New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins: Game Analysis

Trey Flowers (98) celebrates Duron Harmon’s game-clinching interception for the New England Patriots in Week 2. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots held off the Miami Dolphins, but at a price. They lost QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and it looks as if Jacoby Brissett may be the starter until Tom Brady returns in Week 5.

But not all is lost. The Patriots are 2-0 and couldn’t be in a better position than they are now.

Here’s a quick review of some of the positives and negatives about Week 2’s matchup:

Positives

  • Quick tempo is useful for Garoppolo. He had a quick release and was able to get the ball out before any pressure got to him. According to Pro Football Focus, Garoppolo was 14-19 for 197 yards and 2TDs vs the blitz and has the highest passer rating (145.0) so far this season.
  • Play action passes to TE Martellus Bennett worked effectively. When Garoppolo looked his way, the Dolphins bit hard on the fake. This also help set up a play action pass behind the linebackers to WR Chris Hogan who was wide open running across the field. Hogan also had a good game as well (4 REC 59 YDs). He has been able to consistently find ways to get open and has remained a reliable target.
  • Garoppolo’s 2nd TD of the game to Bennett was a beauty, as he looked off the safety to the left, and went back to his right finding the TE down the seam. Bennett also had a huge game (5 REC 114 TD). One can only imagine what will happen with Rob Gronkowski returns.
  • The offensive line had a great day in pass protection. With OL Nate Solder‘s return, it helps boost the offensive line that already had a strong outing against the Cardinals. They held up well against a strong Dolphins front seven. They also did a great job in run blocking. There were holes consistently created for Blount. Again, having FB James Develin return is huge for the run game.

The Patriots celebrate one of Danny Amendola’s touchdowns. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Positives (cont.)

  • WR Julian Edelman may not be a huge threat in end zone, but no matter where the Patriots line him up, he can always find ways to get open, and get open fast. He is a first down machine and security blanket for the offense and continues to prove this week to week.
  • Having a healthy LeGarette Blount and healthy offensive line is proving to be huge. He averaged 4.2 yards on the ground and finished the game with 123 yards and a TD. A lot of that had to do with keeping the ball out of Brissett’s hands, but regardless, he was effective.
  • The defense during the first half was lights out. They were able to hold Miami’s offense to 12 yards during the first half. The secondary held up for the most part until the end of the first half, in which they were playing prevent.
  • The Patriots run defense was much better this week, as they were able to hold RBs Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi under 23 yards, a much better effort than last week.
  • Last week the Patriots were unable to force any turnovers against the Cardinals, although, against the Dolphins they were able to generate 4 (2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles). Ultimately being able to force turnovers helped determine the end result of this game as the Dolphins were able to comeback during the second half.

Jimmy Garoppolo (10) gets tended to after suffering a shoulder injury. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Negatives

  • The biggest negative is Garoppolo going down in the 2nd quarter. It’s great that he was able to get a first down on a throw to Malcolm Mitchell, however, it resulted in losing the QB for the rest of the game and possibly for the next upcoming games against the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. There have been comparisons between Garoppolo and Tony Romo, so let’s hope injuries aren’t one of them.
  • Garoppolo also had a couple bad throws against the Dolphins. For starters, on the play-action, Garoppolo had WR/Special Teams Specialist Matt Slater down the field, but overthrew the ball. There was also a pass to Danny Amendola that resulted in a first down, but was luckily not picked by the linebacker in coverage. Lastly, there was a bad read to Mitchell running a comeback route and could’ve resulted in an INT.
  • Ball security is still something the Patriots need to work on as there were a couple fumbles this game (Blount fumbled that luckily bounced out of bounds, Brissett fumble that was recovered by James White, Amendola fumble that was recovered by the Dolphins)
  • Bad penalties again are giving the opposing team good field position or stalling offensive drives for the Patriots (hold calls and pass interference).
  • On the 24 yard-TD to Kenny Stills, CB Justin Coleman tried to jumped the out route, but was fooled as Stills headed to the end zone.
  • One question that was constantly being asked throughout this game, especially the 2nd half,  is: “Where is the pass rush?” There was pressure at times, however, the Patriots front seven hardly got close to Tannehill. For the first time in 30 games, the Patriots did not record a sack., according to Ben Volin. It seemed as if DE Chris Long was the only defender on the line who’s name was called.

Ryan Tannehill (17) of the Miami Dolphins. Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Negatives

  • When Miami went into a no huddle at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters, there were many holes in coverage and the Dolphins were able to convert first downs on those. The Dolphins also started the game with only had 5 in the first half. They finished with 23 (19 of them were passing).
  • WRs Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker were eating the Patriots secondary. They made some fantastic one-handed grabs, and were just dominant against who ever lined up across from them. Landry even broke a Jamie Collins tackle and trucked Malcolm Butler. On the same play. Ugly.
  • Bad missed FG by Stephen Gostkowski. Had he made that field goal, regardless of the Dolphins scoring, the Patriots would have been in position to win. Rare for him to miss on a 39-yard FG.
  • Game ending pick by S Duron Harmon helps seal the deal, however, had the Patriots not been playing with two deep safeties, Parker had Butler beat and could’ve possibly caught a game-tying TD.
  • The stat-line that Bill Belichick will probably show his defense: 20-for-21, 256 yards and 2 TDs. Who’s numbers are those? Tannehill’s stats during the second half of the game. Unacceptable.

Sep 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) evades a tackle by Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell (41) during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Play of the Game

Huge gain by Martellus Bennett

  • After losing Garoppolo, Josh McDaniels dials up another play-action to Bennett again, but with a twist: Bennet was lined up along side OL Marcus Cannon on the right. Instead of motioning and running behind the offensive linemen similar to the previous two play-action throws, Bennett ran a drag route and was wide open (he was even waving his hand). After catching an easy pass from Brissett, Bennet gave CB Byron Maxwell a nasty stiff arm and ran for a 47-yard gain. This play ultimately set up a 9-yard TD run from Blount putting the Patriots up 31- 3 early in the 3rd quarter.

What to Improve Going Forward

Penalties

  • The Patriots were penalized 7 times during this game. Some of these penalties were holding (on offense and defense) and a bad pass interference call that helped put the Dolphins in the red-zone. As stated before, these penalties are killer as they are stalling drives on offense and prolonging the defense staying on the field. No team is perfect, however, limiting the amount of penalties can be crucial for the end result.

Ball Security

  • Despite being on the better side of the turnover battle, the Patriots still fumbled the ball 3 times this game. They did get lucky this game, with the Dolphins only being able to recover one, but that won’t always be the case as it could put the Patriots in a bigger hole than needed.

Third Down Defense

  • The Patriots defense likely won’t be able to constantly force times to go 3-and-out on every drive, but the less time they spend on field, the more effective they will be.  Again, the Dolphins were able to get 23 first downs, and were 5-10 on third down (4 of those conversions came in the 2nd half of the game)
Bill Belichick Patriots

Bill Belichick contemplates. Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Final Quick Notes

Losing Garoppolo hurts, but realistically its not a major injury. As stated before, Brady returns after week 4 and will remain the teams #1. It looks as if Jacoby Brissett will be the teams starter for the Thursday Night Game vs. the Texans, however, the Patriots won’t rule out a possible return of Garoppolo.

Worst case scenario, if Garoppolo isn’t able to able to play the next two weeks and the Patriots lose both games, they will be 2-2 and still in good shape for when Brady returns. However, it’s likely Josh McDaniels will have Brissett and the offense ready to compete on a short week, but they will need to lean on the defense now more than ever.

Ripple Effects After Week 2 Win

The Miami Dolphins could easily be 2-0 and at the top of the AFC East, however, they just are not a complete team and aren’t ready, especially with a weak defense. There are many holes starting from the defensive line to the secondary. There just may not be enough talent on that side of the ball to compete yet. Although, Adam Gase is doing some positive things with Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense.

The Patriots are now 4-0 at home vs. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins since the 2012 season and the all-time series record is now 53-49 Miami.

Upcoming Schedule

9/22
10/2
10/9
10/16
10/23

Next Week:

The New England Patriots (2-0) look to take on the Houston Texans (2-0) for the first time at home since the 2012 season.

With uncertainty at the QB position, the Patriots will have a short week to decide whether they will be able to play Garoppolo or Brissett. Regardless, it will be a tough challenge as the Texans defense looks to be a tough challenge.

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