Can the new look Patriots exact revenge on Miami?

 

 

In the NFL, it’s common knowledge that you’re not entitled to anything. If you want to put your team in a good position to succeed in the playoffs, you need to show up when it matters. Unfortunately for the Patriots, they didn’t seem to get the memo last season, when they unexpectedly dropped their regular season finale to the Miami Dolphins at home. That loss prevented New England from securing a first round bye, and forced them to host Tennessee for a Wild Card game that ended up being Tom Brady’s last game as a Patriot.

A lot of things have changed since that matchup in December, from the pandemic, to the vast exodus of veterans from the Patriots roster during free agency. A win tomorrow won’t change the result from that Week 17 contest, but it would help set the tone for a wildly different season with Cam Newton under center.

With that being said, here’s what to look forward to during this Week 1 matchup.

1. What will the Patriots’ offense look like?

New England’s offensive struggles throughout the tumultuous 2019 season were well documented, as it quickly became evident that receivers other than Julian Edelman consistently struggled to get open against man coverage. Other than letting Phillip Dorsett walk & releasing Mohamed Sanu, Bill Belichick didn’t do much to overhaul the wide receiver corps, which means that the Patriots will be relying on Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers to carry the load. Personally, I’m excited to see what newcomer Damiere Byrd can bring to the table, as his pure speed could help open things up down the field. Due to the strength of Miami’s secondary, I’m pessimistic about the Patriots’ chances of winning one-on-one matchups against Dolphin defenders. However, the addition of rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene could help lighten the load for the team’s wide receivers, as they are definitely miles better than the team’s putrid tight end room from last season. Based on what we’ve heard from training camp, both Asiasi & Keene are dynamic, but the learning curve for rookie tight ends is typically steep, so it will definitely be a storyline to follow.

After a stellar rookie season, Sony Michel struggled mightily during the 2019 season, as he had a tough time getting started behind a patchwork offensive line. Luckily for Michel, starting center David Andrews is returning to action, after missing the entire 2019 season due to blood clots in his lungs. Andrews was a key anchor for the offensive line that dominated opponents during the Patriots’ last run to the Super Bowl. Michel had a leg injury that sidelined him for most of training camp, but when he returned, it was reported that he was quicker and more agile than the last time we saw him. As always, the Patriots will turn to the reliable duo of James White & Rex Burkhead to supplement Michel, with the two veterans also playing an important role in the passing game as well. The most intriguing member of the running back room has to be Damien Harris, who had a strong training camp until he suffered an untimely injury that will sideline him for at least 3 weeks.

I think it’s obvious that the biggest question mark surrounding the Patriots right now has to be the health & effectiveness of Cam Newton. Due to a lack of preseason games, we haven’t seen Newton in action for almost a year, which means that his running ability (which typically energizes an offense) is an unknown for now. Hence, we don’t know how comfortable Newton will be scrambling around the pocket and line of scrimmage tomorrow. Most importantly, it’s interesting to wonder if he’ll still initiate contact with defenders, which was a big part of his game back in Carolina. That being said, the mystery around Newton’s game could actually be a boon for Belichick and Josh McDaniels, as Miami’s head coach Brian Flores won’t know exactly what he’s dealing with. Most analysts have said that they expect McDaniels’ plan for Newton to be similar to Norv Turner’s short passing game from Newton’s stellar but injury plagued 2018 season, which actually seems to suit how the Patriots’ receivers play, as they’re definitely more effective across the middle of the field.

All in all, I’m excited to see how the post-Brady Patriots’ offense looks with a more mobile quarterback in Cam Newton, whose strengths may help cover the warts at wide receiver and other skill positions.

New England Patriots Practice
FOXBOROUGH, MA – AUGUST 26: QB Cam Newton, left, and Julian Edelman work out during a drill at the training camp. The New England Patriots hold practice training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

2. Can the defense deliver?

One of the biggest storylines of the offseason was the news that several Patriots veterans, including key leaders Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung had decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. The absence of these two important defensive contributors will undoubtedly cast a spotlight on younger players on the defense, and test Bill Belichick’s confidence in them.

It may be hard to take the Dolphins’ offense seriously with 37 year old journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but as the Patriots learned last year, he can hurt you when it matters most. Fitzpatrick’s top two weapons in Devante Parker & Mike Gesicki were key contributors during that December loss, and will likely be an important part of Miami’s game plan tomorrow. Uncharacteristically, Stephon Gilmore struggled mightily covering Parker, so I have to imagine that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is salivating at the opportunity to exact revenge by locking up Miami’s top receiver. Due to the loss of Patrick Chung, it’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots decide to match up against Gesicki, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their top pick Kyle Dugger is given the assignment due to the success he had during training camp. Having Devin McCourty in the back end will be as important as ever, due to his effectiveness as both a player and a leader. New England will also have to deal with Preston Williams & Jakeem Grant, but I’m confident that the rest of the secondary will be able to limit their effectiveness.

However, the team’s defensive line and linebacker corps are much more of an enigma. The defensive line struggled to stop the run throughout last season, with the Wild Card game being a clear example, as Derrick Henry accumulated 182 rushing yards for the Titans. Other than adding veteran DT Beau Allen, the Patriots mostly stayed pat at the position, which means that Lawrence Guy and a slew of younger players will be tasked with playing much better against the run this season. Tomorrow’s game will be a tall task, as Miami has one of the fastest running backs in the league in Matt Breida, and a bruising rusher in Jordan Howard.

Dont’a Hightower’s decision to opt out dealt a devastating blow to the team’s linebacker corps, as he was a steadying force in the middle of the field. Luckily, the Patriots went into April’s draft with the goal of improving at linebacker, due to the departures of Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, & Kyle Van Noy (the latter two players signed with Miami). This led to the team drafting Alabama LB Anfernee Jennings & Michigan LB Josh Uche, who should help add versatility to the position behind three-year veteran Ja’Whaun Bentley. New England will also rely on Chase Winovich and John Simon to set the edge, and get after Fitzpatrick.

The Patriots had one of the NFL’s best defenses last year, so it will be intriguing to see how the retooled lineup looks tomorrow against a Dolphins offense that gave them fits last season.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 08: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots runs the ball after recovering a fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Gilmore was ruled down after recovering the fumble. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Yodny Cajuste (knee) – Out
  • Gunner Olszewski (foot) – Out
  • Dalton Keene (neck) – Questionable
  • Cassh Maluia (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Chase Winovich (shoulder) – Questionable

Dolphins

  • Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral) – Doubtful

Bonus:

1. New uniforms!

Tomorrow’s game will mark the debut of the Patriots’ new uniforms, which are primarily based on the team’s popular Color Rush uniforms which were worn from 2016 to 2019. Interestingly, this will be the first time the team wears the combination in a non-prime time game.

Dev new unis 2020
(Photo via the New England Patriots)

 

2. Fans in the stands?

Due to COVID-19, the Patriots will not have fans in Gillette Stadium throughout September. New England has been provided with a recorded track of artificial crowd noise which will be filtered throughout the stadium.

 

Prediction: Patriots 23, Dolphins 14

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 1 slate (apart from Thursday’s opening game).

Jets at Bills: Bills

Packers at Vikings: Vikings

Eagles at Washington: Eagles

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Raiders at Panthers: Raiders

Bears at Lions: Bears

Seahawks at Falcons: Seahawks

Chargers at Bengals: Chargers

Cardinals at 49ers: 49ers

Buccaneers at Saints: Saints

Cowboys at Rams: Cowboys

Steelers at Giants: Steelers

Titans at Broncos: Titans

Miraculous Patriots dominate in Miami!

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Unlike last season’s matchup in Miami, today’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins (0-2) didn’t come down to the last play, as the Patriots cruised to a 43-0 victory, improving them to 2-0 on the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 2 contest.

1. Brady and the offense were efficient

The Patriots’ offense had another good performance today, as they had a well balanced attack which constantly caused problems for Miami. Tom Brady threw for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns, as he completed 20 passes to 7 different receivers. Today also marked the debut of Antonio Brown as a Patriot, and he made an impact from the get-go, as he caught 3 passes on the game’s opening drive. Brown ultimately finished with 4 receptions for 56 yards and 1 touchdown. Brown’s superior route-running was in full display, but it is obvious that he and Brady still need to work on their timing, due to a few instances of miscommunication between the duo. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 51 yards), Phillip Dorsett (3 catches for 39 yards), and Josh Gordon (2 catches for 19 yards) has relatively quiet performances, but came through when Brady needed them. Sony Michel (21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown) and Rex Burkhead (5 carries for 21 yards) combined to form an effective rushing duo, and Brady even added a rushing touchdown with his traditional quarterback sneak.

If the Pats continue to play like this on offense, they will put themselves in a great position to win more contests.

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(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

2. The Patriots’ defense was simply remarkable!

For the third straight game (including Super Bowl LIII), the Patriots’ defense did not give up a touchdown, as they absolutely smothered Miami’s offense. The Pats pitched their first shutout since Week 3 of the 2016 season, and were able to limit the Dolphins to 184 total yards. Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins led the way for the defense’s dominant performance, as both of them made life difficult for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Gilmore forced an interception in the third quarter, when he tipped a ball into Devin McCourty’s hands, and also had a 54 yard pick-six in the fourth quarter when he read Fitzpatrick’s eyes on a 3rd & 2 play. Collins had his own pick-six on the following Miami possession when he snagged a ball juggled by Dolphins HB Kalen Ballage with one hand en route to a 69 yard touchdown. He also picked off Rosen on the game’s final play, hence securing the shutout. The Pats hit Miami’s quarterbacks 12 times and also had 7 sacks. Kenyan Drake haunted the Patriots last year with his speed during the Miami Miracle, but he was rendered non-existent today, finishing with under 50 total yards from scrimmage.

The Patriots’ defense has proven to be the team’s superior unit over the last two weeks, and will definitely solidify themselves as one of the NFL’s best units if they continue to play like this.

jamie collins w2.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Stephen Gostkowski had a dreadful performance

Stephen Gostkowski has typically been reliable for the Patriots over the years, but he was dreadful today, with 1 missed field goal and 2 missed extra points. Ironically, he missed kicks on the same day as other prominent kickers such as Adam Vinatieri, Dan Bailey, and Matt Prater.

Gostkowski’s job is clearly not in jeopardy, but he will need to turn it around for the Patriots to succeed as the season progresses. 

gostkowski w2.jpg
(Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

 

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/28 for 264 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Antonio Brown – 4 receptions for 56 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins – 5 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 touchdown

Dolphins

  • Passing: Josh Rosen: 7/18 for 97 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Kenyan Drake – 6 carries for 19 yards
  • Receiving: Preston Williams – 4 receptions for 63 yards
  • Defensive: Jerome Baker – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will host their hated rival, the New York Jets (0-1), who will be missing their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his mononucleosis diagnois. It will be interesting to see if Antonio Brown will be on the Pats’ roster next week, as the NFL will be meeting with the woman who accused him of sexual assault in the coming days, and Roger Goodell has reportedly not ruled out putting Brown on the league’s exempt list if necessary.

Will the Patriots finally overcome their struggles in South Beach?

Even though the Patriots were dominant during their Week 1 rout of Pittsburgh, they should be extremely cautious entering tomorrow’s divisional matchup against the lowly Miami Dolphins (0-1), due to their historic struggles in Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots have lost 5 of their last 6 games in Miami, with their last win coming in 2016.

Here are some things to consider entering tomorrow’s game.

1. Who will win the matchup between Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores?

The Dolphins defense was dreadful against Baltimore in Week 1, as they surrendered 59 points to the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens. Most surprisingly, Jackson threw for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns, and was able to silence his critics who felt that he would never succeed as a passer in the NFL. Due to Baltimore’s performance, most pundits expect the Patriots to light up the scoreboard in Miami, which is a claim I am skeptical of. Don’t get me wrong, adding Antonio Brown to the offense that scored 33 points against the Steelers should make Patriots fans excited about playing a dreadful Dolphins defense, but there is one key factor that cannot be ignored. Miami’s new head coach is Brian Flores, who was a member of the Pats’ staff from 2004 to 2018, including one season as the team’s primary defensive play-caller. Flores was the architect (along with Bill Belichick) of the game plan that limited the Rams to 3 points in Super Bowl LIII, and clearly has a great understanding of the way Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady, and the offense operate. Belichick and the Patriots have always struggled against his ex-pupils, which makes this matchup even more intriguing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Brady and the offense have a great performance, but the presence of Brian Flores on the other sideline may make this matchup tighter than people expect it to be.

tb vmiami p.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

2. Can the Pats’ defense shut down Miami’s offense?

It wasn’t pretty the last time the Patriots’ defense took the field in Miami, as they gave up a 69-yard multi-lateral touchdown to Miami on the last play of the game now known as the ”Miracle in Miami”. The defense has clearly improved since that fateful day in December, becoming more stout against both the run and the pass. On the other hand, Miami’s offense had a terrible outing in Week 1, as they only mustered 10 points against the dominant Ravens defense. Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen struggled at quarterback, with the Dolphins rushing attack also being rendered non-existent. Once again, the Patriots’ effective performance against Pittsburgh doesn’t necessarily guarantee an easy win against Miami, due to the fact that their former wide receiver’s coach, Chad O’Shea, is now the Dolphins’ offense coordinator. O’Shea’s familiarity with the Patriots’ system may enable him to find some chinks in their armor, which is something Belichick and Jerod Mayo will need to be cognizant about.

At the same time, I feel like the Patriots’ defense will have the ability to dominate this game if they continue to smother the opposing offense’s weapons, while applying effective pressure on the quarterback.

pats d vs miami 17.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Marcus Cannon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable
  • Brandon Bolden (hamstring) – Out

Dolphins

  • Charles Harris (wrist) – Questionable
  • Trent Harris (foot) – Questionable
  • Bobby McCain (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Daniel Kilgore (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Reshad Jones (ankle) – Out
  • Albert Wilson (hip/calf) – Out
  • Walt Aikens (shoulder) – Not listed

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 14

Here are my picks for the NFL’s other Week 2 games (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Cardinals at Ravens: Ravens

Chargers at Lions: Chargers

Colts at Titans: Titans

49ers at Bengals: Bengals

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Packers: Vikings

Cowboys at Redskins: Cowboys

Seahawks at Steelers: Steelers

Bills at Giants: Bills

Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs

Saints at Rams: Rams

Bears at Broncos: Bears

Eagles at Falcons: Eagles

Browns at Jets: Browns

The Pats get back on track by squishing the Fish!

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The Patriots squashed the rumors of their supposed demise by absolutely annihilating the Miami Dolphins 38-7 to improve to 2-2 on the season. The Pats were dominant on both sides of the ball from the get-go and never let Miami find a rhythm.

Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.

1. Michel and White lead the way!

One major criticism of the Patriots over the past three weeks was that their over-reliance on rookie RB Sony Michel had not paid dividends for the offense as it made them increasingly one dimensional. That narrative changed today, as Michel rewarded the Patriots’ faith in him with a 112 yard performance off of 25 carries. #26 showed why he deserved to be a first round draft choice as he consistently fooled Miami defenders with his shifty moves. Michel capped off his breakout game with his first NFL touchdown.

Veteran James White was also a key cog in the Pats’ victory, as he was essential in both the passing and rushing attacks. White had 8 receptions for 68 yards and a receiving touchdown and 8 carries for 44 yards  and a rushing touchdown. 

If the Patriots can have Michel and White constantly dominate on the ground, it will be hard to stop the Brady Bunch!

sony michel v fins w4.jpg
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. TB12 and the receivers bounce back!

Tom Brady had a vintage performance against Miami as he completed 65% of his passes for over 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brady was able to dissect the Dolphins following a shaky first quarter, and constantly led the Patriots down the field to increase their lead. 

The Patriots’ wide receivers also had a strong outing against Miami as they were able to win their individual matchups against the Dolphins’ strong secondary and get open down the field. Phillip Dorsett followed up his catch-less game against Detroit with 4 catches for 55 yards to go along with an acrobatic touchdown at the end of the second quarter.

Josh Gordon also made his debut as a Patriot today, as he was on the field for 18 of the Patriots’ 78 offensive snaps. Gordon had 2 catches for 32 yards (with both catches coming on third down), and he clearly made his presence felt whenever he was on the field. Gordon had a key block on James White’s 22-yard touchdown and also drew a defensive holding penalty. Gordon showed off his growing rapport with Brady and the rest of the offense and it’s not hard to be excited about the potential of Gordon when he’s fully acclimated with the Patriots’ offense.

However, there are still things to be concerned about for the Patriots’ offense. Tom Brady got clobbered throughout the game, and the pressure clearly impacted his decision-making at times, as evidenced by his 2 interceptions. Also, Rob Gronkowski left the game in the third quarter due to a ankle injury, which should be monitored closely leading into Week 5.

dorsett v dolphins w4.jpg
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

3. Don’t count out the defense!

The Patriots’ defense silenced their critics with an absolutely brilliant performance against the Dolphins. It’s not hard to imagine that Bill Belichick ripped apart his defense for their evident lack of speed against the Lions, as they were swarming against Miami. One of my major questions from the preview of this game was if the Patriots would be able to contain Ryan Tannehill, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills or Kenyan Drake, and I think it’s safe to say that the Patriots were able to do so. Tannehill only had 100 passing yards along with an interception and a fumble, Amendola had 2 catches for 21 yards, Stills had 3 catches for 40 yards, and Drake had 3 rushes for 3 yards. The return of Trey Flowers was key for the Patriots, as he helped to revitalize their pass rush. Continuing to play like this will be heavily important for the Pats, as their slate over the next 5-7 weeks will be extremely difficult.

kvn vs fins w4.jpg
(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

What’s next?: The Pats have a short week as they welcome Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (1-3) on Thursday Night Football. 

The Pats welcome the red hot Fins to Foxborough!

It’s almost impossible to understate the importance of the Patriots’ next game, as they host the scorching hot Miami Dolphins (3-0) in Week 4. Coming off of last week’s absolute dud against the Lions, the Pats cannot afford to fall to 1-3 and 3 games off the division lead.

Here are some things to consider entering today’s game.

1. Matching up against Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins’ offense

The Pats’ defense’s struggles over the last two weeks has been heavily documented, as they could not defend against the run or the pass against the Jaguars and Lions, respectively. This week’s matchup against the Dolphins could either get New England’s defense back on track or set them back even further, as they face off against a revitalized Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake, and the rest of Miami’s explosive offense. One of my major takeaways from last week’s game in Detroit, was that the Patriots’ secondary looked very disoriented, which enabled Matthew Stafford to easily dissect them and find his receivers. Bill Belichick and Brian Flores will need to find a way to limit the effectiveness of ex-Patriot Danny Amendola, and Kenny Stills (who has the potential to carve the Patriots down the field), as it will put extra pressure on Tannehill.

Thankfully for the Patriots, injured players Trey Flowers (concussion) and Patrick Chung (concussion) practiced earlier this week and are questionable to play today. The presence of both players would be able to reenergize the stale pass rush and secondary of the Pats. On the other hand, it was saddening to see the Pats put linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on injured reserve, as he had been remarkable over the past few weeks.

tannehill v pats.jpg
(Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI)

2. Can the the Brady Bunch find its rhythm? 

It’s pretty easy to blame the Patriots’ 1-2 record on the defense, but Tom Brady & Co. haven’t really kept up their end of the bargain either, as they have constantly struggled to move the ball down the field. As mentioned in last week’s recap, it’s become increasingly easy to defend the Patriots’ offense, as doubling Rob Gronkowski enables opposing defenses to have great success, with the other Patriot wide receivers being unable to get open. It will be vital for the Patriots to get James White involved early, as he can be a key asset for both the running and passing games. Tom Brady will also need to rebound from his putrid performance from a week ago, as him being successful is vital for the Pats to win.

For those who are wondering when Josh Gordon will make his debut as a Patriot, he is questionable to play today. 

tb v dolphins w4.jpg
(Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 19

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 4 contests (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last Week: 6-9

Jets at Jaguars: Jaguars

Eagles at Titans: Eagles

Texans at ColtsColts

Bills at PackersPackers

Lions at CowboysCowboys

Buccaneers at BearsBears

Bengals at FalconsFalcons

Seahawks at Cardinals: Cardinals

Browns at RaidersBrowns

Saints at GiantsSaints

49ers at ChargersChargers

Ravens at SteelersRavens

Chiefs at Broncos: Chiefs

 

 

 

 

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.

pats v dolphins tb wk14
(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. 

kenyan drake
(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 Pats squish the fish!

The Patriots thoroughly dominated the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, winning their Week 12 contest 35-17. The Pats struck early on in the game, and were able to carry their momentum forward to secure a division win. This victory brings the Patriots to 9-2, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Don’t forget about Gronk!

Over the last few games, Gronk didn’t perform at his usual level of production. He was largely a non-factor during last week’s win over Oakland, where he totaled just around 30 yards. Gronk’s lack of explosive plays made many pundits wonder if #87 was truly vital for New England to be successful. Gronk silenced his doubters with an inspired performance against the hapless Dolphins, recording 5 catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Maybe Gronk was motivated to get some of TB12’s Thanksgiving biscuits…

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(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Defense!

As I’ve mentioned several times before, the Patriots’ defense has rebounded dramatically from the beginning of the season, which has helped lead the team to a seven game winning streak. The New England defense continued its dominant performance yesterday, helping to stifle the Dolphins’ offense. The Pats sacked Matt Moore seven times, and also forced 3 turnovers (2 interceptions and 1 fumble). They were also able to stop the run, limiting Miami to 67 yards off 19 carries. This is the type of performance the Patriots need to build off of, as they approach Week 15’s key matchup against Pittsburgh.

trey flowers vs miami
(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

3. The Pats need to cut down on their small mistakes

Although the Pats played a great game, they did have several key gaffes. In the second quarter, the Patriots had 2 turnovers. First, there was miscommunication on a snap, when the backup center Ted Karras snapped the ball early, leading to a fumble which Miami safety Reshad Jones returned for a touchdown. TB12 also had an interception, when he forced a ball to Danny Amendola, which resulted in Bobby McCain picking the pass off. These mistakes allowed Miami to remain in the game, and need to be cut down on for the Patriots to sustain their winning habits.

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(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)