By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — There was a lot on the line Sunday when the Dolphins visited New England, but the Patriots went ahead and removed any and all potential for drama before halftime.
The Patriots thoroughly and completely dominated the Dolphins, to the tune of a 38-7 whooping at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots outclassed the Dolphins on offense, on defense, on special teams, and in terms of penalties. The Patriots didn’t play 60 perfect minutes of football, but given the level of dominance on the field, they came pretty close.
As with any game, there were ups, and there were downs. After a 31-point victory over a previously unbeaten divisional foe, though, you might assume that the ups outnumber the downs. You would be correct.
The rookie running back did not get off to the greatest start in his first two NFL games. But he made sure that those performances were a part of history, as he was simply spectacular in his first football game at Gillette Stadium.
He rushed for 112 yards on 25 carries, and he scored his first NFL touchdown in the fourth quarter. He ran with confidence, he embraced contact, he held on to the football, and for the first time, he looked capable of carrying a load for this Patriots offense.
Michel’s spot on this list should be shared with the offensive line, the tight ends, and fullback James Develin, as the blocks were there for Michel on a number of big gains. Michel made the most of them.
Kyle Van Noy
The entire defensive front was impressive from the Patriots, but it was Kyle Van Noy who came up with arguably the biggest defensive play of the day. It came as a bit of a gift, when Ryan Tannehill couldn’t handle a shotgun snap deep in Dolphins territory.
Rushing unblocked off the left end of the defense, Van Noy swarmed into the backfield and made a diving lunge for the ball. He ripped it right out of Tannehill’s grasp, setting up the Patriots with golden field position while already leading 10-0.
James White rushed for a touchdown on the very next play.
Van Noy finished with four tackles and a hit on the quarterback, but that play right there was the one that was needed.
Nobody knew what to expect out of Gordon in his Patriots debut, as he hasn’t had much time to learn the offense and is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. But Gordon was good on Sunday.
His first catch came on the Patriots’ opening drive, as he caught a slant in traffic to pick up 13 yards on a third-and-6.
In the third quarter, he caught a pass up the right side and then broke the tackle attempt of Torry McTyler to pick up an extra 10 yards. That play went for 19 yards on a third-and-3.
Gordon showed off some strong blocking for White’s touchdown run.
The numbers weren’t significant, but for Gordon, it was a solid first step forward in a Patriots uniform.
The Entire Defense
It may seem lazy to tag the entire defensive unit as an Up, but it would be difficult to find too much fault across the board.
Ryan Tannehill was constantly under pressure. The defensive front rendered Miami’s rushing attack useless very early. (Miami rushed for 56 total rushing yards on 18 attempts.) The defensive backs forced Tannehill to make perfect throws; he didn’t. J.C. Jackson picked off a deep ball. John Simon had a sack in his debut. Adam Butler had a ferocious sack. Dont’a Hightower had a run stuff at the line.
The defense was in position to record a shutout, but backup QB Brock Osweiler led a touchdown drive to get the Dolphins on the board in the final minutes of the game. That didn’t at all spoil what was a comprehensive defensive effort for New England.
Cyrus Jones handled punt return duties, and fared quite well. He made no mistakes, and he even showed some burst that was reminiscent of his time at Alabama on a 24-yard punt return in the second quarter. … Phillip Dorsett caught four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, which was caught while Dorsett was executing a front flip in the end zone. … Cordarrelle Patterson was left wide open up the left sideline, and he put a nice move on a defender flying toward him on the sideline to turn it into a 55-yard touchdown. … James White accounted for 112 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches (eight rushes, eight receptions). …
It’s never a good day when Gronkowski leaves due to injury. That happened Sunday, with Gronkowski spending time on the sideline having his ankle examined before heading to the locker room in the third quarter. It’s the same ankle that’s caused Gronkowski to pop up on the injury report in recent weeks.
His return at the time was listed as “questionable,” though he never did return to the game. That might have been due to the Patriots’ 31-0 lead at the time. Nevertheless, his status has to be considered iffy. And that’s especially troubling on a short week, with Week 5’s game taking place just four days from Sunday.
The linebacker was heavily involved early in the game, but he suffered an injury on the Dolphins’ penultimate play of the day. Linebacker depth is not a particular strength of the Patriots roster, as Ja’Whaun Bentley has already been lost for the year. So the Patriots have to hope it’s not serious for Roberts.
In this game, it didn’t really matter that the Patriots committed six penalties for 57 yards. But in a tight game against an opponent playing better football, it really could have been costly.
–A Joe Thuney hold that negated a 39-yard catch-and-run by White.
–A defensive holding penalty on Jonathan Jones, which came on a third-down incompletion and gave the Dolphins a fresh set of downs.
–A comical sequence in which three different Patriots (Chris Hogan, Trent Brown, Shaq Mason) were all flagged on the same play.
At least there will be some clips for Bill Belichick to spotlight in the film sessions this week.
Tom Brady’s Picks
Tom Brady was very good, for the most part, on Sunday. But, just like with the penalties, his two interceptions would have been quite costly in a more competitive game.
The first one came late in the first quarter. Under pressure, Brady forced a throw up the left seam to Dorsett, but Bobby McCain undercut the route and made an interception look easy. That pick came on third-and-9, so it really only hurt in terms of field position. The Patriots’ defense made it a moot point by forcing a Dolphins three-and-out.
The second pick came early in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots head 38-0. That score perhaps led to Brady once again forcing a throw while facing pressure, and this one was picked off by Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The only effect there was that it hurt Brady’s stats and kept the Patriots from putting up a beloved 40-burger. But for a team that strives for perfection, those two picks stood out as particularly uncharacteristic for Brady.