It has felt like forever since the New England Patriots played a game, but they were back in Gillette, granted without fans, on Sunday. The team was also able to walk out of there with a win. In this article, I’m going to break down a few things that I saw during that 21-11 victory.
First up is the offense. With Tom Brady leaving and Cam Newton coming in, there were tons of questions about what the Patriots’ offense would look like this season. It had a slow start, but really turned it on in the second half. Newton only attempted 19 passes, but the offense ran straight through him.
The threat of Newton running, and his ability to hold the ball for what felt like forever on RPO concepts really made it difficult on the Miami Dolphins defense. The short yardage running was dominant, and seeing QB sweeps near the goal line was pretty cool. There’s a lot of potential to look forward to, but the Patriots attempted almost nothing down the field. It’s going to be tough to be a truly competitive team if you can’t throw the ball down the field.
While Newton stole most of the headlines, unsurprisingly, he was not the only player on either side of the ball to show promise in Week 1.
Julian Edelman, for example, looked pretty good, outside of a bad drop. N’Keal Harry played hard and made some tough catches, but his fumble while trying to stretch to the goal line was a momentum killer, and a probable 15-point swing. He’ll be getting a talking to after that play, since it was working toward blowout range, and, following the fumble and subsequent Dolphins touchdown the Patriots were only up by only three. On the bright side, J.J. Taylor got some touches and looked explosive with the ball in his hands. He’s already trending towards fan favorite status. Also, for all the Sony Michel hate out there, he ran really hard, and had a pretty good game, including a goal-line touchdown.
On the defensive side, Stephon Gilmore and the secondary played extremely well, and, while they got hit in the run game a bit, the front seven played well too. The linebackers are severely depleted, but they performed nevertheless. Adrian Phillips also stood out, leading the team with nine tackles, and nabbing a nice interception against Ryan Fitzpatrick in the late first half.
Another guy who stepped up was Joejuan Williams: Mike Gesicki isn’t exactly George Kittle, but he did a great job covering him today, and was there when J.C. Jackson picked Fitzpatrick off in the end zone to seal the win. If the former second-round pick continues his strong play, he could become a big piece for the New England defense this year.
Feel-good-story Derek Rivers had the only sack of the day, but Chase Winovich also played extremely well — he was getting after the quarterback for a few pressures, and also showed up in the run game as well.
It should also be pointed out that the Dolphins are becoming an extremely well-coached football team. They had multiple plays — the play where the gunner pushed Jackson into Damiere Byrd to force a muffed punt, trying to grab the punt that the Patriots had hit but not downed, and a great play on the Edelman drop to hit the ball just as he was trying to secure the catch. Brian Flores is a great coach, and it’s clear that the Dolphins know the rules extremely well, and play some technically sound football.
Overall, it’s always good to get a Week 1 victory. 1-0 feels a lot better than 0-1. So, while there are a ton of questions moving forward, there were some very encouraging signs of possible things to come. It’s going to be a fun season, and the Patriots are already in for a big test next weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. But let’s enjoy this win over Miami for a few days before we worry about that...
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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