After two ugly losses, the New England Patriots were able to bounce back with a dominant 38-7 victory over the visiting and previously undefeated Miami Dolphins. While the team had some miscues along the way, it was an encouraging performance showing what the squad is capable of. With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the standouts from Sunday.
Winner: RB Sony Michel
After two up-and-down performances to start his NFL career, Sony Michel was dominant against a usually stout Miami defense – maneuvering through it using some excellent, burst vision and patience. Overall, the first-round rookie finished the day with 25 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown and played a key role in the Patriots establishing an early rhythm and controlling the tempo of the game all day long.
Winner: RB James White
It was business as usual for James White on Sunday. Not only did the 26-year old lead the Patriots offense with eight receptions for 68 yards, he also had eight carries for 44 yards. Furthermore, he scored a touchdown each on the ground and through the air. In short: it was a vintage performance by the former fourth-round draft pick, who becomes even more important than he already is with Rex Burkhead on injured reserve.
Winner: The offensive and defensive lines
New England finished with 175 rushing yards not only because of the running backs, but also because of the guys up front who at times dominated Miami in the ground game. The offensive line – honorable mentions to fullback James Develin and the tight ends – had an impressive game. The same has to be said for the Patriots’ defensive line: the unit looked vulnerable through three weeks but really stepped up its game on Sunday, limiting the Dolphins to just 56 rushing yards.
Winner: LB Dont’a Hightower
In his first three games back from injured reserve, Dont’a Hightower did not look like his usual self: he was slow and not the physical and emotional leader he normally is for the Patriots’ defense. On Sunday, however, he was a different player. The on-field signal caller, who finished the day with two tackles, was quick to the football and instrumental in setting the tone and tempo.
Loser: WR Chris Hogan
Chris Hogan did not necessarily have a bad outing against the Dolphins. However, the 29-year old had a quiet game compared to the Patriots’ other offensive skill position players. He was targeted just once all day long – a pass which he caught for a 25-yard gain – and again failed to consistently create separation. Maybe this will change once Julian Edelman is back to attract attention but it would not be a surprise to see Hogan become more of a package-based player moving forward.
Winner: The rest of the wide receivers
Josh Gordon had a rather active debut for the Patriots, Phillip Dorsett made some big plays – none bigger than his spectacular touchdown catch –, Cordarrelle Patterson was productive as a wideout, running back and decoy. In short: New England’s wide receivers delivered an overall encouraging performance against the Dolphins. What also stood out was the group’s productivity when it came to run blocking. At least yesterday, they were on the right track.
Winner: CBs Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson
The Dolphins have an explosive group of wide receivers but the Patriots’ defensive backs held their ground. While this was expected of number one Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson surprised with their competitiveness against talented opponents: Jones had eight tackles and a pass deflection, Jackson registered an interception and a pass breakup. The two youngsters are stating their cases for bigger defensive roles.
Winner: CB Cyrus Jones
Appearing in only his second game since 2016, Cyrus Jones was predominately used as a punt returner – and he looked very good in the role. Averaging 9.0 yards per runback (five returns for 45 yards), the Alabama product showed some of the skills that made him an electric returnman in college. Most importantly: Jones looked comfortable fielding kicks, something that has not been the case earlier in his career.