BOSTON (CBS) — That was ugly.
What started as a promising afternoon of football for the Patriots quickly turned into a one-sided beatdown, with the Miami Dolphins dominating on both sides of the ball in the second half to beat the Patriots 33-20.
While some things worked out in the Patriots’ favor, the negatives were much more obvious, given how the game ended. As such, we’re starting this week’s edition of Four Ups, Four Downs with the negatives.
Tom Brady was not great in this one, but it’s largely because he had no room to operate. He managed to perform decently in the first half despite a constantly collapsing pocket, but in the second half, that pocket never even existed.
Bill Belichick utilized a cycle of players along the offensive line, but no combination worked. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer occupied the tackle positions, while Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Jordan Devey worked in the interior. But there was simply no winning combination for the Patriots, as the Dolphins racked up four sacks of Brady and delivered six hits on Brady.
The Patriots also generated just 89 yards on 20 carries, but that’s including Julian Edelman’s two runs. The team’s running backs had just 68 yards on 18 carries, as the offensive line couldn’t do anything to get the passing or running games going.
People will point to the Logan Mankins trade after a performance like that, but make no mistake: There’s not one singular player who could have made a difference on the offensive line in this loss. Bigger changes and adjustments are needed.
The Patriots’ ineptitude offensively in the second half was exacerbated by the defense’s inability to stop Miami running backs. Knowshon Moreno gained 134 yards and scored a touchdown, while Lamar Miller picked up 59 yards in 11 carries. With Ryan Tannehill’s inaccuracy hurting the Dolphins in the first half, the team utilized the ground game to help settle things down in the second half. The Patriots were unable to stop it, and it allowed Miami to build momentum and completely turn the game around.
Ryan Allen And The Punting Unit
The Patriots essentially spotted Miami a 7-0 lead thanks to a failure by the punting unit. While Danny Aiken’s snap was not perfect, it nevertheless did reach Ryan Allen without hitting the ground. Yet the punter could not properly handle the snap, and Chris McCain had plenty of time to block the punt. It’s possible that McCain might have blocked that punt even if Allen had handled the snap well, but the fumbling hands of Allen surely didn’t help.
The punting unit had one ugly game during the preseason, and allowing a blocked punt on the opening drive of the regular season is a tough way to get things started.
Just About Everything
Bill Belichick said it best: “We just didn’t play well enough or coach well enough or really do anything well enough. We didn’t do anything well enough in the second half, period.”
It’s a bit of a blanket statement to say “everything was bad,” but, well, the second half was that bad. The Dolphins outscored the Patriots 23-0, and New England only seemingly got worse as the game wore on. That’s something that rarely has ever happened in the Belichick era, and the team clearly has a lot of work to do before heading to Minnesota next weekend.
On a more positive note, Rob Gronkowski did successfully return to action without incident. While it was clear that he’s not yet at full speed and that he’s not yet in game shape, Gronkowski was still the red zone weapon he’s always been. The tight end hauled in a touchdown catch which gave the Patriots a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter.
Gronk finished with four receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. He has a long way to go before once again being the dominant player he can be, but when you remember that he suffered his torn knee just nine months ago, it’s obvious that he took a positive first step on Sunday.
While he was unable to contribute in the second half — thanks to the porous offensive line’s inability to give Brady any time to find his receivers — Julian Edelman was a monster in the first half. He led the team in receptions (6) and yards (95), and for good measure he rushed for 21 yards on two carries.
Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard
Turnovers were the name of the game in this one, and the Patriots started out on the right side of that equation thanks to huge hits from Jamie Collins and Logan Ryan.
Collins forced a fumble by Mike Wallace after the receiver caught a pass over the middle. The turnover set up the Patriots on the Miami 35-yard line in a tie game, and seven plays later, the Patriots had a lead.
Ryan forced a fumble midway through the second quarter, when Lamar Miller had found some open space. Ryan came flying in and got his helmet right on the football, putting a swift end to a Dolphins drive that looked like it would be leading to points.
Alfonzo Dennard also made a nice play on a deep Ryan Tannehill pass, coming up with an interception to end a Miami drive early in the second quarter. The Patriots turned that turnover into seven points.
Tom Brady’s Health
The quarterback had some decent moments, and he had some bad passes, too. It’s difficult to properly grade his performance, considering how poorly the offensive line protected him.
But if there’s one thing that shouldn’t be lost it is the fact that Tom Brady is still standing. We saw full-fledged pandemonium in Patriots country at the end of the week when Brady’s surprise calf injury kept him out of practice on Thursday and had him listed for this game as questionable. The idea of a Patriots team without Brady was one that New England probably isn’t quite ready for.
So the fact that Tom Brady was able to walk away with his health intact after getting walloped time after time after time on Sunday afternoon is one that shouldn’t get lost in what was an otherwise disastrous day of football.
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