The New England Patriots offense and defense both struggled against the Miami Dolphins and it seemed as if the team was playing two entirely different games, separated by halftime. There were some clear points of issue for the Patriots, namely their run defense and their offensive playcalling, that led to their demise.
On defense, the Patriots played a 3-4 front which didn't make too much sense because they don't have players on the roster to fit a 3-4 front. Instead, the team tried to play the 260 pounds Chandler Jones at the 4- and 5-tech position, opposite from the 6'1 Joe Vellano. One lacks the bulk, the other lacks the range.
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia thought that the alignment made sense.
"I think the good thing is you know we're going to try to find the best position for our guys and put them in the position that they can handle and we feel comfortable that they can get the job done," Patricia said. "We're certainly trying to put them in the right position to help the entire structure of the defense to try, like I said, to combat what the offense is doing."
Patricia thought that putting Jones and Vellano in that position was a good idea? He made it seem like the decision was organic, subject to change according to how the opposing offense is playing. That begs the question as to why they didn't adapt when the Dolphins were gashing the defensive line left-and-right.
On offense, coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked by CSN's Tom Curran about why receiver Julian Edelman became a non-factor in the second half, after posting 6 receptions for 95 yards in the first. Turns out, the defense was dictating for the offense.
"Any time a player has a productive stretch – I’d say maybe a very productive stretch in a game – certainly there are elements on the other side that they may change to force the ball to go to other places," said McDaniels. "So, I think sometimes where the ball needs to go based on the plays that are being called and the routes that are being run forces the ball to go some other places...We try to do the best thing based on what the defense does."
It seems as if both Patricia and McDaniels were echoing the same game plan: react to what the opposing defense is providing. This is a perfectly fine strategy; it would be hubristic to imply that both the offense and defense had the control to dictate the flow of the entire game.
The issue comes with the implementation. Patricia thought that Jones' flexibilty would help against the Dolphins, but the coordinator's rigidity prevented the defensive game plan from evolving as the initial strategy crumbled.
On offense, the team moved away from the quick throws and inside zone runs to more outside zone runs, and deeper throws. For a team with a weak offensive line, forcing the plays to extend seems like a poor decision. It was a negative adjustment by the offense to react to the Dolphins second half defense.
The coaches hold a lot of the blame for what happened on Sunday. Let's hope they continue to grow alongside the youth on offense and defense and develop as the season continues.