By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It didn’t take long for Sunday’s shellacking of the Dolphins to turn into something more than a decimation of a brutally bad football team.
Roughly an hour after the 43-0 whooping delivered by the Patriots in Miami, Will Brinson tweeted that
degenerates fans can now officially lay down some dollars on the Patriots going 16-0 this season. Undefeated 2.0, yours at a cool +1000.
Surely, that won’t be the last that you hear about an undefeated season. The Patriots have allowed three total points through 120 minutes of football, putting 76 points on the scoreboard themselves. That plus-73 point differential is far and away the best in the NFL, 18 points better than the second-best team and roughly twice as good as the third-best team.
And with the murderer’s row of the Jets, Bills, Redskins, Giants, Jets and Browns coming up on the docket, it feels safe to say the Patriots are going to be carrying a decent record into the month of November. With each week, and with each dominant performance, the talk and discussion and debate and bets will increase in volume and intensity. The Pats are going 16-0.
This is a free country, and you’re thus free to engage in whatever legal activity you’d prefer. But I do implore you to not indulge in this particular venture.
It’s not that a 16-0 regular season is not possible. Kevin Garnett demonstratively taught us that anything is possible more than a decade ago, roughly six months after the Patriots showed that a 16-0 regular season in the NFL is indeed possible. This year’s team certainly appears to have the talent necessary to repeat such a run.
But … it’s not going to happen. It doesn’t happen. It never happens! To cavalierly talk about it as if it is something that just sort of happens is to diminish the reality that the 2007 Patriots were a comet, something you might see once in your lifetime. It required a collection of Hall of Fame talent, inspiration from an unlikely source, and a handful of fortunate breaks (Rex Ryan’s unlawful timeout in Baltimore says hello). Even though they came up short in the game that mattered most, that entire season was a pretty marvelous run.
And it will stand in history as the only 16-0 season ever, just as the Dolphins have held the mantel as the only true undefeated team for nearly 50 years. These things don’t happen. Teams rest players (’09 Colts vs. the Jets), or stumble against a bad opponent (’15 Panthers vs. the Falcons, ’11 Packers vs. the Chiefs, ’98 Broncos vs. the Chiefs), or — as football teams tend to do on occasion — they simply lose a football game against a worthy opponent (’05 Colts vs. the Chargers). For 47 different reasons, teams don’t go undefeated. This year’s Patriots team has a 99.5% chance of joining the lot of very good teams that lost a game or two. That 0.5% chance (unscientific calculations here, people) doesn’t warrant the amount of coverage and madness that is almost certain to take place over the coming four to six weeks.
Save yourself the trouble. It won’t be worth it in the end.
That being said … the Patriots are very good. The Dolphins are very bad. Let’s get into it with some leftover thoughts.
–The Patriots’ defense. That’s it. That’s the whole thought.
–OK, fine, we can expound a bit on the fact that the Patriots have allowed a grand total of six (6) American football points in their last 180 minutes of real football. Heck (sorry for the coarse language), we can take it back further: Going back to Week 15 of last season, the Patriots have given up an average of 12.1 points per game in their last eight contests. That includes allowing the Chiefs to score 31 points in the conference title game, and that includes the Chargers scoring two of the most garbage of garbage-time touchdowns in the divisional round blowout.
Take it back a little further, and they’ve allowed 14 points per game since their midseason bye week last year. They’re 9-2 in those 11 games, with a Super Bowl celebration sandwiched in there. And they’re a unit that added Jamie Collins and Michael Bennett, drafted Chase Winovich, and welcomed back Ja’Whaun Bentley, who lost most of his rookie year due to injury. The unit doesn’t even have an official coordinator, but it doesn’t need one. The smarts and skills stretched sideline to sideline on that defense is probably the best in the NFL, and literally the only two things that could disrupt that defense from dominating through February are injuries and Patrick Mahomes.
–You know, after a 43-0 bloodbath, it would be foolish to say that one play was “instrumental” in that victory. (You know what’s coming next, folks. It’s a big, hearty, HOWEVER. Get ready for it.) HOWEVER … let’s not understate the significance of the diving catch made by Phillip Dorsett to convert a third-and-17 midway through the second quarter.
The catch itself was art:
But the impact was massive. Had he not been able to make that catch, the Patriots would have been punting from their own 28-yard line, in a game they only led 7-0, in a place they’ve historically struggled to win football games. It may not have turned into a nightmare (because the Dolphins’ offense is so dreadful), but it certainly would have been a bit sticky for a team that should have been up by three scores already.
–(Dorsett might argue that his ability to save his own neck on the first play of the second half was much more important. Fair enough.)
–Decent throw from the 42-year-old pigskin chucker, too:
–Don’t let it go overlooked, either, that the Patriots’ offense put up 22 points without either of their starting tackles in the game. Marcus Cannon couldn’t play due to his shoulder injury, and Isaiah Wynn checked out with a foot injury after the Patriots’ first touchdown drive. Losing both bookends would normally cause a team to go into a shell, play safe football, and maybe try to win a field position battle in a low-scoring affair. The Patriots, though, are different. Their entire playbook appeared to be open, despite Marshall Newhouse (signed four days before kickoff) and Korey Cunningham (acquired Aug. 29) taking most of the snaps at the tackle spots.
If you flipped the game on at the start of the second quarter, and if you had the dulcet tones of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts turned down low, you might not have even noticed the absences of Wynn and Cannon.
I generally find the calls for Dante Scarnecchia to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame to be a bit over the top, because really, how many offensive line coaches are are we comparing him to? Buuuut, a game like Sunday, with Ted Karras still very much a fill-in at center and with two new guys manning the tackle positions, in a game where Brady was sacked just twice and running backs gained 126 yards and scored two touchdowns and the offense put up 29 points in 100-degree heat? Maybe that tape should be sent to Canton, at the very least.
–Last year, it stood out to me how many times Tom Brady happily handed the ball off while inside the 10-yard line. Because he had incentives in his contract, I tallied them all up at one point, and it was a lot. So it stood out once more when Brady got the Patriots to the Dolphins’ 10-yard line with three completions to Antonio Brown for a total of 36 yards, the Patriots’ play calls went like this:
–Handoff to Sony Michel
–Incomplete pass (defensive holding penalty)
–Handoff to James Develin
–Handoff to Sony Michel, Touchdown
It’s just something to keep in mind whenever people might talk about Brady’s stats being down. Brady has said he’s not necessarily concerned with statistics, and his willingness to just hand it off because it’s working with great consistency is a pretty strong way of backing up that assertion.
–The No. 1 biggest development coming out of this game is the fact that Matthew Slater is wearing a badass tinted visor:
Excuse me — is that Matthew Slater or Calvin Johnson???? Did Josh Gordon switch numbers????
Slater was out there incidentally tripping punt returners on would-be fair catches, taking some snaps as a blocking tight end in goal line packages, and picking up unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, despite being arguably the most sportsmanlike man in the entire universe. Age 34 Matthew Slater is clearly now Badass Matthew Slater.
He’s definitely catching a touchdown at some point this year. Maybe even next week.
–I would like to submit another entry into the “42-Year-Old Tom Brady Can Really Throw Some Bullets” catalog:
Some magic hands from Edelman on display there, too. Good football players, in my opinion.
–Also, massive respect to Edelman for clearly letting Antonio Brown know who gets to sit to Tom Brady and who does not get to sit next to Tom Brady:
“Hey man, I know you’re like an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler and all of that, and you’re getting a ton of guaranteed money and a ton of targets and all of that. But I sit next to Tom here, OK? OK. Good.”
Meanwhile, poor Gunner can’t even grab a seat. Rough stuff.
–Speaking of good football players, the Dolphins don’t have many. And so, I bring to you, a new section to the Leftover Thoughts column that will be titled, simply, “THE MIAMI DOLPHINS.”
So here we go. THE MIAMI DOLPHINS.
That play immediately preceded a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception. THE MIAMI DOLPHINS.
That first-down sack (where legitimately three different Patriots could have recorded the sack) was part of one of four Dolphins drives that gained either zero or negative yardage. THE MIAMI DOLPHINS.
Third-and-2, Dolphins driving, game still technically close enough for the Dolphins to win or at least compete. But Fitzpatrick does … that. THE MIAMI DOLPHINS.
I probably would not gloat. pic.twitter.com/wTG2J3DMCg
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) September 15, 2019
After this false start penalty on a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Dolphins committed a defensive holding penalty, thus giving the Patriots a first down at the 1-yard line. Tom Brady ran a sneak right up the gut, untouched for a touchdown. THE MIAMI DOLPHINS.
Yeah … going to go with THE MIAMI DOLPHINS on that one.
THE. MIAMI. DOLPHINS.
(I said to not waste your time with 16-0 talk. But you should definitely spend your time pondering an 0-16 season down in Miami. What a mess.)
–Brian Flores challenged for offensive pass interference on a clear pick play, and he won. The penalty was enforced after replay review. Huzzah! A win for football. HOWEVER, that delay took entirely too long. It was clear and obvious on one replay. The delay should have been 15 seconds. Instead it took multiple minutes.
Take that one, and the non-enforcement after a challenge Sunday night in Atlanta, plus the Dalvin Cook PI enforcement, and maybe even the Antonio Brown push-off, and you’ve still got kind of a mixed message on the PI reviews. This one in Florida, though, was a no-doubter. Could have saved us all a few minutes, that’s all.
–If you’re into stats, please note that Julian Edelman has lost two receptions for 40 yards due to pass interference. In Week 1, he made a 16-yard catch despite getting interfered with, but the Patriots accepted the penalty to get the free first down. On Sunday, Ryan Izzo’s second OPI of the season negated an easy 24-yard pitch and catch.
You can do what you please with this useless information.
–Tom Brady is now 32-for-43 when targeting Edelman, White, Burkhead, and Dorsett this season. That’s … (counting fingers) … a 74.4 percent completion rate. Dorsett has also caught the last 23 passes thrown his way. (Quick math: That’s 100 percent.)
–Stephen Gostkowski was obviously the one major negative on this day (outside of the Wynn injury). Obviously, missing kicks? It’s bad. Not good, people. But sometimes when I watch Twitter absolutely explode after a Gostkowski miss, I wonder what life would be like if this wasn’t the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history. How would Patriots fans/media/observers act on a week-to-week basis if the team employed a kicker who was actually bad? Would there be more or less mayhem? I’m not entirely sure.
Anyways, maybe Gostkowski just went out there and played a garbage game as a way to take the heat off Adam Vinatieri for his own struggles. Did you ever think about that? Bet you didn’t.
Stevie G.: confirmed nice person.
–This play stood out because of Brady barking orders at Rex Burkhead while up by three thousand points in the fourth quarter.
REX GO TO THE MIDDLE pic.twitter.com/pzE7OMVz9F
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) September 15, 2019
But, hey, look, that throw, off the back foot, dropping it into a bucket? And that catch, with a linebacker essentially wearing Burkhead’s jersey for him? Mamma mia.
–It took Stephon Gilmore until his 19th NFL interception to take one back for a touchdown. Brian Fellows, your thoughts?
–With four picks, two of which went back for touchdowns, and the shutout, the defense is going to get a lot of hype. Rightfully so. What’s really wild, though, is that unlike Chicago or Buffalo or Minnesota or Jacksonville or any other team that boasted a great defense last year … the Patriots may have the best offense in the league. The talent in the backfield is ridiculous. The talent at receiver is insane. The offensive line may have some holes, but they have thus far been plugged pretty well. And the best quarterback of all time still looks to be in his prime, which has clearly not ended yet.
The offense is absurd. And, barring an act of God, it’s likely to only get better as everyone learns more and settles into roles.
“I’ve never been a part of an offense like this,” Josh Gordon said. “So many intricate details — it’s to the T. It’s just different. That’s the best way to describe it. It’s just different. I can’t say that it’s like something I’ve seen before, because I’ve never seen it before, this type of offense.”
–That’s entirely too much time spent discussing anything that involves the 2019 Miami Dolphins, if you ask me. So I’m going to take my ball and go home, a la Jamie Collins.