a fake for Tyreek Hill, who blew past them for an easy 42-yard TD. The pass interference call on him was… a bit shaky?
There was another critical breakdown on Waddle’s 31-yard TD that sealed the game; Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones both took Hill, leaving Waddle alone. Ouch.
Hill (112) and Waddle (121) both topping 100 yards and each scoring a TD speaks of the struggles the unit had. But Jonathan Jones had a couple of nice breakups, Kyle Dugger had an interception. But in the end, Tua passed for 324 yards, completing 30 of 45 passes with three TDs and a pick. He had a passer rating of 100.6.
Special Teams: B
Rookie kicker Chad Ryland hit on his only FG attempt. Bryce Barringer had a couple of booming punts, twice pinning Miami inside the 20, one of which was at the four-yard-line. He averaged 53 yards per punt on the day with a long of 63.
They did a good job of limiting Braxton Berrios in the return game. Ty Montgomery had one kickoff return for 24 yards.
Bill Belichick still hasn’t been able to beat Tua, 0-6. They had a decent enough game plan on bringing pressure from the front seven, but it wasn’t enough, and they failed to jam Miami’s speedy WRs at the line, which made matters more challenging.
Offensively, Bill O’Brien used motion and every trick in his arsenal, but they just don’t have the speed and talent to keep up with a Miami team so flush with it.
But the mistakes just keep happening, and to me, it is a coaching issue. The Patriots didn’t lose because of the referees, but they sure as hellfire didn’t do them any favors. The two players in motion at the same time is a no-brainer. The no-call on Parker was ridiculous, and the ticky-tack DPI on Jackson? Ugh. It is hard enough to win in this league, especially with the lack of top-end talent New England has without the zebras piling on. But as someone once said, “It is what it is.”
Well, folks, that’s a wrap for the Dolphins. We’re on to Washington.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Demario Douglas Ezekiel Elliott Jaylen Waddle Kendrick Bourne Kyle Dugger Mac Jones Matthew Judon Miami Dolphins New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rhamondre Stevenson Tua Tagovailoa Tyreek Hill