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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 35-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is something of a mixed bag, to be honest; on one hand, most of us have been off since Wednesday afternoon and have spent the last few days eating, sleeping, and tolerating enjoying family. So in theory we should have all been rested and ready to tackle yesterday head-on. But at the same time, four straight days of binge eating in between naps kind of takes it out of you, and I’d be lying if I said that I was mentally prepared for a Patriots game yesterday.

Luckily, New England cruised to a 35-17 victory in a game that wasn’t really even that close. If not for a mistimed snap and a DPI call to set up a field goal, this game would have been a lot more lopsided. Games like this are much easier on the ticker than down-to-the-wire nailbiters, and after the amount of eating I’ve done over the past few days, my heart needs all the help it can get.

  • The only thing I was really concerned about regarding yesterday’s game was how the Patriots would respond against an inferior team after a lengthy road trip and Thanksgiving week altering the schedule. And it would appear that I was right in worrying at first -holy Tebow did the Patriots come out of this one flat. Luckily, Patriots legend Nate Ebner put the team on his back and completely took over the game.
  • That said - I would have rather that fake punt run get stuffed for no gain than lose Ebner for the year. He leads the team in special teams tackles and plays the crucial protector role on punts. No Ebner and no Slater could, in all honestly, be the pair of injuries this team can’t overcome.
  • After that fake punt, though, this game was basically over. The Patriots had four more plays of 13, 39, 5, and 2 yards for the score, which they followed up with a nine play, 88 yard drive after forcing a three and out from Miami. After that, it was just a matter of imposing their will.
  • Who is more elusive - Tom Brady or Dion Lewis? No, I haven’t started in on the egg nog yet, this is a serious question here. They are two very different kinds of elusive, but the way Tommy B is able to make four linemen miss with a shuffle step and a shoulder dip is - in my opinion - just as impressive as Lewis breaking ankles left and right.
  • Speaking of broken ankles - Dion Lewis has done more than enough to earn his place as the lead back for the Patriots. he had 112 yards on 15 carries, good enough of a 7.5 YPC average. I do worry about him taking a lot of hit and wearing down as the weather gets colder and getting hit hurts more, which is why I wish Mike Gillislee could work himself out of whatever doghouse he’s in...but what can you do.
  • This is the holiday season, which means peace on Earth, goodwill toward men, and making the extra effort to spread joy and kindness. And it is with this in mind that I bring up everyone’s favorite color man, Dan Fouts.
  • Mr. Fouts is one of the best there is at ensuring that anyone, no matter how nonexistent their football knowledge is, will be able feel included in the announcing process. By giving lines like, “when you run the playaction, you’re faking the run,” “if you look at Rex Burkhead here, he clearly catches the ball and lands in the endzone. That’s going to be a touchdown,” and “Tom Brady saw Philip Dorsett wide open, so he’s just going to throw it to him and allow him to make the catch,” even the most amateur of football fans will be able to nod their head in agreement.
  • By calling for Brian Hoyer midway through the third quarter, with the Patriots only up by 11 points and plenty of football left to play, shows Mr. Fouts’s desire to ensure that everyone gets to live up to their expectations and chase their dreams.
  • By treating a 12 yard completion to Julius Thomas with less than two minutes left in the game with the score 35-17 as the beginning of an epic Dolphins comeback, Mr. Fouts is reminding us all that no game is truly over until the final whistle blows.
  • This is the best kind of game, in a lot of ways, in that they won, they won big, everything worked, and at the same time nothing really worked. Tommy B took a ton of hits. A botched snap resulted in a defensive TD. Brady threw a bad pick. Amend;ola almost muffed a punt. New England had trouble with yards after contact. Jarvis Landry caught almost every pass thrown his way. A 4th and 1 conversion fell short, and Miami drove right down for the score. But they rushed incredibly well. Brady connected with eight different receivers. The Patriots forced two picks and a fumble They were perfect on TDs in the red zone. They converted on third and long. They secured their 17th straight winning season. Of course, Belichick won’t be focusing on a single thing in the second half of that note - but that’s why we love him.
  • We should take a minute to appreciate that whole 17th straight winning season thing. It’s so, so easy to take this team for granted, to nitpick every little thing that goes wrong, to act like the sky is falling every time there’s a blown coverage. But that’s what makes it so special. The Patriots are so damn good that they are held to a completely different standard by absolutely everyone, from the NFL front office to the analysts to the fans. They are so dominant, so consistent, that talk radio and sports shows are forced to make up hypothetical scenarios and debate them in order to manufacture storylines.
  • And if you ever do find yourself starting to take these golden years for granted: you know which other team had 17 straight winning seasons? The Cleveland Browns. Take a minute to allow that to sink in.
  • New England dialed up quite a few blitzes yesterday, from all over the field. Elandon Roberts came in on an A-Gap delay to harness his inner Dont’a Hightower. Jonathan Jones came in off the corder for a sack. Trey Flowers collapsed the edge and got two. Even Bills practice squad callup Eric Lee got in on the action. When you have a multi-score lead, it’s a lot easier to dial up the pass rush. Of course, it helps when you’re facing a horrendous O-line.
  • I might have already done this - but in case I haven’t, I’d like to take this opportunity to admit that I was wrong about Stephon Gilmore. 100% wrong. He has morphed into exactly the cornerback Belichick brought him in to be. His pick in the end zone was a game changer, and the players he covers are relative nonfactors. Whatever kinks he needed to work out to pick up this scheme, he has worked them out.
  • I wonder what Brandin Cooks is staring at every time he makes a big play and looks downfield.
  • I’d ask how Patriots receivers got so wide open on crossing routes yesterday...but to answer that question, all I’d have to do is watch any Patriots game from this past September.
  • I’m honestly not even that mad about Jarvis Landry. In years past, his day - eight catches on nine targets for 70 yards, including a number of first downs - would have had me ranting like a lunatic. But he has been a thorn in New England’s side since he came into the league and is simply a member of the team of players who are going to put up big numbers against the Patriots.
  • But what will get me ranting like a lunatic - the complete nonsense that is Defensive Pass Interference and the way it is called in the NFL. Miami, facing a 2nd and 8 at the New England 44, dipped into the bag of tricks to attempt a flea flicker to Kenny Stills. Matt Moore lobbed the pass, which got caught in the wind and started to drop early. Stills, seeing that the pass was underthrown, stopped short to try and come back to it, Butler collided with him, and they both went down in a heap. 34 yard penalty, 1st and goal at the 10. That play is the NFL equivalent of a driver who slams on the brakes, knowing full well he’s going to get rear ended so he can sue.
  • But plays like that DPI that set up Miami’s first offensive points of the day is the reason why there needs to be two different kinds of pass interference penalties. I’m all for the spot foul if the interference is blatant and deliberately stops a receiver from making a play, but if there are two guys jockeying for the ball and the wind moves it around and it just kind of becomes a tangle of bodies, let’s just do 10-15 yards and an automatic first down. DPI can be an absolute game changer, and it’s just too subjective a penalty right now.
  • Too many times the Patriots have runners dead to rights in the backfield, and either get juked to the outside or bounce off the tackle and go for extra yards. I was hoping that the return of Malcom Brown would help there, but yesterday was more of the same. I’m starting to get very, very nervous thinking about what Le’Veon Bell is going to do after contact.
  • Shaq Mason, man. You never year a word about him, which is the highest compliment you can pay an offensive lineman. He might be the best pull guard in the NFL right now.
  • I defy you to name a single sports event more moronic than throwing a punch at a guy who is wearing a football helmet. Bobby McCain, Miami’s nickel corner who jumpoed the Amendola route to pick off Tommy B, threw a punch at Amendola on a Dion Lewis run to draw the Unsportsmanlike Conduct flag, an ejection, and likely a hefty fine as well. I get that your emotions can get the best of you sometimes...but if you’re going to throw a punch, maybe aim for the body? The leg? Someplace that isn’t protected by a freaking helmet? I mean give me your absolute best case scenario there. You punch so hard that you knock the guy out?
  • What’s great about that penalty is that it led to what is hands down the best Gronk spike of the year.
  • When the Patriots went up by 18 in the 3rd quarter, Miami had to more or less abandon the running game, which allowed the Patriots to collapse the edge more on the pass rush and cede the shallower lanes in order to force the long drives. Matt Moore isn’t the kind of QB who can do that.
  • I have absolutely no idea what happened on the Ryan Allen punt that took about five minutes to execute and netted a whopping 19 total yards. The play clock completely reset, players were running round like idiots...New England was just waiting to draw the Delay of Game Penalty so Allen could have a few extra yards. Poor reffing job overall yesterday.
  • Maybe everyone was just so surprised to see the New England punter actually out there, they forgot what they were doing for a little while.
  • When the Dolphins scored to make it an 11 point game and the Patriots took about six seconds off the clock going three and out, Id be lying if I said I didn’t start to get nervous.
  • Instead of listing everyone who got hurt yesterday, it would be a lot easier to list the guys that made it out unscathed.
  • I couldn’t get enough of the sideline cuts to Jay Cutler yesterday. He looked like the guy you sit down next to at the counter at some lonely truck stop diner, and as much as you don’t want to talk to him he starts up a conversation with you. And then, before you know it you’re both on the run from some very large men who burst into the diner, see the two of you sitting together, and shoot the place up.
  • Duron Harmon has to be the NFL’s all-time leader in game-ending picks. You could almost see him wrestling that ball away from Gilmore, saying, “no, Stephon. This is MY time to shine.” Whatever works, I say.

Make no mistake; the Buffalo Bills are going to give the Patriots all that they can handle on Sunday. These next three weeks are more or less going to decide the conference, so no time to dwell on anything.