It did not take Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase long to address one of the major issues for his team during its 38-7 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots. “They out-physicaled us,” Gase said as part of the first answer during his postgame press conference. The Patriots did indeed impose their physical will on their hapless opponent and for 60 minutes dominated the game in almost every fashion.
The clearest manifestation of this came in the running game. After New England averaged only 97.7 yards on the ground through its first three games, it amassed 175 against Miami. Led by the two-headed attack of Sony Michel and James White, the team was therefore able to control the clock and get into an early offensive rhythm. The two backs would not have been able to be this productive without the big guys up front, though.
Against a talented Dolphins defense, the Patriots’ blockers had a very good outing. Not only did they keep quarterback Tom Brady relatively clean – he was not sacked once all game –, they also paved the way for first-round rookie Michel’s first 100-yard game and the best regular season rushing performance of White’s career (only once, during last year’s Super Bowl, did he rush for more yards than yesterday’s 44 yards).
Likewise, the team’s defense also was able to shut down Miami’s rushing attack for most of the day. After giving up an abysmal 143.3 yards per game from week one through three, the Patriots limited the Dolphins to a mere 56 yards on the ground. Part of this had to do with the team being able to get off blocks more effectively and simply out-muscling the Dolphins up front – something that came surprising for Adam Gase.
“We really didn’t anticipate getting out-physicaled like the way we did,” Miami’s head coach told reporters after the game. Gase also mentioned that this was not just a problem for his team in the running game: “We had been good all year; the first three games, as far up front and our run game. [...] This game, we just couldn’t get anything going. We were getting pushed back, a lot of pressure on Ryan [Tannehill] even though they weren’t pressuring with blitzes.”
“So when you are getting pressured on three, four-man rushes that’s going to be an issue,” continued Gase focusing on his team’s offensive attack. “And that’s really what happened: we could not get anything going on offense and then it just kind of trickles down to the defense because now they’re on the field and we had a couple of chances to get off and we had some penalties and it just affects everybody.”
For the Patriots, this was a big step forward: New England looked emotionally drained during its back-to-back losses against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions the last two weeks. With its collective back against the proverbial wall, however, the team rose up to the challenge and looked noticeably more present and emotional on the field – and was thus able to physically challenge the previously unbeaten Dolphins.
“I didn’t see this coming,” said Gase of the Patriots’ new-found physicality paving the way for a blowout win. “I didn’t think that we would get out-physicaled. That surprised me.”