The New England Patriots won their week 12 game against the visiting Miami Dolphins rather decisively. However, despite a final score of 35-17, the team did not play a mistake-free game as self-inflicted errors plagued the Patriots throughout the contest. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some initial winners and losers from yesterday’s game.
Winner: DE Trey Flowers
Before leaving the game with a rib injury, Trey Flowers was the Patriots' most disruptive defender. Despite finishing the contest having played only 35 of 61 snaps, the third-year man registered two sacks and two additional hurries. Flowers also had four tackles – among them one run stop – and forced a fumble. All in all, a dominating performance by a player New England can ill-afford to lose for extended period of time.
Winner: RB Dion Lewis
The Patriots' ground game played its most productive game of the year and Dion Lewis – again serving as the number one back – was a big part of it, leading the group with the first 100-yard rushing game of his career. Overall, Lewis carried the football 15 times for 112 yards and pulled off one big run after the other. He was elusive and explosive all day long and gave Miami's talented defensive front fits whenever he carried the football.
Winner: RB Rex Burkhead
Dion Lewis was not the only Patriots running back to have a big day as Rex Burkhead continues to show his value whenever he is on the field. The offseason acquisition played 28 of 70 snaps and finished the day with 15 touches: Burkhead ran the football 13 times for 50 yards and a touchdown while also catching two passes for three yards and a score.
Loser: Team health
The Patriots entered the game down three offensive starters (on top of the players out for the year) and on the very first series of the game had to add to their list of injuries: Special teams ace Nate Ebner hurt his knee on a fake punt and was quickly declared “out”. Five more players were shaken up throughout the contest as New England's depth was tested all day long.
Winner: Pass rush
In its first 10 games, the Patriots defense registered 17 sacks and was inconsistent when it comes to putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Yesterday's game versus the Dolphins looked different as the team took down quarterback Matt Moore a total of seven times – six of them coming in the second half. Not since week two of the 2015 season did New England's pass rush produce as many sacks in a single game.
Winner: LB Elandon Roberts
Through his first 25 games with the Patriots, Elandon Roberts established himself primarily as a run stopping linebacker. However, with Dont'a Hightower on injured reserve, the 23-year old saw his role grow and he now also has a significant impact against the pass. Yesterday, Roberts played his best game in this area and delivered an all-around performance: He had four tackles and registered the first two sacks of his NFL career.
Losers: Backup OL LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming and Ted Karras
With starters David Andrews and Marcus Cannon out another week, New England once again turned to its depth players to protect Tom Brady. And as opposed to the last two games, the backups were inconsistent – they especially struggled against the pass. A bad snap by center Ted Karras led to a Dolphins touchdown. Right tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming, in the meantime, had a hard time against Cameron Wake, who finished with a sack and four additional quarterback hits.
Winner: TE Rob Gronkowski
Coming out of the bye week, Rob Gronkowski played two quiet games compared to his lofty standards. Against the Dolphins, however, he was back to being the matchup nightmare opposing defenses know and hate. The NFL's best tight end was targeted a team-high eight times, catching five passes for 82 yards. Gronkowski was more involved in the passing game versus Miami and finished the day with two receiving touchdowns.
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
Against the Dolphins, Stephon Gilmore again looked like the shutdown player the team was looking for when it signed him to a big free agency contract as the 27-year old shut down whoever he lined up against. On the day, Gilmore was targeted three times but allowe only one catch for five yards. Furthermore, he also registered an endzone interception at the end of the first half and if not for fellow defensive back Duron Harmon would have had a second to ice the game.
Winner: FB James Develin
Playing 19 offensive snaps, fullback James Develin did not find his way onto the stat sheet. The 29-year old still had an impact on the game: As New England's lead blocker, he helped the team's running game to its most successful day of the season. Excluding kneel downs and Nate Ebner's fake punts, the Patriots ran for 186 yards on 31 carries – with Develin oftentimes leading the charge and opening holes to spring big gains. Another solid performance by arguably the league's top player at his position.