On the surface this game was a blowout but looking deeper there are signs of good effort. The real problem came from mistakes made against a team that is probably the best in the league at capitalizing off of them.
One thing that comes into question is the play calling or possibly the lack there of. And the reasoning behind this notion is that these two teams could meet again with a Miami Dolphins victory this next game so the coaches could have dialed things down on both teams. But even if that was the case it still provided to be a good case study for Gase and company. There were implications of moving up to the 5th seed with a victory but not very realistic ones.
An example of this might be on the first drive where Jakeem Grant was inserted into the lineup on a 2nd & 9 play for a fake hand off and he even got the hand off in the 2nd quarter gaining one yard. Fakes to Grant have been implemented late in games but this is the start of the game with the run not yet established and Jay Ajayi only gaining a yard running on the first two plays.
The 3rd & 8 showed a mistake from Ja’Wuan James with a false start making it a 3rd & 13. And it went on with weakness / mistake on the offensive line where both center Kraig Urbik and tackle Jermon Bushrod had their hands on Trey Flowers but he still got to Matt Moore disrupting the pass attempt to Damien Williams that was just out of reach to him 23 yards down field.
The mistakes continued on the punt that was short to begin with at only 28 yards. Tack on ten more yards from Neville Hewitt’s holding penalty and the Pats start on the Dolphins 45 where they would score a TD from (2nd one, they scored on first possession of the game) making it 14-0.
According to Pro football focus from their grades on the game Jermon Bushrod was a liability and Jay Ajayi could have had almost twice the running yardage. Which would have gone a long way toward better play making. They also graded Bushrod out as the lowest graded run-blocking guard this year. If this is the case there could be better afforded running plays away from that side of the line or use misdirection before going to it. Looking at this games stats there was not one run attempt made toward his positioning so maybe they are on to this however the bulk of Ajayi’s yards came from the right end.
More early first half mistakes; on 2nd & 8 Jabaal Sheard comes free off the end with Ja’Wuan James trying to block him. Matt Moore evades him in the pocket by stepping up and then scrambling all the way over near the left sideline. Moore throws it from 3 yards shy of the line of possession to Dion Sims who came back toward him however Logan Ryan had sneaked back into coverage and intercepted the pass. An interesting thing here is that Ryan left Kenny Stills open when he dropped back toward Sims. But the gunslinger QB is like a shark and always looks for the bigger fish, in this case the fish was Sims about 15 yards more down field.
What is worse than a three and out? Throwing an interception on the second play. The Pats started on their own 44 where they would score a FG from making it 17-0.
Just like last game the offensive drives ending with TD’s came back to back. Unfortunately this time it took place only once were the last time it happened twice.
The offense had a nice drive going heading near midfield at the start of the 2nd quarter when Grant got his first carry on an end around for a yard making it 3rd & 4. The Dolphins set up with the bunch right formation Matt Moore rolled out right and was under pressure from Chris Long who got around Branden Albert. What happened to the cut blocking technique that worked so well last week? The pass went to Stills down the middle it was a little off target toward a lunging Dont’a Hightower who he wanted no part of, time to punt, time for Stills to collect a contract.
A Pats FG on their next possession made it 20-0 with 3:21 left in the first half. This is the drive with results, up till this point Moore had been inaccurate on intermediate and some long passes. So shorter passes came in handy.
It started with Jarvis Landry for 14 yards he got the last four himself. Ajayi gets runs of six and eight yards then a pass for six more. Damien Williams one-handed catch on a short pass and yards afterwards takes it to the Pats 30. More short passes to Landry, Ajayi and Landry again takes them to the 8. On 2nd & 5 Moore had a lot of time to throw scanning the field. He hits Landry who somehow bounces back off of Dont’a Hightower near the goal line and keeping his balance redirecting himself to the left corner of the end zone diving in for the score.
Prior to the first scoring drive as the first half was ending the offense had never crossed midfield. The first half ended with a missed 52 yards Pats FG try making the score 20-7.
To open the second half the Dolphins had the ball on their own 25. This drive had twelve plays gaining three first downs from 3rd down situations consisted of mainly short passes and an Ajayi long run of eight yards along with three other runs of three yards each. It was capped off with a pass complete down the deep middle to Kenny Stills who was somehow left open for the 25 yard TD. Did all the short passes lull the Pats defenders? After this score the Pats answered quickly with their own TD making it 27-14.
Unfortunately this was the last Dolphins score of the game, the next long drive that was about to produce a score and get back down by seven would end in disaster.
But first they would go three and out twice to end the 3rd quarter the two teams trading punts along the way.
Because the Pats punt was out-of-bounds the Dolphins started this fatal drive on their own 32. Jarvis Landry had a pass for 13 yards were he tried his spin move after the catch that had been working in prior games but Rob Ninkovich brought him down from behind with an ankle tackle. Landry was targeted three more times bringing in two of them. Ajayi bounced a run outside right for 11 when there was no hole to run through. DeVante Parker caught one for 18 yards having to jump up to get it. Then disaster happened.
On 2nd and goal the play went to RB Damien Williams with a short left pass to the five. He had Devin McCourty right on him with Shea McClellin directly behind. Williams had his back to the defenders and only one hand/arm on the ball. Before he could even turn around the ball was knocked out by McCourty. McClellin picked up the ball and ran it to the Dolphins 18 before Williams chased him down with the tackle. Williams looked focused on McClellin and may not have known McCourty had closed in.
The Pats scored quickly and tacked on a two point conversion and that was it, ballgame Pats 35 Dolphins 14.
Damien Williams has made great strides over the last few seasons by being a more competent receiver while still maintaining and even improving on some running aspects. Costly cough ups or dropped catches had been concerns during his transformation and it is now creeping back in. He may have been watching Landry and trying to duplicate his action.
The offense would get the ball back with 5:29, and 2:32 left to play in the 4th but did nothing with it both times.
Team Stats Dolphins
First Downs 16 Rush-Yds-TDs 23-75-0 Cmp-Att-Yd-TD-INT 24-34-205-2-1 Sacked-Yards 0-0 Net Pass Yards 205 Total Yards 280 Fumbles-Lost 3-1 Turnovers 2 Penalties-Yards 9-73 Third Down Conv. 7-12 Fourth Down Conv. 0-0 Time of Possession 28:38 to the Pats 31:22
Pats defense may have been lulled by all the short passes when Kenny Stills goes deep for the TD.
•Jay Ajayi (1,259) is now in third place on the Dolphins’ single-season rushing list.
•Dolphins season: Entered Sunday a minus-55 scoring margin in the first quarter and a plus-53 in the third quarter.
To epitomize not making mistakes playing the Patriots an analogy could come from a boxer going against a prizefighter. If you don’t answer scoring points you fall behind and can’t make up the difference. These mistakes early in the game cost them points.
The Refs were loose calling fouls on the Miami Dolphins while tight on those for the Pats. In other news “the big yellow one is the sun.” (Brian Regan) which also leads into not making mistakes.
If the offense went to short passing sooner (started late in first half) they would have been more productive. Gave them a dose of their own medicine.