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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 17-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Happy Overraction Monday, everyone!

Depending on your team allegiance, the first Monday after Week 1 of the NFL season either represents the definitive beginning of a deep playoff run or time to turn the page and start thinking about the draft, because the season is already over. It’s absolutely absurd the amount of weight we put into these ultimately unimportant games, but I get it; it’s always a long, long offseason, so when there’s football that actually counts on TV, it’s easy to just dive in headfirst.

And since the Patriots are now 0-1 and the season is over, may as well start thinking about next year. OR, maybe not. Maybe - just maybe - they’ll be able to turn things around and find a way to rebound. Who knows.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good on the heels of a Patriots loss, to be honest. You obviously want to open up the season with a win, especially a win at home against a divisional opponent. But this team is already light years ahead of where I thought they’d be in September and their ceiling may ultimately be higher than I initially predicted.
  • Was it perfect? Of course not. But can you pin this loss on a rookie QB making his first start? Not even a little bit. And that’s all I can ask for right now.
  • What I was most impressed with was how quickly the offensive playbook opened up. The way New England played the first half was, to be honest, more or less what I thought we’d see out of them all month - runs, runs, more runs, and a few dump offs to the tight ends. But by the time the 2nd half came Mac Jones was lining up in empty sets and identifying the coverage schemes on the fly. His only boneheaded play came on the very first drive of the game where he tried to dump the ball off to Smith on a backwards pass that eerily resembled that time in 2nd grade when I brought a toad into school from recess outside, and when I saw a teacher coming I gave it Greg Fitzsimmons and then ran away. But he took few hits, made no awful decisions, and seemed poised and collected when he very easily could not have been.
  • And to Greg Fitzsimmons, not sure if you’re reading this, or what became of you. But if you are...sorry about that. That was a dick move.
  • That one bad Jones play represented the first of four fumbles the Patriots put on the ground yesterday, the last of which ultimately lost them the game. Harris doesn’t cough it up there, Patriots run off more clock and kick a field goal at the very least, and most likely win that game. Fumbles are fixable.
  • Harder to hang onto the ball now that they’re all legally inflated, eh Cheatriots? Eh? Eh? Am I right, folks? Who’s with me!
  • His fumble aside, Damien Harris looks every bit the lead back we were hoping he’d be. He’s a one-cut, decisive runner who doesn’t shy away from contact and almost always falls forward. Assuming any of us ever see Rhamondre Stevenson again, that’s going to be a formidable combination.
  • Important to note that the Patriots rushed for 125 yards without Trent Brown as well, who left early on with a calf injury. Calf injuries are rarely season-ending, so at most he shouldn’t be out more than a few weeks. I ultimately don’t think they’re going to deviate too much from this style of offense, and that’s just fine with me.
  • Mac Jones hit six different receivers, including an absolutely beautiful rainbow right into James White’s bucket on third down, and no receiver got more than nine targets (Meyers). Younger QBs have a tendency to lock onto their first reads and force the ball in there, but Jones didn’t. Honestly, I’m trying to think of a moment beyond that first drive dump-off fumble where he looked overwhelmed and coming up short.
  • I think my favorite Mac Jones play of the day was actually an incompletion, his first of the day (which, for the record, wasn’t until the 2nd quarter). It was 1st and 10 at the Miami 39 yard line, and Jones successfully diagnosed the coverage, read the blitz, and threw a quick post to Jakobi Meyers on the hot route. He hit Meyers just a little too far in front of him so he couldn’t reel it in. But it was the kind of high-IQ, in-command of the offense type of playcall I expect from veterans, not rookies.
  • There were some other bad things beyond the fumbles, of course; you can’t catch multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and New England gave Miami almost a full football field’s worth of yards via flag. I also saw a few instances where Hunter Henry was open across the middle and Jones didn’t make the read fast enough. DeVante Parker averaged an absurd 20 yards per catch on four grabs, the Fins had slants open all game, and the Patriots gave up multiple long completions. Miami scored so easily on their opening possession that I kept wondering if the Patriots had instituted some kind of “let them score immediately so we can get the rookie more reps” type of defense.
  • To that end...I briefly stopped by the Pats Pulpit comment section as I was watching the game, and there were legit people acting like the game was over following that first MIA touchdown. And after the game was over, there were also commenters expressing their disgust over the way things went down yesterday. The New England Patriots have had a run of success unlike anything we have ever seen, or will ever see, again. The team is now starting a rookie, working through a rebuild in a season where they aren’t going to win the Super Bowl but could lay some groundwork for a serious run in two years or so, and they let up an opening drive TD in Week 1 and there were Pats fans who found it completely unacceptable. Sweet merciful Tebow we are just the worst. If daddy bought Patriots fans a brand new Maserati for their 16th birthday, they’d throw a temper tantrum because it was the wrong color and the back seats didn’t have heated butt massagers built in.
  • Once - just once - I want a game to come back from commercial with a camera shot of some schlub just going to town picking his nose. We all do it, and I know that the camera guys have zeroed in on people in the past. So let’s rip the band-aid off. Since “Normalize _____” has become something of a thing as of late, let’s all work to Normalize Nose-Picking.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: illegal hands to the face is just a ridiculous penalty. If you want to make it five yards, fine - but an automatic first down is just absurd.
  • I think it was, overall, a decent day for the defense. Whenever you only give up 17 points, that’s a good thing, and they did enough to put the Patriots in position to win the game on multiple occasions. The first Miami drive was rough, but the D settled down after that, held Miami to under 75 yards rushing, and just over 200 yards through the air. It’s very rare you win games when you lose the turnover battle unless you happen to have the greatest quarterback of all time under center, so here we find ourselves.
  • I do think New England should have been able to make the stop following the Harris fumble, though. 3:30 on the clock, all three timeouts, plus the Two Minute Warning should have given Jones the ball back with a chance to drive down for his first comeback win of his career. But oh well, Dolphins players are paid to make plays too.
  • Josh Uche and Matthew Judon are going to be absolutely impossible to contain once the season gets going in earnest. Uche’s only tackle of the game was a sack, but he was all over the line when he was in, and the Patriots lined Judon up pretty much everywhere except for safety.
  • Stephon Gilmore will be back soon as well - keep that in mind. The arrow is pointing up.
  • Not only that, but we get N’Keal Harry back at some point too! YES!
  • Is it me...or has Drew Brees magically grown more hair in retirement? I thought he was going bald, but all of a sudden he has more hair that I do.
  • To that end, the NFL might be off to the worst start since I started watching back in 1985 in regards to commercials. The only one I can ever remember from yesterday’s game involved Drew Brees building a house or something like that. I honestly have no idea.
  • Although to be fair, that may have had something to do with the fact that I have a kegerator in my house and, based on the fact that I was actually able to lift the keg up when I did a CO2 check, I decided that yesterday was as good a day as any to finish it.
  • And I did in fact finish it - although I now know that being able to pick up a keg easily DOES NOT mean that there are only a few beers left in it.
  • For those beer nerds like me out there who are always looking for recommendations - said keg was full of Whalers Rise APA, based out of Wakefield, Rhode Island. Highly, highly recommend if you can find it. I like Coors and Bud and Miller as much as the next person, but I’m not above a nice pale ale or stout when the mood strikes. My only real rule is I try to avoid taking beer advice from bearded men in flannel shirts who drink their hooch out of brandy snifters.
  • Maybe I’ll make beer recommendations a semi-regular thing here, if there are enough folks interested. There are just so few things I do well in this world, may as well take advantage of them.
  • If nothing else, what I’m taking away from this game is that the young quarterback looked infinitely more comfortable at the end of the game than he did at the beginning, and he put his team in a position to win it. It didn’t work out, but that’s fine.
  • The biggest criticism I can make of Jones from yesterday is he isn’t looking to Hunter Henry as much as he probably should, particularly across the middle third of the field.
  • The number of sacks Mac Jones avoided by a simple step up in the pocket, to my count, was six. That’s the best stat line of the day.

The Patriots lost... but you have to be happy overall from what we saw from a Patriots perspective. They ran the ball well, Mac Jones didn’t make any major errors, the defense showed some versatility, and you can see the potential of this squad. I realize that the 2021 Patriots represents a complete departure from what we’re used to, aka Super Bowl or total and utter failure, but this is a team in transition and it’s important to take each game as a step in a direction that represents good things in 2022 and beyond. Plus, if yesterday overall is any indicator, the AFC East is going to be wide, wide open, so who knows what this season will bring.