Some thoughts coming off of Sunday’s loss:
1) Heading into Sunday’s must-win game in Miami, the hope was that Bill Belichick could keep his team in the mix and salvage the rest of the 2023 regular season.
That, obviously, didn’t happen.
Instead, whatever momentum the New England Patriots built the previous week against Buffalo came to a screeching halt. They spent Sunday making the same mistakes that have plagued them all year, with the officials essentially taking care of the rest.
The latter situation was ridiculous. The ticky-tack pass interference call on J.C. Jackson was questionable, at best. That call came on a 3rd-and-6 late in the second quarter, which had it not happened would have likely kept the Dolphins to a field goal after Tua Tagovailoa overshot Hill in the back of the end zone.
Instead, that penalty extended the drive, leading to the 1-yard touchdown by Cedrick Wilson and put the Patriots in a 14-7 hole.
Ironically, Jackson absolutely interfered on the ensuing play on a fade to Hill prior to Wilson’s touchdown, where the defensive back never came close to turning around after Hill slipped past him and Jackson essentially ran through him with his back turned on the play.
That flag wasn’t thrown. Perhaps as a make-up call, but it didn’t matter, the damage was done.
The nonsense continued.
DeVante Parker sustained an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit by DeShon Elliott late in the contest, which also wasn’t called. The officials also missed another, with Ezekiel Elliott getting tripped up on another play that caught Belichick’s eye.
Belichick was livid for a lot of the contest, and he was clearly upset about it after the game. On Monday, it was obviously still a point of frustration after he actually brought up again in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show.
“We coach it the way we’ve always coached it, which is the safe way to play, leading with the shoulder, we’re never wanting to ever hit in the head … those are defenseless players and all that,” said Belichick. “You know, I’d just, I don’t know, I like to feel like our players are getting protected like everybody else’s. The tripping on Ezekiel Elliott, I mean, that’s another dangerous play. Stuff like that, there shouldn’t be any place for that in football.”
Another was Kendrick Bourne’s supposed holding penalty to start the second quarter, which put the offense in a 2nd-and-18 and led to a punt.
They also flagged New England for an illegal downfield pass on rookie Atonio Mafi in the fourth quarter, which was another ridiculous call. Both Cole Strange and Mafi were engaged as blockers at the same point just beyond the line of scrimmage, so that flag was another baffling moment.
Fortunately, the offense finished off the drive and scored a touchdown, but it’s one of many frustrating instances from Sunday’s game.
(PHOTO:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
2) But the turning point in this game came late in the second quarter as the Patriots had put together a nice drive that started at the six-minute mark, as Mac Jones and the offense had worked their way down into Miami territory.
With the Patriots facing 1st-and-10 at the Dolphins 23, Jones saw Kendrick Bourne slip into the secondary but instead of firing it on a line, he lofted it up and missed the fact that Jalen Ramsay had jumped the route.
Ramsay came in and lept up over Bourne and caught the football at the 11-yard line, picking off the pass and killing the drive.
That was a huge swing. Instead of potentially going into the locker room tied at 14-14, The Dolphins turned around and got a field goal before the half expired and took a ten point lead into the locker room at 17-7.
Another 10-point deficit, which ultimately cost them.
“I knew the coverage, I knew everything. I just made a bad throw really late,” said Jones after the game. “I didn’t really drive it.”
“That’s what happens on that play, the guy either takes it and it’s a touchdown or the guy falls off and nothing happened. But you can’t do that as a quarterback, just throw it out of bounds or take the checkdown and move on.”
They managed to pull within one score late after Jones and the offense put together a 13 play, 81-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, pulling to within 24-17 with 8:33 left to play.
But by then, the defense was gassed and Miami took the next six minutes off the clock, putting together one final scoring drive that ultimately slammed the door at any chance at a comeback.
That was Jones’ eighth interception of the season and he’s well on pace to pass the 11 and 13 he threw in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
That’s certainly not ideal, and after going eight straight games with just one total pick at one point in 2022, given the way he’s playing, it doesn’t appear like he has it in him to put together a similar one this season.
Jones has gotten into a bad habit of not consistently stepping into his throws and falling away as he lets it go. It’s something that continues to be an issue, and it’s a big reason why his team sits at 2-6 and his future continues to be in doubt here in New England.
(PHOTO:Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
3) Kendrick Bourne’s knee injury on Sunday is absolutely brutal.
The veteran wideout went down on the first play of the fourth quarter, which came on a 3rd-and-9 from their own 16.
On the play, Jones found Bourne just short of the sticks, with Eli Apple grabbing Bourne and yanking him backward while the receiver’s feet were still planted.
His right leg bent awkwardly, with Bourne immediately grabbing at it as he rolled over onto the turf. Ezekiel Elliott immediately rushed over, followed by trainers before Bourne eventually came off the field.
According to reports, the wideout suffered a torn ACL on the play, which likely sets up a long offseason for him to try and recover from the injury. Bourne was in the final year of his current contract and many had hoped the club would possibly extend him in the event he wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline on Tuesday.
All of that clearly changes with his injury and even worse, it leaves an already thin group of receivers now without its best player with nine games still left to play.
(PHOTO:Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
4) The lone bright spot from Sunday’s game is Kyle Dugger, who was absolutely terrific in Miami.
Dugger was all over the field and finished the afternoon leading the club in tackles with 8, along with a big interception as well as a sack.
His turnover was huge because it came in Miami’s end of the field, with Dugger picking off the football at the Dolphins’ 45 and running it back 15 yards to the 30 before Tyreek Hill brought him down with the tackle.
Three plays later, Mac Jones hit Bourne for the 24-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-4, and the Patriots were suddenly up 7-0 in Miami.
Obviously, the Dolphins ended up coming right back with a 42-yard bomb to Hill on the ensuing possession, but it certainly doesn’t offset what was a great play by the veteran safety.
It was definitely far and away Dugger’s most dominant performance of 2023, and it certainly came at the right time. The only problem was, New England’s offense couldn’t answer the bell on Sunday, which squandered what was really a terrific effort.
Boutte hasn’t seen action since Week 1 (PHOTO:Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)
5) With both Bourne being sidelined and Parker also likely to miss time, those injuries will potentially open the door for additional playing time for Tyquan Thornton and Kayshon Boutte, which should be interesting to follow.
Thornton was a healthy scratch on Sunday and certainly hasn’t done much to build on his rookie season. He’s had a disappointing showing thus far, which is a bad sign for the former second-round pick out of Baylor.
Meanwhile, Boutte hasn’t seen the field since Week 1 and made the unwise mistake of also complaining about his lack of playing time on social media.
The Patriots now find themselves likely needing one or both of their services, with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jalen Reagor, and Demario Douglas as their sole remaining healthy receivers.
Boutte hasn’t seen action since Parker was out against Philadelphia and actually played fairly well despite coming up empty reception-wise on his four targets.
Two of those should have been catches, but his inability to drag his feet ended up costing him on those opportunities, one of which came in the closing minutes and played a role in New England’s failed comeback bid.
Still, that was nearly two months ago, and the hope is that the former LSU standout has grown since then.
Hopefully, he has, because given what transpired on Sunday, the Patriots are likely going to need him.
The same could be said for Thornton. He’s likely also entering into a key time over these next few weeks, as the Patriots will most certainly be evaluating everybody during the remainder of their season.
In the end, at 2-6, any aspirations of playing in January certainly took a big hit on Sunday.
That means, for now, it’s on to Washington.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary