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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

My father was born and raised in England. He didn't come over to the States until after he finished up college in order to attend Harvard Business School (and I'll thank all of you not to point out just how far this particular apple fell from the tree, thankyouverymuch), and he has been here ever since. Having a British father has a lot of perks at the end of the day; I'm eligible for a UK passport, I can appreciate the other kind of football, I can stomach even the most disgusting of foods, and my pasty, pale, freckly skin is a huge hit with the ladies.

But perhaps more than anything else, having a British father means that I was more or less raised on Monty Python. If British humor is considered an acquired taste, then Monty Python is, to me, the filet mignon of comedy. I just couldn't get enough of it as a kid, and I still love it now. I may be a weak, overweight, socially maladjusted nincompoop, but that's one area where Ma and Pa Shane did right by yours truly.

And I couldn't help but think of Monty Python this past weekend as the Patriots held on to defeat a surging Dolphins team on the back of an early lead and a churning rushing attack; or more specifically, their seminal work Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you've seen the movie, you already know what I'm going bring up right now, aren't you: The Black Knight. I won't get into too much detail here, especially when you can just watch the hilarious scene for yourself, but that's exactly what I thought as players continued to go down and this team continued to press on. I referenced Holy Grail back in 2013 as this team was limping into another AFC Championship Game, and it rings just as true now; cut off the arms, the Patriots will kick you in the pants. Cut off the legs, they'll come at you with their teeth. As long as they still have a head, they're never going to stop fighting. Against a surging Dolphins team with a rookie QB and a bunch of newbie/undrafted linemen and missing their best offensive weapons, the Patriots managed to hold on to a 31-24 win that saw a dominant first half, a shaky second, and a commanding early lead on the AFC East.

I'm just glad that the Patriots can continue to uphold the integrity of the league. We all know how important that is.

  • There was just something about this game that didn't sit right with me, starting on about Wednesday of this week. At first I just figured it was the pita I had for lunch, but it kept up all the way through the week and, to be honest, through the entire game itself. I allowed myself to calm down a bit towards the end of the first half, but then...well, we all know, and I'll get to that in a minute. But you have to wonder if these first two weeks of the season are going to reflect the next 14 games, where one team is clinging to a one score lead and it comes down to the final play. If so, allow me to share a hot stock tip with you all.
  • That the Dolphins won the toss and deferred didn't do much to calm the nerves.The first Patriots drive of every game is, to me, very much like sitting in class waiting for the teacher to pass the final exam out, knowing full well that how hard the first question is is likely going to dictate whether or not I'll be attending summer school. I can't believe that I may not see a Patriots 1PM game where they defer until the second half until Week 4. I guess I was wrong about Belichick's coin toss strategy.
  • Not a horrible first drive, though. Jimmy G went 5-5 for 64 yards and a touchdown, stats which don't really show what a command he had over the offense.
  • I could - and should - say that about almost every drive he has engineered so far. It was harder to hear him last week in Arizona, but in front of a quieter home crowd you could hear him recognizing the Mike, generating alerts, and adjusting the playcalls accordingly.
  • For future reference: "Recognizing the Mike" would make for a good ad campaign, perhaps for Mike's Hard Lemonade, that puts a series of famous Mikes - Tyson, Ditka, Bolton - in a linebacker uniform and causes some confusion as the rest of the offense disagrees with the quarterback trying to call the play. After Tyson comes in on a delayed blitz and knocks the QBs head off, the voiceover guy can come in and say "always recognize the Mike."
  • Damn, that's good. I'm in the wrong profession. 
  • There are so many plays I could highlight about this game (and by "this game, I mean the first half, because that's pretty much what it was) offensively that were fantastic to watch. Julian Edelman's block that Bennett screen. Julian Edelman's block on pretty much every other play. Jimmy G's first, quite Brady-esque TD pass in which he saw the pressure, stepped up just enough to avoid it, stayed poised as contact came, and delivered the strike to Amendola.The versatility of this offense is remarkable.
  • But I think my favorite play of the game was a meaningless 1st and 10 on a drive late in the first quarter in which the Patriots ended up driving through the end of the first and Amendola scored his 2nd TD of the day early in the 2nd. Miami showed a soft zone, so Julian Edelman broke off his route and sat in it the cushion between the linebacker and cornerback. Jimmy G hit him for nine yards. What was so great about it is that Garoppolo started the throw before Edelman stopped in the zone, and the ball was right there. Good communication and identical vision from quarterback and receiver.
  • I'd like to know what changed between the first half and the second defensively, as the first two quarters saw the line get phenomenal push and collapse the pocket quickly. I did notice that they rushed fewer numbers in the second half, but I still don't know if that would account for how different these two halves were. It honestly might have been a morale thing. It's tough to shake off a QB injury, especially when it's a kid that nobody gave too much of a chance to, so hopefully they'll be able to use the injury as a rallying cry of sorts.
  • Seriously- what a kick in the teeth that Garoppolo shoulder injury is. It breaks your heart in so many ways to see such potential and promise get short-circuited by an injury like that. Not even for this game, either; Garoppolo was well on his way to playing himself into financial security for himself and his family for the rest of his life. Luckily, all signs point to the injury not being too serious, so we may see him back before too long...but you have to wonder if it's going to have any mental effect on him at all. I guess time will tell.
  • Live look at Roger Goodell watching Jimmy Garoppolo take a knee after a huge Kiko Alonzo hit.
  • I learned yesterday that Devin Hester is still in the NFL. Who knew?
  • Jimmy Garoppolo threw an incompletion intended for James White. Based on how the first quarter of this game went, I thought I should mark that down.
  • Ryan Tannehill is one of the more underrated QBs in the NFL in terms of
  • I was going to say "running ability" to close out that last note, but as I was typing he tried to sneak it on 3rd and short and got absolutely stuffed. So...yeah. The defense did a great job of limiting that yesterday. Next step; ensuring he doesn't throw for a billion yards in the second half.
  • New rule proposal: no holding allowed on busted plays. I'll even take it a step further: no rules at all on busted plays. Once a QB starts scrambling and the receivers start improvising, I say anything goes! How much fun would that be?
  • Amendola's 2nd TD was one of those plays that you can't really appreciate until you watch it a whole bunch of times (so go ahead and do that here). Garoppolo audibled James White out wide left in order to draw the safety over and open up the middle. When the linebackers cheated up into the gaps and the Dophins showed blitz, Garoppolo started running right and back immediately after receiving the snap, allowing Amendola to run a quick out and in for the easy score. As has been the case all year thus far, phenomenal blocking by Martellus Bennett kept the right side of the line clean and ensured a clear passing lane. Just a great team effort and excellent vision for Jimmy G.
  • I can't help but appreciate the irony of the fact that the Patriots, courtesy of Roger Goodell, are likely going to get far more in draft stock than they lost courtesy of an ignorance of the Ideal Gas Law.
  • I'm very glad that Trent Green made a very specific point, for a solid minute, that he doesn't want to bring up any conspiracy theories about the Miami headsets not working and how teams in the past have come to Gillette and the headsets didn't work and there is all kind of shady stuff going on. Very glad he decided not to mention any of that.
  • I'm not one to criticize an injured man, and overall Jimmy G was phenomenal. But I will say that there were a small handful of times where I feel like Garoppolo should have taken off and used his legs to pick up some yards. I do like that I'm writing that, as it shows he's always looking to throw first, run second, but he does represent a running threat. The first New England punt of the day came off a missed deep connection to James White were he had an open running lane.
  • Yes...I'm aware that the above complaint is the NFL equivalent of complaining that the wifi in the first class cabin of my airplane doesn't stream my movie fast enough. #FirstWorldPatriotsProblems
  • This is considered a make or break year for Ryan Tannehill, right? If so, what do you make of yesterday's game?
  • It would appear that the Wes Welker/Tom Brady connection is stronger than it has ever been.
  • Credit to Wes for braving the untamed wilds that is the Gillette Stadium Parking Lot all by his lonesome. Much stronger men have never returned.
  • Illegal Hands to the Face on the D still remains the worst penalty on the planet and is right up there with DPI as a completely subjective call that seems all but unavoidable at times, yet has the potential to entirely alter the complexion of a game.
  • Hitting a Defenseless Receiver is up there too. What the hell are defenders supposed to do when trying to tackle a shifty receiver who likes to get low and drop his helmet at the moment of contact?
  • Julian Edelman couldn't rein in a pass late in the 2nd quarter. I guess he was bound for an incompletion at some point.
  • These fumbles are going to be an issue down the road. I do like the strategy of causing another fumble and getting the ball back two plays later, but you don't want to bank on these things.
  • What a day for the Patriots defense. Miami didn't run a play in the New England side of the field until the two minute warning, and it resulted in a pick. But once they finally did cross the 50 yard line, they remembered how great it was over there and decided to set up shop.
  • Seriously -I don't think I've ever seen a bigger tale of two halves than this game. When Jimmy G went down, everything in the stadium changed. The crowd, which was much needed for the second half, was Foxboroly silent. Tannehill had time to throw and was accurate in his reads. Receivers started making circus catches. Momentum swung in the momentum swingiest of ways. New England had built up enough of a lead to hold on...but I'm glad I'm not going to be in the film room today when Belichick tees off on everyone.
  • I may as well talk about Jacoby Brissett here, as it's likely we'll be seeing him at least one more time this year. Overall, he did exactly what he was asked to do and did it well. As if Garoppolo didn't have big enough shoes to fill.
  • That said, the angry, bitter, tinfoil hat wearing "Tom Brady is a system QB!" truthers must be in a bit of a mental pretzel today. Brady went down, and Garoppolo looked great (see! ANYBODY can win in that system! Brady sucks!). But then Garoppolo went down, and Brisset only completed six passes for 92 yards, with most of those yards coming on a Martellus Bennett screen. New England won the game by hanging on to to huge lead and leaning on the running game. So...success? I mean it was a win, I guess, but by no means did Brissett light it up. I guess the best way to spin this in order to give Brady zero credit is say "see! Even with a rookie Belichick can still generate wins!"
  • Let the record show that, if the Patriots were 0-2 right now, those exact same people would be talking about how Belichick is nothing without Brady and how he's an overrated coach whose only achievement is forever tarnishing his legacy by disgracing the game with his cheating ways. I've said it before and I'll say it again: being a Patriots fan is the best.
  • On Jacoby Brissett's first official NFL completion, a playaction pass to Bennett for 37 yard, you could see actually the wheels turning as he stood back in the pocket: "holy jeez he's open. OK, Jacoby, you know what to do. Don't mess this u--oh crap throw it!"
  • I'd also like to note that Brissett, if he plays on Thursday, will be the first black QB ever to start for the Patriots. Eventually we'll be at a place where noting something like that will get you a whole bunch of funny "who cares?" looks, but we aren't quite there yet. So rock on, Jacoby.
  • Game ball goes to Josh McDaniels today. His playbook went from infinity with Brady to about 50 pages with Garoppolo to about six plays with Brissett, and he still got it done.
  • The other game ball has to go to Blount, though. His runs on the final NE drive were exactly what you want out of him, when the Dolphins knew the Patriots were going to run it and couldn't do a damn thing about it. You might recall doing something similar a few years ago with Stevan Ridley, which caused a Fins player to call out the Patriots for running the same play over and over. When you know the run is coming but can't do anything about it, your team's gots some problems.
  • I guess the Patriots decided two things after Jimmy G went out: keep it as simple as possible, and let Jarvis Landry do anything he wants.
  • Kind of a mixed bag for Logan Ryan today. Had some rough penalties, but there were also a few throws where he had perfect coverage and the receiver just made a great catch. Other teams are going to make plays on this defense.
  • Also a rough day for my boy Joe Thuney. A few huge holding penalties to negate first downs when you're at a point when first downs are crucial.
  • I can recall some games in my career as a fan that seemed to have gone on forever. But I feel comfortable saying that yesterday's second half was the single longest second half of my life. The game just couldn't end fast enough.
  • Live look at Roger Goodell after Duron Harmon iced the game.

What did we all say when the season first started? If the Patriots can go 2-2 over the first four weeks, they'll be in good shape for Brady's return. Well unless my math is horribly off - not out of the realm of possibility - the absolute worst they can finish before Tommy B is back under center is 2-2. So goal achieved, with the chance to add more wins to the column. A rookie QB on a short week is a tall order against a stout Texans defense, but never count this team out.

2-0 is 2-0 is 2-0. Yikes no thanks kill me now.