Tag Archives: Kenny Stills

Patriots Week 14 Report Card, A Very Mixed Bag in the Loss to Miami

Steve Balestrieri
December 11, 2018 at 7:20 am ET


The Patriots went down to Miami and played just well enough to keep a very inferior team in the game long enough for them to steal away a victory on a fluke play on the last snap of the game. Like John Houseman used to say in those old Smith Barney commercials, “They earn it.” And the Pats earned that loss in a game that they should have won.

Some parts of the Pats game was outstanding, others were absolutely terrible. On both sides of the ball. That’s what a wacky game this was. They will get over this one…or perhaps they won’t. They don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. A trip to Pittsburgh looms next week and don’t expect to see the same Steeler team that lost to the woeful Raiders next Sunday.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady, save for one colossal mistake at the end of the first half was outstanding. Brady completed 27-43 passes for 358 yards (8.3 yards per pass) with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His accuracy was very good throughout the game and those bogus hot take artists who regularly spew insipid bile about his arm strength need to watch back-to-back plays in the first half.

Facing a 3rd and 10, Brady lasered a rocket to Julian Edelman for 16 yards and a first down. On the next snap, Brady rocketed a 37-yard fastball down the field on a line where Cordarrelle Patterson made a nice grab for a 37-yard touchdown.  

Brady’s one gaffe was a very costly one. With time running down in the first half, Brady held on to the ball too long with no one open and took a sack. At that point, the clock ran out and the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to add points on the board. It was a rookie mistake, he lost track of how many timeouts they had used and it is something, he’s never done. And it couldn’t come at a worse time. That’s what knocks his grade down somewhat.

Running Backs: D

The Patriots running backs were rendered a total non-factor in this game. Despite the Dolphins having a sieve for a run defense for all of this season, they were a stone wall on Sunday and held the Patriots running backs to an awful 2.6 yards per rush average.

Sony Michel had 20 carries for just 57 yards. He had one nice run at the end of the game that looked like the Patriots were finally going to take over but it was wiped out by a holding penalty. It has been a familiar refrain for him all season. He could probably have close to 50 percent of his yardage added to his total that has been lost on flags.

James White whether by the Dolphins defense or the Patriots game plan was invisible on Sunday. Granted Brady was shredding the Dolphin secondary but when the team goes just 3-6 in the red zone, perhaps, White could have been used a bit more. Rex Burkhead also was invisible, carrying four times for two yards with just a single catch for three yards.

James Develin was solid in his blocking and added another short touchdown run. But his penalty hurt at the end of the game.

Wide Receivers: B

Both Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon had outstanding games on Sunday. Edelman had 9 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown and as always he goes into those dangerous spots over the middle. His score was reminiscent of his TD catch in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks. He had a costly drop however where he began to run before securing the ball, a very uncommon mistake for him.

Gordon was outstanding and is looking every week like he’s getting better and better. He’s a monster on those quick, short slants where he uses his size and speed to get position and then is tough to bring down. He had five catches for 96 yards and added a pass interference call as well as a holding call.

Cordarrell Patterson had two catches for 51 yards including a beauty of a 37-yard touchdown. It was a perfect throw and a very nice catch as he stretched out and snagged the ball for the score.

Chris Hogan had only one target and Brady, under pressure overthrew it badly. It was a play we wrote about this weekend, the back of the end zone pass used to be a staple in the Patriots offense and that was one of the first times we’ve seen it in a long time. And it was open too.

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski had a very good game, arguably his best of the year on Sunday. He was targeted eight times and made eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He was taking some big hit and gave the Dolphins a lot of trouble in the passing game. They were convinced that they could cover him with single coverage. They were wrong.

Gronk deserves no criticism for the ridiculousness at the end of the game. He should have never been out there in the first place.

Offensive Line: D+

The offensive line did a tremendous job in the passing game, Brady was sacked just twice and they did a very good job of keeping the interior of the pocket clean where he could step up and throw the ball.

But in the running game? They were singularly awful. Remember this is a Dolphins team that has been gashed all year long but this was their third lowest total allowed. Only two games against the anemic Jets offense did they allow less. The running backs had nowhere to run on Sunday. This was a matchup the offensive line was supposed to win and should have. They did not.

Defensive Line: D

The defensive line like the offensive line and much of the team was really good in one aspect and absolutely terrible in the other. Trey Flowers was once again terrific, he led the way with two sacks, two tackles for loss and four QB hits. And in the pass rush department, the defensive line had another strong game with 3 sacks and six QB hits.

But the Mr. Hyde part of the game was the run defense which was gashed. While that isn’t on just the DL (read below), they share in the grade as they were consistently pushed around in the running game.

Linebackers: D

The Patriots linebackers after their best game of the season against Minnesota had arguably their worst. They did do a good job of getting after Tannehill in blitzes with 1.5 sacks and a pair of QB hits.  Dont’a Hightower had his first sack of the season and John Simon was particularly effective in his best game in a Patriots uniform.

But in run support they were absolutely terrible, Miami rushed for 189 yards on just 21 carries which averages out to 9.0 yards per rush attempt. Brandon Bolden looked like Barry Sanders in his prime flying through open space for a 54-yard touchdown. No one could get off of their blocks. Elandon Roberts had a rough game, getting bulldozed on the Bolden first TD and then whiffing (how many times do we see this?) on an open field tackle attempt on Frank Gore. Hightower was fooled by Tannehill on the first series with a play fake where he ran for 13 yards.

Secondary: C

The secondary took a step back from their stellar game of a week ago. Kenny Stills was giving Jason McCourty fits all game long until he was eventually replaced by J.C. Jackson. Gilmore was beaten by Brice Butler for a touchdown on a post route that was an excellently thrown ball by Tannehill. But the rest of Miami’s receivers had no more than one catch apiece.

But on the topic of the elephant in the room or in this case a Mastodon, there were breakdowns all over the field which all help create a play which will forever be a New England Butt Fumble moment. Another look at the play, (and it is like watching a car wreck) shows some horrible situational football.

Jonathan Jones is in perfect position to make the tackle and end the game since Miami has no timeouts remaining. But instead, he foolishly tries to make a play on the ball and is then, way out of position.  Jackson and Gilmore appear to be more worried about defending another lateral and run like their feet are underwater. Devin McCourty wasn’t on the field (the only snap he missed all game) and Gronk, who isn’t a defender (more to this below) stumbled trying to get the angle on Drake. Epic fail.

Special Teams: C+

The Special Teams blocked two punts, Albert McClellan blocked both by rushing right up the middle. Ryan Allen’s punting was fantastic and the coverage units easily had their best game of the year. But Stephen Gostkowski’s two misses on easy kicks (an extra point and a chip shot 42-yard field goal) cost the team four points, which would have rendered the fiasco at the end moot. Nuff said.

Coaches: C-

The Patriots coaching staff which prides itself on not beating itself and good situational football failed on multiple accounts here. Why was Gronk in the game at all on that last play. With Miami back on its own 31, Tannehill isn’t throwing the ball 75+ yards in the air and even if he does, the team just signed 6’4 Obi Melifonwu who has a 40-inch vertical leap and can run like a scalded dog. It was unfathomable.

While the decision to go for the field goal was considered the “safe, smart” move, I’d have opted for another shot at a touchdown to put the game away and even if you don’t your forcing the Dolphins to start from inside their 5-yard line. Three points there doesn’t ice the game and you’re just giving them better field position to work from.

Just goes to show, Bill isn’t infallible, he can make mistakes. There were plenty of them to go around. We’re on to Pittsburgh…

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Miracle Finish Is Fitting End to Dolphins 34-33 Win, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 10, 2018 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots got another loss in South Florida the old fashioned way…they earned it. Very uncharacteristic mental mistakes abounded and cost the team just about any slim chance they had at securing the #1 seed in the AFC playoff picture. Lost in the wild, wacky, horribly-played lateral play was a plethora of unforced errors and bad situational football which placed them in the position in the first place.

From Stephen Gostkowski doinking an extra point off the goal post and then shanking a gimme 42-yard field goal, to Bill Belichick showing an almost Andy Reid-like clock management skills at the end of the first half, to Tom Brady inexplicably forgetting how many timeouts they had. It only gets better.

Julian Edelman running before he secures the ball on a screen, Stephon Gilmore dropping a gift pick-six by Ryan Tannehill, false starts, an offense that looked unstoppable in the first half, and then scores just six points in the fourth quarter, they set themselves up for just a finish.

The decision not to go for a touchdown on 4th down at the Miami one-yard line can be debated, but a field goal didn’t put the game away and even if a touchdown attempt failed, it would have left Miami with under 30 seconds and 99 yards to go. But the pièce de résistance was the decision to put Rob Gronkowski back as the deep safety with Miami on their 31-yard line with 0:07 seconds to go.

Did the coaching staff really think that Ryan Tannehill was going to (could) throw the ball 75 yards down the field on a final Hail Mary? And even if they did, the team just signed 6’4 safety Obi Melifonwu who had a 40” vertical leap and runs like a deer. Inexplicable…but it is over and you have to own it.

Other observations include:

With the loss, the Patriots have about zero chance of now getting the top seed in the AFC. Baltimore took Kansas City to overtime but ultimately lost. They are now two games back in the standings with just three games to play.

The #2 seed and a bye still remain a very doable proposition, however. The Texans lost to the Colts and the Steelers, like the Patriots, played down to the level of their competition and lost to the 2-10 Raiders.

On a day when the defense sacks the QB five times and you block two punts…you have to get pretty creative to lose but that’s exactly what they did.

The running game was non-existent today as the Patriots managed just 77 yards on 30 carries, a paltry 2.6-yard average. Facing a Miami defense that was being gouged for 144.7 yards a game and nearly double the average yards per carrying, that was a huge win for the Fins defense.

In contrast, the Miami running game, nearly an afterthought for much of the year absolutely gashed the Patriots defense to the tune of 189 yards on 21 carries for a whopping 9.0 yards per play. Old friend Brandon Bolden looked like he was shot out of a cannon and galloped 54-yards untouched for the first of two touchdowns in the first half and Frank Gore was outstanding, rushing 12 times for 92 yards.

Tom Brady was outstanding in the first half, he was virtually unstoppable until the final two minutes, but was held to just a pair of field goals down the stretch and it would come back to haunt them. Brady finished with 27 completions in 43 attempts for 358 yards with 3 TDs and 0 Interceptions.

Both offenses were scoring at will in the first half, up and down the field each team was moving the ball and scoring with ease.

The silly questions about Brady’s arm strength were put to rest (for now) on Sunday. On back-to-back plays, he lasered a 3rd and 10 pass to Edelman for 16 yards and then to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 37-yard touchdown.

Rob Gronkowski had arguably his best game of the season and caught 8 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. He also took some hard shots to his knees and lower body.

Kenny Stills was nearly uncoverable for Miami, turning in a great game catching 8 passes for 135 yards and a score on nine targets. He was consistently getting the better of Jason McCourty and easily won that matchup today.

Josh Gordon turned in another solid game catching 5 passes for 96 yards, several of the difficult variety. Gordon and Patterson give the Patriots the size and speed that they’ve lacked in the passing game. Julian Edelman, doing the dirty work underneath, caught 9 passes for 86 yards, but his drop of a screen pass where it appeared he had some room to run was a drive killer. We’ll have to rewatch the tape of that one.

Albert McClellan was signed to give the Special Teams a boost and today, he did exactly that. Blowing straight up the middle he not only blocked one but two punts. The second one with just under a minute to go in the half gave the Patriots the ball at the 15. Normally this is when the Patriots and Brady put a dagger into the hearts of opponents…however>>>

Clock Management Andy Reid Style 1.0: The Dolphins had the ball at their own 25-yard line with 3:49 left in the half. The Patriots forced a three-and-out but didn’t use their timeouts as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. But after taking over at their own 20, they did nothing punted back to Miami with one minute left.

Clock Management Andy Reid Style 2.0: After the Patriots sack Tannehill and have the Dolphins facing a 2nd-and-21, then they finally stop the clock with just 46 seconds left. They then sacked Brock Osweiler, then block the punt and take over at the Dolphins 15-yard line with 30 seconds left. Brady zipped another laser to Gronk put them at the Miami 2 with 21 seconds left. Brady then overthrew an open Chris Hogan along the back of the end zone, (a play we’ve been clamoring for)  and then inexplicably took a sack on third down with no timeouts left and come away with nothing.

Weird play in the third quarter when Trey Flowers punched the ball away from Gore causing a fumble. The officials signaled that Miami had recovered yet when the scrum had cleared the Patriots flipped the ball back to the official. Another one where maybe the tape will clear it up.

The final play will mask what was a pretty good day by the Patriots secondary. Other than Stills, the rest of Miami’s passing game was pretty much held in tow. But that isn’t how the game unfolded.

Then with 0:07 seconds to go, the Dolphins had the ball on their 31-yard line. The Patriots defenders said after the game, that they knew it was too far for a Hail Mary and it would be a lateral situation. Then why place Gronk back there for McCourty? Or Melifonwu for that matter. Tannehill hit Stills with about a 20-yard pass where Jonathan Jones took an angle that we haven’t seen since Jordan Richards whiffed on JuJu Smith Schuster in Pittsburgh a year ago.

Stills lateraled to DeVante Parker who then lateralled to Kenyan Drake and the play unfolded and it looked like Moses parting the Red Sea as Patriots defenders were lost in the wake. Gronkowski stumbled and missed a chance to knock him out at the two-yard line and Miami had the finish that kept alive their playoff hopes for another week.

Now the Pats are on to Pittsburgh, who have dropped three in a row. And lost again in stunning fashion to the lowly Raiders. But don’t expect that kind of performance from them next week. The Patriots coaches will have to work hard with the team after that meltdown.That is the kind of loss that can stick with a team.

Patriots Smash Dolphins 38-7 In Dominant Fashion, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 1, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

For one week at least, the Patriots have calmed the fears of fans of New England as they broke a two-game losing skid in dominant fashion, demolishing the not-ready-for-primetime Miami Dolphins 38-7.

On Sunday afternoon, Miami came in riding high at 3-0 while the Pats limped in at 1-2 and much was made of whether the Patriots defense, which seemed slow and unathletic would be able to keep up with the team speed of Miami. The defense answered the bell today and Miami never seriously threatened to score until a garbage time drive by their backup quarterback as New England dominated in all three phases of the game.

The Patriots won the physical game up front, both the offensive and defensive lines clearly won the 1-on-1 matchups as the Pats rolled for 175 yards on the ground, springing Sony Michel and James White for big chunks of yardage all game long, something that had been sorely missing for the past two weeks.

Michel who was foolishly labeled a draft bust by the hot takes crowd after just two weeks and after having missed all of the preseason rushed for 112 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. White had 112 yards from scrimmage with 44 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving and had a touchdown rushing and receiving.

Defensively, the Patriots front seven stuffed the Dolphins on early downs, putting QB Ryan Tannehill in third and long situations all game long. Of course, getting two of their best defenders in Trey Flowers and Pat Chung back helped. We wrote in our pregame matchups that the defense had to get out of early holes that made third-down conversions easy. Tannehill faced third downs needing 12, 10, 10 (converted via penalty), 13, 8 and 24 yards in the pivotal first half. That is much, much better.

Miami was only 1-6 on third down in the first half, and that came as the half was winding down and the defense was giving them the underneath stuff.  By the time the first 30 minutes were over, the game was over with the Patriots going into intermission with a 24-0 lead.

Even more encouraging, the passing game got going against a very good Dolphins secondary. Tom Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns but they got the big chunk plays that they’ve been missing. Brady hit Cordarrelle Patterson for a 55-yard touchdown, James White and Phillip Dorsett who caught a somersaulting 9-yard touchdown pass from Brady rounded out the scoring.

After having no success throwing to his wide receivers thru the first three weeks, they contributed 10 receptions for 166 yards. Hardly earthshattering numbers, but much better. And with the news that Julian Edelman returns on Monday, this should have an immediate impact on the passing game.

Newcomer Josh Gordon played only 18 snaps but did have an immediate impact. He caught two passes for 32 yards, both third-down conversions, and drew a penalty giving the offense another first down. But perhaps the best indicator from him was the nice block he made downfield on White’s 22-yard touchdown run. That is something the Patriots pride themselves on with the WRs and it is an early sign that Gordon is buying in.

The Patriots offensive line looked much, much better in springing the backs this week, and giving them the needed space to make the tough yards inside where they like to run and after the criticism, they’ve had to endure the past few weeks, this was a big, bounce-back game. Defensively, the line was penetrating, Miami had nowhere to run, with most of their 56 yards rushing coming long after this one was settled. Again in the pivotal first half, Miami rushed six times for seven yards.

The Dolphins had just 172 yards of offense, 75 of which came on the final garbage time drive led by backup QB Brock Osweiler where they scored with under three minutes to go. Tannehill, who entered the game completing 72 percent of his throws and with a passer rating of 121.8, completed just 11-20 for 100 yards with no touchdowns and an Interception.

Although he was sacked just twice, the Patriots had good pressure around the pocket all day where he wasn’t able to step into his throws all day. That’s why it seemed many of his passes sailed on him. His best throw was on the first snap of the game, where he drilled a 22-yard pass to Kenny Stills right between two defenders. That would be the Dolphins longest play of the day.

The Patriots defense allowed just 3.1 yards per rush and 4.3 yards per pass. Malcom Brown had a big bounce-back game as well as Dont’a Hightower. Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy were particularly very good for the defense, who got solid contributions from everyone in the secondary, including rookie J.C. Jackson who got his first NFL interception on a pass that Tannehill underthrew a bit on a deep fly.

UP AND DOWN –

UP: Unlike a week ago, we could easily name several players here, and will add on to our three up just a tad this week.

Sony Michel: Imagine a rookie 1st round running back being labeled a bust after just two games when that back missed all of the preseason. Welcome to the world of New England overreaction sports radio. Michel looked much more comfortable in the Patriots offense this week and was showing more and more flashes of why the team thought so highly of him with a very solid performance.

Michel had 112 yards on 25 carries with a TD in the best game of his young career and quieted the critics for a week at least. As he gets more comfortable out there, his vision will continue to improve and we’re starting to see that burst he was so known for at Georgia.

James White: Last week, Tom Brady lamented that the coaches needed to get White more involved in the offense as he’s always a big playmaker. Mission accomplished. White had a typically big-play day with a 22-yard touchdown run and a 14-yard touchdown reception where Brady dropped a dime in the corner of the end zone as he was getting drilled.

Lawrence Guy: The big man inside is always one of the more underrated members of the Patriots defense and on Sunday afternoon he contributed big time to the overall defensive effort. The Patriots mixed up their fronts and at times, Guy shifted over to a DE spot and was outstanding, as the front seven was overall against the run.

Josh Gordon: His Patriots debut in front of a loud and raucous home crowd was just a small sample size (18 plays), but a successful one. His two catches were both on third down which signals that Brady wasn’t afraid to go to him right off the bat.

Both of his catches and a drawn penalty helped keep drives alive. He made a nice downfield block on White’s touchdown run and said all the right things after the game. So far, so good

Down:

Injuries: On a short week, with a game on Thursday night against the Colts, there are three injuries that need to be monitored. Rob Gronkowski, who was nursing an ankle injury before the game, left in the third quarter when he re-aggravated it.

Elandon Roberts who played a very solid, active game at middle linebacker left with looked like a fairly serious ankle or foot injury. Adam Butler was also injured in the second half and was on the ground in obvious pain.

Brady Decision Making: On what was otherwise a very good game by Tom Brady, he was victimized by the ball-hawking Dolphins secondary twice in the game, and both could be characterized by poor decision-making.

His first pick was actually a play where Brady was fooled by the Miami coverage. Bobby McCain was running with Chris Hogan on a deep post. Phillip Dorsett was supposed to cut inside Hogan for a deep cross. But McCain passed off Hogan to the safety and sat right in the throwing lane. He made a smart heads-up play for the pick.

On the second interception, Brady just got too greedy up 38-0 and tried to force the ball into tight coverage when he should have just thrown the ball away. It may be just a tad nitpicky here, but these are the kinds of mistake we generally don’t see from #12.

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Patriots – Dolphins Week 4, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 27, 2018 at 7:47 am ET

The New England Patriots return home after a 0-2 road trip and having been soundly defeated in both contests by Jacksonville and Detroit. While it early, since we’re still in September to call anything a “must-win” game, but it is rapidly sh

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Steve Tasker will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (1-2) lost to the Detroit Lions 26-10 on Sunday Night Football as they couldn’t get anything going offensively or defensively. Tom Brady threw for just 133 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Dolphins (3-0) had a late big comeback to defeat the Oakland Raiders 28-20.  Ryan Tannehill passed for 289 yards and 3 TDs while Albert Wilson also threw for a 52-yard score.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Dolphins are meeting for the 106th time in their history. Miami holds the overall edge 54-51 with each team holding big advantages at home. Against the Dolphins in Foxboro, Tom Brady is 14-1 with the only loss coming in 2005 when he was pulled in the first quarter of the regular season finale.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Miami

The Patriots running game has taken two big hits in the injury department losing both Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead to IR. That leaves only Sony Michel, James White, and the recently signed Kenjon Barner. What was looked upon as a deep position just a few weeks ago is now thin.

The Dolphins run defense has been much improved in 2018. They’ve done a great job of keeping opponents from running the ball effectively and the front seven has been very solid. Last week, they did a very solid job of bottling up the Raiders Marshawn Lynch which was particularly important when the Raiders were trying to run the clock in the second half.

The Patriots run blocking has not been up to their usual standards and they’ve struggled to consistently run the ball. The team has made a concerted effort to get Michel going after he missed nearly a month of practice. Look for the Pats to just try to mix things up this week and keep Miami honest. But not a lot of room to run this week.

Patriots WRs vs Dolphins Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has been mired in neutral the past two weeks. The wide receivers haven’t been getting open and teams are doubling down on Rob Gronkowski. Losing Burkhead really hurts in the passing game, which means that even more will be put on James White’s plate. Could we see some Josh Gordon this week?

Miami’s pass defense has been generating a lot of turnovers thru three weeks and the pass rush with Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn is a daunting task this week. The secondary has been very good, the Dolphins have invested a lot of draft and free agent capital into improving it. Xavien Howard had two interceptions last week vs Oakland.

Look for Josh McDaniels to switch up the conservative game planning and put the ball where it belongs this week, in Tom Brady’s hands. Yes, they’ve struggled to throw the ball but an offense that is run based and throwing on second and third and long isn’t conducive to winning. Look for much more James White this week. Jacob Hollister probably won’t play this week, (they could use him to take some heat off of Gronkowski) but with Gordon getting into the game, it should open things up for the other wide receivers. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are under the microscope this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

Miami RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Push

The Dolphins running game hasn’t been setting the world on fire (like Detroit) and their running back by committee has not been where they envisioned it yet so far this season. Kenyon Drake and Frank Gore present different challenges and are a good 1-2 punch once they work out the kinks. Last week the duo ran just 11 times for 15 yards against the Raiders.

The Patriots run defense, especially to the opponent’s left side has been awful so far this season. This was supposed to be much improved this year but it hasn’t panned out that way. Things should be improved this week with the team getting Trey Flowers and Pat Chung back from concussion protocol. Flowers is the team’s best defensive lineman and Chung is a very effective tackler in the running game.

Look for the Dolphins to attack the left side, as we’ve seen all three opponents do this season. If they consistently get in those second and three yards or fewer scenarios, then it will be another long afternoon for the Patriots defense. Maybe this week it would bode well for Brian Flores to eschew most of the two-gap responsibilities and allow the DL to attack a bit more looking for some penetration and disruption up front. We’ll see.

Dolphins WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Miami

The Miami passing offense boasts a number of very good pass receivers in Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson who also threw a 52-yard touchdown on a trick play last week. Ryan Tannehill has been incredibly accurate (73% completion rate) while amassing a 121.8 passer rating. They also have Drake out of the backfield and rookie TE Mike Gesicki.

The Patriots pass defense has suffered from a lack of pressure the past two weeks as both Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles had all day to throw, frequently in very manageable situations. That has to change this week. Getting back three starters on defense (Flowers, Chung, Eric Rowe) would help.

I’d look for Tannehill to target Amendola a lot in this one. He knows the Patriots defense as well as anyone, he practiced against them every day for several years. They’ll try to move the ball down the field while taking the occasional deep shot with Stills. The matchup with Amendola with Jonathan Jones will be one to watch. Stills will probably be matched up with Stephon Gilmore while Rowe will draw either Wilson or Grant which will the other big matchup to watch.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots’ Special Teams have yet to find their groove in 2018. The coverage units haven’t been anywhere near where they need to be and the return game has largely been stuck. However, last week, Cordarrelle Patterson opened the game with a 42-yard kickoff return, which is exactly what the team is looking for. Cyrus Jones is back and will be returning punts now and the team could use a boost by him.

Miami boasts the speedy and dangerous Grant in their return units. He had a 102-yard return for a touchdown against the Titans. However, the Dolphins have also given up a 94-yard touchdown return as well. Both teams have gotten solid play in the kicking game from punter Matt Haack and kicker Jason Sanders for Miami and Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski for New England.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a much bigger game for both teams than a normal September divisional game. Miami leads the Patriots by two games, going up by three with a tiebreaker would put them far ahead in the divisional standings.

Tom Brady has been nearly unbeatable at home against Miami and on the flip side, much like Miami has been Brady’s kryptonite, Foxboro has been that for Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s QB is 0-5 in Gillette Stadium and has thrown 5 TDs and 9 INTs in those games where the Dolphins have been outscored 163-61.

While New England has been struggling, we’ve seen this before in the early season. Are we going to fall for the “banana in the tailpipe” again? This is the 2018 Patriots “We’re on to Cincinnati” game. We’ll learn something about each team after Sunday’s game.

We’re looking for Brady to get it done enough on offense this week as they begin to get things figured out. One “X-Factor” for New England may be John Simon, the ex-Colts LB/DE is best suited as a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE, so could we see some 3-4 looks or the other 5-2 fronts we’ve seen in the past to try to confuse Tannehill? Possibly.

Our feeling here is that the Brady/Belichick combination in New England isn’t quite done just yet.    Patriots 24-23

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots – Dolphins Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
November 24, 2017 at 9:16 am ET

The Patriots return home for one game this week against the Miami Dolphins before heading back out on the road for a three-game road trip. In a weird quirk in the NFL’s scheduling, the Patriots and Dolphins meet twice in three weeks.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, November 19 at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello

The Patriots (8-2) are coming off a very successful two-game road trip with blowout wins coming against the Denver Broncos 41-16 and last week in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders 33-8. Tom Brady continues his torrid pace in 2017 and the defense for the sixth game in a row allowed 17 points or less.

The Dolphins (4-6) have lost four in a row and in danger of falling out of the playoff race after entering the season with so much hope of earning back to back playoff berths.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins history has been a streaky one with Miami holding an overall 53-50 lead all-time in the teams’ rivalry. However, the Patriots have won 11 of the past 14 meetings including the last eight at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots swept the series last season, 31-24 in Week 2 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at the helm and in the regular season finale 35-14 in Miami.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been improving with Dion Lewis taking over the bulk of the running game with Rex Burkhead getting the complimentary carries and James White just a few here and there. Mike Gillislee has been a healthy scratch for two weeks in a row. The Patriots haven’t run the ball a ton lately because they’ve been so adept at passing it but this week could see more emphasis on the running game.

Miami for the first month of the season looked vastly improved in the running game. But during their losing streak, they’ve been getting gashed by the run. Having released Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker won’t help matters as he was impressive as a run stuffer.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up quite a bit this week. Miami’s defensive ends will be looking to influence the passing game by teeing off, so they’ll attempt to run right at them on Sunday.

Patriots WRs vs Dolphins Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is averaging over 300 yards per game, tops in the NFL. Tom Brady has been brilliant about spreading the ball around to a plethora of different receivers and they’re continually able to find mismatches. With their wide receivers banged up, they haven’t missed a beat.

Miami’s pass defense is allowing just 229 yards per game but opposing QBs are completing nearly 70 percent of their throws and have an average passer rating of 104.3 which is second worst in the league.

Look for Brady to work the tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett as well as the running backs, James White and Rex Burkhead heavily into the mix this week. The Dolphins pass rush has had issues getting to the QB, and if Brady has time, he’ll carve them up in death by 1000 cuts.

Next up the Dolphins offense:

Dolphins RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Miami

The Dolphins traded their top running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles earlier in the season and now are going with Damien Williams and the intriguing Kenyan Drake who’s averaging about 5.5 yards per carry. The Dolphins have been struggling to run averaging just 80.4 yards per game and score, with just one rushing touchdown on the season.

The Patriots run defense has struggled in 2017, with Malcom Brown injured and Vincent Valentine and Dont’a Hightower on IR, the middle of the line has been suspect. Coupled with less than stellar play that we’ve come to expect from Alan Branch, it is an issue. The Raiders ran the ball effectively last week but the Patriots jumped out to such a big lead they were forced to abandon it.

Look for Miami to feature Drake more this week. Williams has been the de facto starter since Ajayi left but that may change as they are looking for answers to get their offense untracked. And we feel here, Drake will have a solid day on the ground.

Dolphins WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Miami’s passing game has been mired in mediocrity since Ryan Tannehill went down in camp. The team signed Jay Cutler and he hasn’t gotten it done. With the targets he has in the passing game with Jarvis Landry (3rd in the NFL with 67 catches), Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Julius Thomas at tight end and the running backs, the Dolphins passing game should be its strength.

The Patriots pass defense is playing much better since a nightmarish start to the season. Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler did a fine job on the duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper last week. Landry is their go-to guy to move the sticks but Stills is the Miami big play guy and if Eric Rowe isn’t ready to go, that will fall to Jonathan Jones, who has played well this year.

Cutler was in concussion protocol this week but did return to practice, albeit in a limited fashion on Thursday, which means he probably passed. If so, he’ll probably get the start but one has to wonder if the Dolphins would be better suited to go with the steady if unspectacular Matt Moore in there.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski was the AFC STs Player of the Week after booting a pair of 50+ yard field goals (62 and 51) in a 4-4 day against the Raiders. His short kickoffs coupled with outstanding coverage has put the Patriots in great advantageous position. Ryan Allen’s punting has been steadily improving and it seems like every week the Patriots are getting big plays from their STs units.

The Dolphins Special teams have been playing very well. Their own coverage units are very solid and they have a pair of very good kickers but their return game hasn’t had a big impact. With the way New England’s STs units are playing right now, they get the nod.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will be an intriguing one to keep an eye on. The Patriots will want to get off to a fast start and see if Miami, who has dropped four in a row answer the bell or pack it in. Two of their four losses in the last month have been blowouts. The Patriots secondary has been much, much better the past month and I look for them to continue that trend this week. It is a much different atmosphere for the Dolphins when they play at Foxboro. They haven’t won in New England since the Wildcat game in 2008 when Matt Cassel was the QB for New England.

Look for Tom Brady to spread the Dolphins out and find the mismatches underneath. Getting T.J. McDonald back from an eight game suspension should help in defending the tight ends, but he and Reshad Jones can only do so much. The running backs in the passing game may open up some down the field options for Brandin Cooks.

The Patriots hold serve at home with another big win and head to Buffalo at 9-2.  Patriots 34-16

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Miami, Despite Dropping Four in a Row, Dolphins Still in the Hunt

Steve Balestrieri
November 22, 2017 at 11:15 am ET

After a very good 2016 where they made the playoffs, the confidence was high in Miami this season. The team had surrounded Ryan Tannehill with a very nice array of weapons and the defense was looking to make a big turnaround.

But things haven’t worked out that well. Tannehill was hurt in training camp and was lost for the season. The team signed Jay Cutler and he hasn’t worked out. The Dolphins offense has sputtered along and is currently 30th in the NFL in yards and 31st in scoring averaging just 15.7 points per game. Jay Ajayi was traded in midseason and the running game is mired in neutral.

The defense, while the middle of the road in terms of yardage is 25th in points allowed and hasn’t made the strides that they envisioned.

Here are some other of our first impressions of the Dolphins:

Down But Not Out: Miami’s dropped four in a row and is now sitting at 4-6, but they are still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. They’re only a game behind the Bills and Ravens who are 5-5 for the final playoff berth.

So while head coach Adam Gase must get things turned around quickly for the Dolphins, a loss this weekend doesn’t spell the end of their season although no one wants to lose five straight.

Parker Has Been Disappointing this Season: Jarvis Landry has been the go-to guy in the Dolphins passing offense in 2017. He’s been the guy to move the chains and leads the team with 67 catches and 6 touchdowns. Kenny Stills has been their home run threat averaging 14.7 yards per reception with 40 catches with 5 touchdowns. But the third part of their three-headed monster at wide receiver, DeVante Parker has been a disappointment this season. He has just 34 catches for 404 yards and one touchdown.

This was supposed to be both Parker and Tannehill’s coming out party this season and despite a stellar training camp where he turned heads and was expected to light it up in 2017. Part of the reason is a nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss some time.

He’s still not 100 percent and the feeling around Miami is beginning to develop that Parker is just one of those players that just won’t perform at a high level unless he’s feeling great.

While all eyes will be on Landry this week, the guy to watch is Stills who they’ll probably operate out of the slot against Jonathan Jones. Miami quarterbacks have a 117.4 passer rating when targeting Stills in 2017. For Parker, who was targeted nine times last week and caught just four passes for 26 yards, Dolphins QBs have just a 77.9 passer rating when targeting him.

Running on Empty: The Dolphins running game is averaging just 80.4 yards per game this season which is just 29th in the league. They jettisoned Jay Ajayi who is currently loving life in Philadelphia. That leaves them with Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Williams has been getting the most reps but that may be about to change. Williams ripped off a 69 yard run last week. But his other 10 runs netted just 9 yards.

Drake meanwhile is averaging a stellar 5.5 yards per carry and has the blazing speed that makes him dangerous.

Tight end Anthony Fasano who has played with Jamaal Charles and DeMarco Murray likes what Drake in limited reps has been able to do and thinks he’s just scratching the surface. In an interview with Palm Beach Post, he raved about the 2nd year running back.

Once they break through the secondary, they’re a threat to go the entire field,” Fasano said Friday. “At any moment. That breakaway speed they all have in common. DeMarco has great vision. And can really find holes. Jamaal has elusiveness and can bounce it. And Drake is the same way. So I could just say the breakaway speed and the vision are similar.”

Dolphins Pass Defense Will Be Tested This Week: On the surface, Miami’s pass defense looks to be very stout. They’re allowing just 229.3 yards per game and have given up just one pass play of 45 yards or more all season.

But opposing quarterbacks can be patient and work their way down the field as opposing QBs have completed 67.6 percent of their passes. Miami has only three interceptions on the season and has allowed 18 touchdown passes. Opponents’ passer rating is 104.3. This type of game plays into what the Patriots and Tom Brady do well.

One area to monitor will be the tight ends. Miami has struggled to cover tight ends and the Patriots can throw to three at any given time. Rob Gronkowski will be a matchup to watch this week. Whoever gets him and it may be two defenders it will open up single coverage on someone else.

The Dolphins pass rush hasn’t been as productive as they’ve hoped. They’ve logged just 17 sacks, the same number that the Patriots have. Cameron Wake leads the way with six and Ndamukong Suh has 3.5 and as always, they’ll have to be accounted for. Wake seemed to tire at the end of games lately so it will be imperative for the coaches to limit his reps and work in Charles Harris and William Hayes into the lineup.

Check back later this week with us and we’ll have a detailed breakdown of all the key matchups in this game.

Happy Thanksgiving all….

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Tuesdays at 12 noon.

Best of Social Media: Week 17 Patriots vs Dolphins

Robert Alvarez
January 5, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Entering the final week of the 2017 regular season, the New England Patriots needed a win to secure the number one seed in the AFC Playoffs but needed to get past their prior struggles in Miami against the Dolphins, who had won three straight at home against them going back to 2013.

In the first half, it was the Patriots who came out dominating on both sides of the ball as tight end Martellus Bennett scored the first touchdown of the game.

https://twitter.com/giseleofficial/status/815621971954307072

After the Bennett score, wide receiver Michael Floyd found the end zone for the first time as a Patriot and the Patriots found themselves up 14-0 after one quarter of play.

I believe he's in sir look!!! #newseason

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

In the second quarter, kicker Stephen Gostkowski tacked on two field goals to bring the Patriots lead to 20-0 as the time of possession continued to be owned by New England much to the dismay of Ndamukong Suh.

With 28 seconds to go until halftime, Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore found Jarvis Landry for a touchdown ending an impressive run by the Patriots defense. 20-7 Patriots at the half.

Getting the ball back to start the third quarter, the Dolphins clawed their way back into the game as Matt Moore found Kenny Stills for another six as it was all of a sudden a six point game.

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It didn’t take long for the Patriots to answer, as wide receiver Julian Edelman recorded the longest touchdown pass of his career courtesy of one of the biggest blocks of the season by Michael Floyd.

https://twitter.com/Edelman11/status/816313169278861312

27-14 Patriots with 6:41 to go in the third quarter.

The Dolphins tried to respond again, but the Patriots defense had other plans inside the red zone.

Now inside the Dolphins 20 following the return, LeGarrette Blount made them pay with his 18th rushing touchdown of the season.

https://twitter.com/chatham58/status/815658414965686272

A two point conversation to Julian Edelman saw the Patriots put the game out of reach at 35-14 with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

At the games conclusion, Brady added another record to his resume.

Posted by Tom Brady on Sunday, January 1, 2017

Great win boys!! #letsgooo #postseason #pats

A post shared by Chris Hogan (@chrishogan_15) on

https://twitter.com/Mac_BZ/status/815701729241079808

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOz2-gnjHvK/?taken-by=iii_flowers

Patriots – Dolphins II Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 30, 2016 at 8:30 am ET

The New England Patriots will play their final game of the 2016 NFL regular season on the road against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts handling the play-by-play and analysis duties. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (13-2) defeated the New York Jets on Christmas Eve in Foxboro 41-3. Tom Brady threw for three first half touchdowns and LeGarrette Blount rushed for two touchdowns giving him a league-leading 17 on the season. The defense forced four more turnovers.

The Dolphins (10-5) beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 in overtime. Jay Ajayi rushed for 206 yards and a touchdown, his third 200-yard game of the season. QB Matt Moore filling in for the injured Ryan Tannehill threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Dolphins will be meeting for the 103rd time with Miami holding an all-time 53-49 edge. The Dolphins hold a big all-time edge in home games 36-15. The last three years have seen the series split along home lines with each team holding serve on their home field.

The Patriots jumped out to a big lead in Week 2 but then had to hold on for a 31-24 victory with Jimmy Garoppolo starting at QB before being injured and giving way to Jacoby Brissett.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, A Second Look at the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
December 28, 2016 at 7:08 am ET

Miami Back in the Playoffs And On a Roll

The Patriots 2016 regular season finale brings them back to South Florida where they’ll take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Dolphins have seemed to have found the right man in head coach Adam Gase. After a slow start, the team has bought into Gase’s system and they’re winners of nine of their last ten games.

The Dolphins started 1-4 including a Week 2 loss to the Patriots but have been on a roll since. With their win over the Bills on Sunday, coupled with the loss of the Broncos to the Chiefs on Sunday night, Miami is playoff bound for the first time since 2008.

They scantly resemble the team that came into Foxboro early in the season and will be looking to enter the playoffs on a high note. FWIW, Miami has beaten the Patriots on their last three trips to South Beach including last year’s regular season finale where the Patriots dusted off a game plan from 1933.

The Patriots need a win or an Oakland loss or tie to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. They remember all too well having to travel to Denver for the AFC Championship Game and want the playoffs to run thru Foxboro. Miami is currently in the 6th playoff spot, but with a win and a KC, loss could move into the 5th position.

Here are our Five Updated Impressions of the Dolphins:

Gase Was the Best Move Made in Offseason:  We wrote this in mid-September and it has been proven by the way the season has played out. When Miami landed Gase this offseason, it was perhaps the best move the franchise has made in many years and arguably one of the best that any team had done this spring.

The acquisition of the Nick Saban disciple in Gase was a much needed and smart move by Miami who has had a coaching carousel for far too long. Gase worked well with Peyton Manning and he turned things around for Ryan Tannehill who hasn’t had a stable coaching staff in his career.

Gase went to a simpler offense that plays to the strengths of his QB and his talented skill players. Instead of the deep play offense that didn’t work, but more of a methodical approach that the Patriots employ.

The youngest coach (38) in the NFL got a ringing endorsement from Manning, who called him, “the smartest man I know.”

Jay Ajayi Has Been the Biggest Surprise of 2016: When the Patriots faced the Dolphins in Week 2, Ajayi wasn’t a big part of the Miami offense. They brought in veteran Arian Foster to bolster the running game, but his injuries proved to be too much and he’s since retired. Since then, Ajayi has become an explosive weapon.

Ajayi has three games this season where’s he’s topped 200 yards rushing including back-to-back games in Weeks 6-7 against Pittsburgh (204) and Buffalo (214). He was slowed in recent weeks but exploded for another 200-yard effort against the Bills last week when he rushed for 206 yards. In overtime, he burst 57 yards to set the Dolphins up for an Andrew Franks game-winning field goal.

Ajayi suffered a shoulder injury late in the game against Buffalo but is expected to be ready to go on Sunday. This will be a big test for the Patriots run defense, who prior to Saturday’s game against the Jets have held their previous four opponents to under 64 yards rushing.

Landry, Parker, and Stills, A Big Three in the Passing Game: The Dolphins have the receivers to give the Patriots plenty of issues when the teams face off in Miami. Jarvis Landry is the most prolific receiver on the Dolphins with 85 catches for 1060 yards and three touchdowns. He’s the go-to guy in the passing game. But DeVante Parker has been effective as well. He’s caught 51 passes for 699 yards and four scores. Both Landry and Parker had over 100 yards receiving when the teams met in September.

But it has been Kenny Stills who has become the homerun hitter for the offense. Stills has 38 catches for 685 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. His 18.0 yards per reception is second in the NFL to only Chris Hogan’s 19.2. Stills has seven touchdown receptions of 20 yards or more, including three of over 50 yards. While Landry and Parker have moved the chains, Stills, in his second season in Miami has been the big play guy in the passing game.

This should be an intriguing matchup between the Patriots secondary and a Dolphins group of receivers who really came on in the second half of the game against them in Foxboro and narrowly missed an upset win.

Resilience, Depth the Keys to This Dolphins Team: As we mentioned above, the Dolphins made a very smart move in hiring Adam Gase. He kept the team marching forward despite a 1-4 start and a slew of injuries and kept this team winning where so many other Miami teams in the past would have folded up their tents.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1990, 128 teams have started 1-4. Only eight of those teams, just six percent have made the playoffs. The Dolphins join the Chiefs of 2015 as the two latest teams to accomplish that.

Miami has also lost arguably their best offensive and defensive players in safety Reshad Jones and center Mike Pouncey. They’ve had to deal with their starting QB Ryan Tannehill being out as well as the loss of linebackers Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins. This week, they’ll probably be without safety Isa Abdul- Quddus who is banged up.

Run Defense is a Huge Problem Spot: Miami’s defense takes a page from the Patriots playbook, while they’ve given up plenty of yardage, they’re not giving up a lot of points. However, the run defense has been a problem all year and continues to be an issue.

The Dolphins run defense is 30th in the league allowing a whopping 141.8 yards per game. They also allow a league worst 4.9 yards per carry. The defense has already allowed more yards than the awful 1-15 team of 2007. If the Patriots generate 335 yards of offense on Sunday, it will mark the most yards allowed by a Miami defense in their history.

But despite being #24 in yards allowed in 2016 (5726) and an average of 381.7 per game, the Dolphins are just 14 in points allowed.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Hold On to Down Miami After Lightning Fast Start

Steve Balestrieri
September 18, 2016 at 8:01 pm ET

A Tale of Two Halves

A funny thing happened on the way to another home blowout win over the Dolphins on Sunday. Miami regrouped in the second half as Ryan Tannehill was tremendous in the final 30 minutes and the Patriots needed a Duron Harmon interception in the end zone with two seconds left to preserve a 31-24 win on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

With the victory, the Patriots improve to 2-0 and are a game up in the division over the New York Jets. Miami and Buffalo are already two games back at 0-2. The Patriots got off to a lightning fast start with Jimmy Garoppolo eviscerating Miami’s defense. In the first quarter, the Patriots outgained Miami 204 -12.

Jimmy G. looked positively Brady-esque completing 18-27 for 234 yards and three touchdown passes in the first half as the Pats raced out to a 24-0 lead before Miami knew what hit them. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Danny Amendola and another to Martellus Bennett in the first half.

2016-week-2-jimmy-garoppol-down-250x250

Jimmy Garoppolo is in obvious pain after injuring his right shoulder during Sunday’s game.

But his last completion as he rolled out to his right was a costly one. Kiko Alonso hit him and drove him to the turf as he let go of the pass and Garoppolo hit the turf hard on his shoulder. He was immediately helped off the field and didn’t return.

The good news was that X-rays came back negative although he was reportedly in the hospital, presumably to get an MRI. His leaving ignited the Dolphins who drove down to kick a field goal at the end of the first half and carried the momentum into the second half.

Jacoby Brissett took over and played ok, completing 6-9 for 92 yards in relief and will undoubtedly get his first NFL start on Thursday against the Houston Texans. Miami’s offense made adjustments in the second half and their wide receivers were all getting open. Tannehill went to the no-huddle attack which stopped the substitutions by the Pats and wore down their pass rushers who got very little pressure down the stretch.

Tannehill ended up going 32-45 for 389 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Both Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker went over 100 yards receiving as Miami stormed back from a 31-3 deficit in the third quarter to 31-24 with about six minutes to go.

Blount, Bennett Shine: The Patriots got tremendous games from both RB LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett this afternoon. Blount started slowly but he gradually began to wear down the Miami defense. He ended up with 29 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown, a nine-yard run up the middle to open the third quarter.

Blount had another highlight reel play when he hurdled Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell early in the fourth quarter. The 26-yard run put the Patriots in good position at midfield but a penalty on Joe Thuney killed the drive.

The Patriots want him to be a closer and he was particularly effective doing just that. With 6:06 left the Patriots began on their 25-yard line and the Dolphins knew they were going to run but Blount was the major factor in the Patriots driving to the Miami 26 before they stalled with just over a minute to go. Normally a chip shot field goal, but he pushed it wide right and what should have been a clinching drive gave Miami a final chance.

2016-week-2-martellus-bennett-ocptw-250x250

Martellus Bennett had a huge game on Sunday.

Bennett played a heck of a game a week ago as a blocker, this week he was leaned on more as a pass receiver and was outstanding. He caught 5 passes for 114-yards including a 20-yard scoring pass from Garoppolo in the first quarter.

He also caught a huge 16-yard pass on the Patriots final drive to keep the chains moving and to give them the opportunity to kill the clock further.

Defense Must Improve: After a mainly very impressive first half, the defense was picked apart by QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill went 22-27 with 273 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. He and coach Adam Gase made their adjustments, going to a shorter passing game and he was on fire in the second half.

After falling behind 31-3, the Dolphins scored touchdowns on their next three drives — 21 unanswered points to make this one a nail-biter. Kenny Stills had a 24-yard touchdown catch with 5:45 left in the third, on a play where Miami’s RT Ja’Wuan James jumped way before the snap and should have been called back for a false start. Jordan Cameron had a 12-yard touchdown catch early in the third between two defenders (Pat Chung and Jamie Collins), and then Kenyan Drake had a seven-yard touchdown run with 6:06 left in the game. Drake’s touchdown caught the Patriots in a blitz from the left side, as Miami ran to the right and Drake scored easily.

The secondary wanted to keep the play in front of them and avoid the big chunk plays. But in effect, they did neither in the second half. Parker and Landry were consistently beating the corners off the line and the Patriots pass rush was mostly a non-factor in the second half.

Chris Long had a good game, providing good QB pressure and recovered a fumble.

Special Teams Letdown: After being largely responsible for the win a week ago in Arizona, the Patriots STs were partly to blame for the game nearly going to overtime. When a field goal would have put the game away with a minute to go, Stephen Gostkowski has to make that kick. A 39-yarder is little more than an extra point for him and was a huge miss at crunch time. He’s normally as automatic as there is in the NFL.

Ryan Allen’s punting was poor on Sunday. While he did down two inside the 20-yard line, his four punts went for an average of only 32 yards with a long of just 37. Miami took a page out of the Patriots book and mortar kicked to Matthew Slater who could only get back to the 18-yard line. Danny Amendola was the lone bright spot returning three punts for 33 yards, including a 19-yarder.

Now with the Patriots facing a very short week and the Houston Texans coming to town on Thursday, there is very little time for Brissett to get ready to now be elevated to the starter’s position.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.