The slumbering Patriots falter in Miami

The Patriots were thoroughly outplayed by the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, losing their Week 14 contest 27-20. The loss snapped the Patriots’ 8 game winning streak, and their 14 game road game winning streak (which started in 2015). 

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. The Dolphins’ defense made Tom Brady look like a 40-year old quarterback

TB12 has been remarkable so far this season, making several analysts wonder if he was playing his best football at age 40. Brady’s age was evident during last night’s loss, as he was unable to get away from Miami pass rushers in the pocket, and was heavily inaccurate on several throws (two throws to Brandin Cooks resulted in his two interceptions). He was also evidently uncomfortable in the pocket. After yesterday’s game, Brady’s record in Miami stands at 7-9. Hopefully Brady will get things back on track before next week’s crucial matchup against the Steelers.

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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

2. The Patriots’ offense was absolutely dreadful

If you want an idea of how bad the Patriots played yesterday, just look at their performance in the first quarter, where they only recorded 2 yards of total offense. Miami was also able to neutralize the Patriots’ rushing attack, which had been gaining steam during the last few games, limiting the Pats to 10 carries for 25 yards. Rob Gronkowski’s absence was clearly felt, as the team was in a funk offensively. Danny Amendola was the only receiver who constantly got open, as he finished with 6 catches for 76 yards. In comparison, Brandin Cooks finished with 1 catch for 38 yards, while Chris Hogan had 1 catch for 1 yard. The Patriots offense also squandered several chances in the fourth quarter when they were down by 10 points. Scoring on at least one of those drives would have made their last-ditch effort at the end of the game much easier.

rex burkhead vs dolphins wk14
(Photo by Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

3. The banged-up Patriots’ defense couldn’t make enough plays

The Patriots’ defense played without two of their key contributors in Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers, and their absence was clearly felt last night. The Patriots could not stop Kenyan Drake who scorched them for 114 yards on the ground and 79 yards through the air. They also had no answer for Jarvis Landry, who scored 2 touchdowns. This loss cannot be fully placed on the defense, as they did their best to stop Miami, but they were constantly let down by the offense who could not stay on the field. Yesterday’s game was definitely a setback, as the Pats hadn’t allowed more than 17 points in over 2 months, but knowing Bill Belichick and his staff, their defensive issues will be resolved soon. 

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(Photo by Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SPORTS)

 

To be honest, this loss couldn’t have come at a better time, as it will allow the Pats to correct their deficiencies in all phases, before they head to Pittsburgh for a matchup that will likely determine the road to Super Bowl LII.

Heading down to South Beach!

The Patriots hope to win their ninth straight game on Monday night, when they take on their rival, the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch their ninth straight AFC East title with a win on Monday night, or if the Buffalo Bills lose against the Colts today.

Here are a few things to look at entering tomorrow’s game.

1. Gronk’s absence

Rob Gronkowski will not be active against the Dolphins, as he is currently serving his one-game suspension due to his late hit on Bills’ cornerback Tre’Davious White during last week’s game. Gronk was dominant against the Dolphins in Week 12, hauling in 2 touchdowns to fuel the 18 point victory for the Pats. It will be interesting to see how Tom Brady & Co. change their game plan to account for the absence of #87. Look for Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and James White to step up in the passing game.

gronk spike w12
(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Containing the Dolphins’ pass rush

The Patriots easily defeated the Dolphins in Week 12, but an alarming element of that game was the hits that TB12 absorbed from Miami defenders. The Patriots’ offensive line has drastically improved as the season has gone along, but they can’t continue to allow their 40-year-old quarterback to endure this kind of punishment on a week-to-week basis. It will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick opts to take out Brady in the latter stages of the game if victory is guaranteed.

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(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

3. Will the Patriots’ defense continue their dominance against the Dolphins’ offense?

The Patriots’ defense has been spectacular as of late, holding their opponents to less than 17 points during their eight game winning streak. They were able to hold Miami to 17 points in Week 12, and this was achieved by constantly getting after Matt Moore, and causing turnovers. However, Miami’s offense has changed quite a bit in the last 2 weeks. Miami easily beat the Denver Broncos 35-9, and were fueled by their newly-found rushing attack, led by Kenyan Drake. The Patriots have had trouble stopping the run recently, and will need to perform better to avoid an upset.

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(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

 

Taking these factors into consideration, I expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Miami (which has proved to be difficult for them in recent years). This will definitely be closer than Week 12’s rout, as Miami has improved on offense. However, TB12 and Dion Lewis should make it hard for Miami to have any chance of winning.

PredictionPatriots 24, Dolphins 14

The Patriots tame the Bills!

The Patriots ran over the Bills on Sunday, leaving Orchard Park with a 23-3 win. This victory was the eight straight win for New England, and moves them up to first place in the AFC (for now), with an 10-2 record.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Rex and D-Lew lead the way!

The Patriots won in an unexpected fashion yesterday, with Tom Brady and his receivers not being the main factor in the offense. Rather, it was the Pats’ rushing attack, spearheaded by Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, who revitalized the anemic offense, and also helped to put away Buffalo. Lewis totaled 92 yards off 15 carries, while Burkhead had 12 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis and Burkhead continue to improve week by week, ensuring that the two dynamos will be the featured rushers for the rest of the season. 

pats v bills
(Photo by Adrian Kraus/AP)

2. Have yourself a game, Gronk!

Rob Gronkowski was the standout pass-catcher for the Patriots, as he corralled 9 catches for 147 yards in yet another domination of his hometown Buffalo Bills. On a day when the Patriots’ dynamic offense appeared to be stifled by the stingy Bills, Gronk and TB12 took over in the second half, connecting on several throws that extended long drives.

Unfortunately, Gronk’s monster game has been overshadowed by a reckless decision he made in the waning moments of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Brady dropped back to loft a ball to #87, but it was intercepted by Tre’Davious White, who appeared to have interfered with Gronk on the play. While White laid motionless on the field, Gronk lunged at him, with his elbow connecting with the back of White’s head. This is definitely out of character for the big tight end, and it is quite disappointing to see, as he let his team down, and also threatened the livelihood of a fellow player. Gronk did apologize to White, and attributed his actions to frustration, but will likely receive a hefty fine from the NFL, along with a possible suspension. 

gronk bills wk13
(Photo by  Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

3. Who’s that Eric Lee guy?

The Patriots’ defense was aided by a dominant linebacker who was involved in several key plays. No, I’m not talking about Kyle Van Noy, or Elandon Roberts, I’m talking about Eric Lee. Sunday’s hero was signed off the Bills’ practice squad 10 days ago, and singlehandedly impacted many of Buffalo’s drives. For instance, on the first drive, Buffalo easily drove down the field, and found themselves in the red zone. Lee ended their drive when he picked off an errant pass by Tyrod Taylor. Lee finished the game with four tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, two pass deflections, three quarterback hits and an interception. As Tony Romo hilariously stated during the CBS broadcast, Lee has to be the most efficient player in the NFL so far this year.

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(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

4. The Pats’ defense continues to thrive

The Patriots continued their defensive dominance yesterday, as they limited Buffalo to 3 points, and 85 passing yards (for two quarterbacks). They also had four sacks, nine quarterback hits and eight pass deflections. Similarly to the last few weeks, the Patriots played a bend-but-don’t-break form of defense, as they allowed Buffalo to drive at times, but were able to stop them when necessary. As mentioned earlier, Eric Lee was one of the most dominant Patriot defenders, but another key contributor was Stephon Gilmore, who had a great performance against his former team. Gilmore was mostly able to shut down the receivers he covered in the beginning of the game, and had several key plays late in the fourth quarter. He had 3 pass deflections during one of Buffalo’s last drives, preventing the Bills from putting any points on the board.

gilmore v bills
(Photo by Adrian Kraus/AP)

 

Heading up North!

The Patriots start off their critical 3-week road stretch on Sunday, when they’ll take on their division rival, the Buffalo Bills. The Pats enter this game as 9-point favorites, and they hope to leave New Era Field with their 8th straight victory.

Here are a few storylines to think about entering tomorrow’s game…

1. Tom Brady’s dominance against the Bills

TB12 is the GOAT. If you want any clarification on that statement, just ask Bills’ fans. Brady is an astounding 26-3 against the Bills, and has 68 touchdowns against them (including 2 rushing touchdowns). An interesting stat to consider is that TB12 has more touchdowns against the Bills than Tyrod Taylor has scored in his career (63). #12 has been remarkable in his last 3 games at Buffalo, throwing for 11 touchdowns, with no interceptions. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that Brady’s otherworldly production in Upstate New York will continue.

tb12 v bills
(Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Gronk’s homecoming

Rob Gronkowski is a Buffalo native, which means that his annual game back home is probably very special to the game-changing tight end. Just like his quarterback, Gronk has also dominated the hapless Bills at New Era Field, recording 35 catches for 583 yards and 7 touchdowns in 6 career games up north. Last year, Gronk’s main highlight of the season occured in Buffalo, where he caught his 69th career touchdown, breaking the franchise record. 

Bonus: If you’re in the market for wings in Buffalo, Gronk recommends Amherst Ale House. What’s an article about the Patriots without a mention of Gronk and his food?

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(Photo by Matt West/Boston Herald)

3. Containing the run game

The Patriots have continued to make improvements on defense, with a particular emphasis being placed on their secondary. The Patriots have managed to stifle opposing quarterbacks, but there is still some need to be concerned with their ability to stop opposing running backs. The Patriots’ run defense did have a good game against the Dolphins, holding all of Miami’s rushers to 19 carries for 67 yards, but they face a tall task against ‘Shady’ McCoy. McCoy’s elusiveness and brute force makes it very hard for opposing defenses to bring him down. McCoy is the heart and central focus of the Bills’ offense, so the Patriots will have a great chance of winning if they can stifle #25. 

The Patriots have also had a bad history against running quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor is very athletic, and good at extending plays with his feet, which means that the Patriots’ defense will need to be alert in order to wrap him up.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
(Photo from USA TODAY SPORTS)

PredictionPatriots 31, Bills 17

Although the Bills are a desperate team fighting to make the playoffs, I still expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Buffalo. TB12, Gronk, and Brandin Cooks should make life difficult for the Bills defense, and force Tyrod Taylor & Co. to play from behind. Look for Stephon Gilmore to make some big plays against his former team.