With a dominating 36-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football in week eight, the New England Patriots have moved to 7-0 on the 2015 season. This game was never really close, with the Patriots leading wire-to-wire. The win gives the Patriots a four game edge over the Dolphins in the AFC East, and gives them a full sweep on the first half of their AFC East slate.
Here are five things we learned from the Patriots' big win:
Patriots crush "surging" Dolphins. After a 1-3 start to the season, the Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin, and promoted Dan Campbell to interim head coach. The initial results were as positive as one could expect, with Miami netting back-to-back blowout wins to move to .500. They were considered the latest threat to New England's AFC East dominance, but were not nearly as competitive as the Jets were last week. The Patriots dominated this one from the start with a quick Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski 47-yard catch and run on the opening drive of the game. The Dolphins would muster just five first half first downs, and the Patriots went into the break with a 19-0 lead. While the Dolphins scored an impressively fast touchdown upon getting the ball to begin the second half, it was all New England from that point on. They dominated in all facets of the game, and the final minutes were even quarterbacked by Jimmy Garoppolo.
Patriots front seven can be absolutely dominant. Tonight, the New England Patriots defense was absolutely dominant. Let's start with the front seven. Every Patriots player seemed to win at the point of attack. Rob Ninkovich played a heck of a game with Jabaal Sheard injured. He tallied a sack, but was constantly generating pressure and was back to his previous form in setting the edge. Chandler Jones picked up another two sacks to add to his league leading total. Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins were dominant at linebacker, yet again, being used effectively as blitzers. Malcom Brown continues to improve, and showed up several times in the run game along with Alan Branch. The front seven is the strength of this defense, and it showed again tonight.
Patriots secondary can be absolutely dominant. The Patriots secondary, despite lacking big name cornerbacks, continues to be excellent. Tonight, they were fantastic again. They forced a few coverage sacks, and were never really burned deep. Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon came up with interceptions. The Dolphins moved the ball through the air in the second half, but aside from the opening drive of the third quarter, only got what the Patriots gave them. Malcolm Butler was fantastic again. Patrick Chung was all over the field and made plays downfield against the pass, tackles in open space, stuffs in the running game, and hits on the safety blitz. Devin McCourty also played a very solid game. We keep waiting for an opposing team to expose the secondary, and it has yet to happen. Maybe it won't.
Tom Brady continues his Thursday night dominance. Another Thursday game, another dominant performance from Tom Brady. He moves to 9-0 on Thursday games in his career. Tonight, he went 26/38 for 356 yards and four touchdown. With games like these on national television. He was terrific and mistake free yet again, and moves to a 20-1 touchdown to interception ratio on the season. Other strong contributors on offense included Dion Lewis (six receptions, 93 yards, and a touchdown), LeGarrette Blount (72 yards on 17 carries), Rob Gronkowski (six receptions for 113 yards), and Julian Edelman (two second half touchdowns). Even Brandon LaFell got going with four grabs after a disastrous game last week. The Patriots did leave a fair amount of points on the board in the first half due to penalties (and one DPI that was not called), but tightened things up in the second half.
Patriots have serious depth issues on offensive line. The Patriots went into this game dressing just six offensive lineman. That included their starters, and interior lineman Ryan Wendell. They finished the night with just five, as right guard Tre Jackson went down with what may be a serious left leg injury. If he misses serious time, the Patriots' line will be on life support. They already are without a reserve tackle until Cannon gets back, and are currently without a reserve interior lineman with Shaq Mason also injured. Overall, the offensive line had an up and down day against the Dolphins' fantastic rush after a good start. They did a good job taking Suh out of the game, but were beat consistently around the edges.