By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s a fast-paced world here in the NFL. A massive Sunday night victory quickly becomes ancient history, as teams move on to their Week 2 responsibilities in a hurry.
Fortunately for the Patriots, their work this week appears to be pretty easy, as they’re heading down to Miami to take on a Dolphins team that just lost 59-10 at home to the Ravens on Sunday afternoon.
Considering the Patriots just made mincemeat out of the Pittsburgh Steelers (30-point victories are no joke, people), and considering Tom Brady is a slightly more capable passer than Lamar Jackson, some might consider this upcoming matchup to be a cakewalk for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Those people would be right.
In breaking down what exactly happened on the scorching Miami turf last weekend, it was easy to find a football team that doesn’t seem particularly interested in playing football.
Here’s a breakdown of exactly what happened in the blowout. There will be an attempt to find some positives for Miami, in an effort to present some challenges for Bill Belichick’s team. But it won’t be easy.
BALTIMORE’S OPENING DRIVE
–On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage, Mark Ingram took a handoff for a power run up the gut. After breezing through a huge hole, Ingram bulldozed two moderately interested defenders (Bobby McCain was one of them) for an easy 50 yards. A 50-yard run should never be that easy at this level.
Mark Ingram for 50 pic.twitter.com/Td7EMjT89r
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 8, 2019
–Four plays later, Jeremy Hill took a pitch and ran up the left side, untouched for 13 yards.
–On a third-and-goal from the 1, Ingram followed his fullback and a pulling guard for an easy touchdown.
–The Dolphins’ defense allowed the Ravens to march 89 yards on just eight plays, in just 4:26. There was, quite literally, zero resistance from the Miami D.
MIAMI’S RESPONSE: A FITZPATRICK PICK
–It took Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins offense exactly four plays to give the football right back to Baltimore. It was ugly.
–Words can’t describe how bad this throw was. It’s as if Fitzpatrick absorbed everything Jameis Winston taught him in Tampa. Roll right, chuck a back-leg throw into traffic with nothing on it, and hope for the best. Terribly underthrown, easy pick for Earl Thomas.
This was Earl Thomas' fourth interception on Ryan Fitzpatrick in his career. That seems like such an absurdly impressive statement considering they never played in the same division before pic.twitter.com/90ZktsZYg2
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 9, 2019
Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon had to have been salivating when they fired up the projector this week.
ONE PLAY, ONE TOUCHDOWN
–After the pick, the Dolphins went with man coverage, with a single-high safety (McCain) playing a deep center field. McCain bit so hard on a Jackson play-fake to Ingram that he pursued Ingram for a full 10 yards. That left the middle of the field wide open.
–Jackson stepped up and quickly fired a pass to Marquise Brown. Eric Rowe couldn’t get inside positioning on Brown and then whiffed on the tackle. McCain, standing 10 yards away, was completely out of the play. Brown was off to the races.
–That is dreadful safety play. Brian Flores is realizing quickly that the aforementioned McCourty, Chung and Harmon are no longer his safeties.
–After wasting a play out of the Wildcat with Fitzpatrick split out wide right (gaining a whopping 1 yard on an inside run), the Dolphins ran a play out of a shotgun formation, with Fitzpatrick flanked by two running backs. The play was some type of screen, with the O-line letting the defense essentially run free at Fitzpatrick. That rush threw off the timing, leading to Fitzpatrick rushing a backward pass to Kalen Ballage.
Making matters worse, the three Dolphins linemen who rushed out to block didn’t block the one man in front of them. Matthew Judon burst straight to Ballage and wrecked him for a loss of 8 yards.
Maybe that play worked in a walkthrough or something. Not really at full speed with full contact. Offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea is going to want to drag that play right into the recycle bin.
SAFETY HELP? NAH.
–After a breakdown from McCain on the first touchdown by Marquise Brown, Flores and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham at least learned their lesson and made sure to keep a safety deep for the Ravens’ next drive.
Despite dropping EIGHT men into coverage and rushing just three, the lone roaming safety drifted toward one receiver, who was coming up the defense’s right sideline. That left the entire middle of the field wide open. Brown won his 1-on-1 matchup and was gone.
The complete lack of a pass rush (rushing three men will have that effect) allowed Jackson to stand in the pocket for a full 3.39 seconds. That gave Brown time to beat his man (safety Minkah Fitzpatrick) on a deep post. Easy pitch and catch from there.
— CardsGonePro (@CardsGonePro) September 8, 2019
Shoutout to these two guys for covering air.
Absolutely no completions were made in those two spaces on this snap. Crushed it.
In fairness, the Dolphins likely entered the game with the philosophy that Jackson can’t throw deep. Protecting underneath became the most important part of the defensive plan. (They’d never enter a game against Tom Brady with that same philosophy.) That in turn required the defensive backs to win their matchups. On two big plays, that didn’t work out too well. (This play was a zone but ended up requiring Fitzpatrick to play Brown in man, because of the wall of five defenders set up underneath.)
(Minkah Fitzpatrick got away with an illegal contact penalty on that play, but it still went for 83 yards and a score.)
–Despite a nice gain of 26 yards to tight end Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins’ next drive was doomed by no protection. Fitzpatrick had to scramble like a madman, leading to a third-down incompletion that was so ugly that we’re not sharing footage of it out of consideration for those involved. It’s just a matter of human decency.
–On the first play of the second quarter, Eric Rowe was flagged for defensive holding. Free first down for the Ravens.
–On the second play of the second quarter (an inside QB run), defensive end Avery Moss was flagged for defensive holding. Free first down for the Ravens.
–Two plays later, the Dolphins … didn’t have a safety back deep. Willie Snead won his 1-on-1 matchup against Jomal Wiltz and wouldn’t you know it, he caught a 33-yard touchdown..
Os @Ravens de Lamar Jackson estão passando POR CIMA dos Dolphins! O 3º passe para Touchdown de Lamar! Dessa vez, para Willie Snead! 33 jardas! #NFLBrasil #NFL100 #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/X7J9C0SMI0
— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) September 8, 2019
Getting burned for big plays twice didn’t get Flores and Graham to change their approach. A 28-0 deficit just 16 minutes into the game was their reward.
A POSITIVE. ONE LONE POSITIVE.
–This counts, technically speaking. On a second-and-11, Fitzpatrick chucked up a jump ball for Davante Parker. Despite two defensive backs hounding him, Parker went up and made the catch for a gain of 49.
Solid individual effort from Parker.
The Dolphins then lost a yard, then lost three yards, then committed a false start, then threw an incompletion on third-and-19. Preston Williams had a touchdown catch in his arms but dropped it when he hit the turf.
The offense was sputtering a bit.
They got a field goal out of it.
SPECIAL TEAMS GETS IN ON THE FUN
–After the Dolphins defense finally forced a three-and-out, Miami’s special teams decided to contribute to the embarrassment. Jakeem Grant muffed a fair catch of the punt, giving the Ravens the football at the Miami 10-yard line. Grant was not under any pressure on the play, and he wasn’t even readying himself to return a punt. He just biffed it.
–The Dolphins then promptly gave up another touchdown pass, but to be fair, they dialed up a pretty good play on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. McCain blitzed off the left end and broke in untouched to the Baltimore backfield. Miami’s defenders had everyone in a purple jersey covered. It looked like a play that was doomed for Baltimore.
But Jackson being Jackson, he bought some extra time, backpedaled 10 yards and then lobbed a pass into some open space. Miles Boykin was covered by Eric Rowe, but after seeing the ball in flight (Rowe had his back to the QB), the receiver broke to the open space and made what looked like an easy touchdown.
— Sports Gifs & Videos (@Supreme_gifs) September 8, 2019
Can’t fault the Dolphins’ D too much for that one. Baltimore made a play.
SPECIAL TEAMS. AGAIN.
–The Miami D came up with another strong series. Special teams once again let them down. On a fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 30-yard line, the Ravens dialed up a fake punt. Anthony Levine took the snap, broke up the middle, and then burst for a 60-yard gain.
— Sports Gifs & Videos (@Supreme_gifs) September 8, 2019
Do we blame the Dolphins for not being ready for a fake punt from the opponent’s 30 while trailing 35-3 in the second quarter? Probably not. That wasn’t a situation that screamed “FAKE PUNT,” generally speaking.
With the bonus possession, the Ravens faced a third-and-goal. Jomal Wiltz tackled tight end Mark Andrews, giving Baltimore a fresh set of downs on the 2-yard line. Ingram followed his fullback to the left side and walked into the end zone untouched. The score was 42-3.
A FINAL WHIMPER
–The Dolphins put together a touchdown drive before the end of the half. That was aided by a soft roughing the passer penalty on Tim Williams, and a 22-yard catch by Allen Hurns. Fitpatrick actually threw an interception, but it was caught just out of bounds by Baltimore. The drive ended with Preston Williams making a nice touchdown grab.
The Preston Williams touchdown — audio on pic.twitter.com/JDMr9yXrlL
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 10, 2019
Good for him.
The Dolphins didn’t score again.
ONE MORE BLOWN COVERAGE FOR THE ROAD
–The Ravens scored another touchdown early in the third quarter, after the Dolphins’ defense once again left the middle of the field wide open. Mark Andrews ran a seam route up the right side, Jackson had all day to set up in the pocket, and the QB flicked a casual 40-yard strike to his tight end. Andrews had beaten Wiltz badly on the route; Wiltz ended up on the ground. With no safety help, it was once again a far-too-easy pitch and catch for the QB and his receiver.
Jackson threw a 1-yard touchdown a few plays later.
The key thing here is that despite getting burned time and time again in the first half, the Dolphins made no adjustments to their defensive game plan.
One half of that football game is more than any human should ever be subjected to. So, with that, what are some takeaways that might actually apply to Week 2 vs. the Patriots?
For one, there’s no way the Dolphins employ a similar defense against Tom Brady. On a third-and-3, the Dolphins won’t be creating a wall of defenders five yards from the line of scrimmage, leaving a stationary safety to try to cover a streaking wide receiver. Flores understands ahead of time that Brady can throw the ball downfield, so you will be very unlikely to see the middle of the field left vacated all day the way it was against Baltimore.
At the same time, the Patriots are going to have a number of 1-on-1 matchups they can win. Marquise Brown is a rookie but is obviously rather talented. And there’s certainly no shortage of talent among Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and Phillip Dorsett. The Dolphins defensive backfield may boast some big names in Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones. But when it comes to winning 1-on-1, the Dolphins secondary had some struggles last week, to say the least.
And don’t sleep on the Miami run defense, which was arguably somehow worse than the secondary. The Ravens rushed for 265 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. The Patriots had a rough night running the ball in Week 1, but the Dolphins present an opportunity for New England to get back on track.
Additionally, if Josh McDaniels and Brady can get creative and throw something at Flores and Josh Boyer that the former Pats assistants don’t see coming, the Dolphins showed Sunday that they are simply unable to adjust to the game that’s taking place. The inability to recognize that Jackson could actually throw the ball in the air for deep passes doomed Miami against Baltimore.
On the other side of the ball, Ryan Fitzptrick is just brutal. He looked every bit like the QB who threw seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions over his final five starts of last season. He couldn’t even compete half of his throws, going 14-for-29 for 185 yards with a touchdown and a grisly pick.
It’s hard to get a feel for the Miami rushing offense, considering they abandoned the run game after falling behind by a thousand points. When they did run, it was bad. Running backs Kenyan Drake, Mark Walton and Kalen Ballage combined for just 12 yards on 10 carries.
And the special teams units did not come ready to play, with Grant muffing a punt while trying to make a simple fair catch, and the Ravens breaking a fake punt for a 60-yard run.
The Dolphins also committed some back-breaking penalties, including back-to-back defensive holding penalties to help set up one Baltimore touchdown and another defensive holding penalty on the goal line to lead directly to another Baltimore touchdown. (They got called for another defensive holding penalty on Boykin’s touchdown, but the Ravens of course declined.) Red zone execution was a real problem for Miami’s D, as the Ravens found the end zone in five of their seven trips; the Patriots were 0-for-3 in the red zone against Pittsburgh.
The common theme from the Dolphins was a lack of fight, and that was evident from the very first snap of the game. While their scheme should be better against the Patriots, it won’t matter if the Dolphins take the field Sunday with the same level of collective lifelessness against the Patriots.