The New England Patriots escaped the Miami Dolphins torrid second half comeback and held on to a 31-24 victory at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are now 2-0 and they’ve done it without QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski, two of the five best players in the league.
The Patriots would take this 2-0 record every single time.
New England left halftime with a 24-3 lead and struggled to put together many consistent drives in the second half; the Dolphins didn’t have that problem.
The Dolphins received the opening kickoff in the second half and drove the ball to the Patriots 34-yard line, before LB Jonathan Freeny forced a fumble, which ED Trey Flowers recovered.
Jacoby Brissett, playing in the place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, immediately went to work and connected with TE Martellus Bennett for a 37-yard gain and then a 15-yard gain. WR Julian Edelman brought the Patriots to the 9 yard line and RB LeGarrette Blount bulldozed his way for a score to give the Patriots a 31-3 lead.
They didn’t score again.
In fact, the Dolphins next three drives results in touchdowns, while the Patriots were forced into two punts and a shanked field goal by K Stephen Gostkowski.
The Patriots secondary fell apart as Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry heated up for 137 yards on 10 receptions and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker picked up 8 receptions for 106 yards. All of Parker’s yards came in the second half.
Whether the Patriots secondary stopped feeling the urgency, or the team was just unable to defend the pass, it was a completely inexcusable performance that head coach Bill Belichick will deeply analyze and, hopefully, fix.
The Patriots pass rush was also quiet, apart from veteran Chris Long who had a great day with 2 quarterback hits, a tackle for loss, a pass defended, and a fumble recovery. New England needs more out of Jabaal Sheard and Trey Flowers in the coming weeks.
The Dolphins started their final drive with 1:40 on the clock from their own 29-yard line and drove to the New England 29-yard line before S Duron Harmon intercepted Tannehill in the end zone to secure the 31-24 win.
It was a game that offered enough positives in the first half that the team was allowed mistakes in the second half- and the second half was poor enough that Belichick will rip the team to shreds to make them better.
Other than Garoppolo, the Patriots had a few stand-out players. Bennett collected 5 receptions for 114 yards, and a touchdown. Blount picked up 123 yards and a touchdown on 29 attempts. The run defense as a whole was excellent, holding the Dolphins running backs to 35 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Julian Edelman had 7 receptions for 76 yards and Chris Hogan added 4 receptions for 59 yards. Danny Amendola picked up 50 yards and 2 touchdowns on 4 catches. These wide receivers kind of disappeared once Brissett was at quarterback so it’s clear they need to work on their rapport this week.
The Patriots are now 2-0 and that’s all they could ask for at this point. They face the Texans on Thursday Night Football at Gillette Stadium, before hosting the Bills in week 4. Hopefully Garoppolo will be available for these games because he’s a real treat to watch perform.