The scene at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon was a familiar one. And a good one.
And it was exactly what the New England Patriots needed.
The final score from Foxborough: Patriots 38, Dolphins 7.
When I tackled my Week 4 picks before the weekend, I wrote about how the Patriots were in a must-win situation. Following a disappointing 1-2 start to the 2018 season, which included hideous back-to-back defeats at Jacksonville and Detroit, the Pats found themselves trailing the Miami Dolphins by two games in the AFC East.
Coincidentally, those two teams were set to clash for their annual meeting in Foxborough. A win for the Dolphins would’ve moved them to a mind-blowing 4-0 start and given them a very firm grip on first place in the division. And it would’ve moved the Patriots to 1-3; the kind of start that hasn’t been common in New England for nearly two decades.
Plain and simple, the Patriots couldn’t afford to lose to the Dolphins at home this weekend — something that hasn’t happened since 2008. And the Patriots didn’t disappoint. In fact, they looked exactly like the big, bad Pats that we’re used to seeing.
From beginning to end, there wasn’t really a doubt. It was all Patriots, all game long. It was never even really close.
Of course, given how the Pats had played in the last two games, I worried about them losing for a third straight week. But in reality, I never really needed to worry about this game. Losing to the Dolphins at home just isn’t something the Patriots do anymore (as mentioned earlier, the last time it happened, Matt Cassel was playing QB).
And the Dolphins really aren’t that good of a team, despite the fact that they were 3-0 coming into the game. They overachieved against subpar competition in their first three games. It was only a matter of time before they were exposed.
For the Patriots, on the other hand, their 1-2 record coming into the game summed up this team pretty well. They were hurting pretty bad. This banged up defense was essentially a no-show in Detroit. Tom Brady had very few offensive weapons to work with, other than Rob Gronkowski (who isn’t being targeted near as much as he should be). There were holes all over this team.
But every single issue that had been an issue in the previous two games was a non-issue on Sunday. Brady was absolutely fantastic: he threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns (we’ll forget about the two picks for right now). Rookie Sony Michel picked up his first career touchdown with 112 rushing yards. James White, Philip Dorsett, and Cordarelle Patterson all made some strides, each catching a touchdown pass.
And the newbie Josh Gordon got his foot in the door a little bit with Brady and the offense. Hopefully we’ll see more from him in the coming weeks.
And the best news of all: we’re four games into the season, which means Julian Edelman’s suspension is finally lifted. He’ll be on the field at Gillette this coming Thursday night to face the Colts. His return to action has been very long overdue, and his presence should help push this offense to the next level.
Even though the Pats played a near-perfect game on Sunday against Miami, it doesn’t mean all of their problems are fixed. They will face some difficult tests in the next few weeks, as the offense-heavy Kansas City Chiefs come to town soon, and then the Pats travel to the Windy City to face the defense-heavy Chicago Bears. Those won’t be easy games to win, and both of those teams will exploit any imperfections the Patriots have.
But that’s not to take away from what happened this Sunday. The Patriots proved that they aren’t dead. They can reclaim first place in the AFC East as soon as next week, with a win and a Miami loss. They proved that, until someone takes them down in the playoffs, they are still the team to beat in the AFC.
One more thing: I remember texting my buddy for the game, telling him that I really thought the Pats were going to play a good game. He responded by saying, “I think they will win, only because they always do when they are backed into a corner.”
He was right. There might be some tough defeats remaining on the schedule for the Pats, but there was no way they were going to lose this home game to the Dolphins.