The season has begun. The newly formed Patriots took on the Miami Dolphins. We ended with a loss. Almost instantly overreactions ran rampant on social media, on TV networks, in every comment section across America. It was a closely contested 17-16 game, it came down to the wire. The Patriots led by young gun Mac Jones, Dolphins led by Tua can't pronounce is his last name. The Saban Bowl. So let's put some of it into perspective and overreact:
Mac Jones is LEGIT!
Mac Jones went 29/39 for 281 yards and a TD. That's good enough for being the best completion percentage for a rookie in NFL history in their first start. Can we just start hanging banners now? No? Okay. But to put that into perspective, Trevor Lawrence threw for a huge amount of yards, but also threw 3 INTs. Zach Wilson threw for a good amount of yards, and a pick. Justin Fields and Trey Lance both scored TDs, but didn't see much of the field. Mac Jones led the team and limited the turnovers. He took what the defense gave him. And most would probably agree that the Patriots probably would've won if it wasn't for the late turnover that sealed it. The Dolphins would've needed a TD to win, and those were in short supply in the game. Mac Jones looked as advertised in his debut, going forward he's going to have to replicate or improve on it. Judging by the rest of the division from week 1, this could be a real battle.
Someone greased the ball!
Grease-gate. We want the NFL to open an investigation that the Dolphins were greasing up footballs in between plays. It sounds stupid, but it's the type of stuff the Patriots would get accused of if the other team couldn't hold onto the ball. The Patriots ball was slipping and sliding away from them left and right. Jonnu Smith did a nice flip and lost one mid-air, but the most costly one was deep in Dolphins territory while driving to win the game. Damien Harris was having a relatively good game. He finished with 100 yards exactly, he started it off with a 35 yard run on the first play, he even got some passes thrown his way. The kid can play. Damien saw a heavier workload without Sony Michel, and Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled early in the game, so Damien got a lot of time on the field. On the final Patriots drive, Harris was making good runs to help get down the field. Mac Jones was showing his precision and decision making in what seemed like a heavily scripted gameplan by Josh McDaniels. Then came the fumble. A hit by ball hawk Xavien Howard ejected the ball from Harris and the rest was history after the defense failed to stop the ensuing clock running effort. Maybe if the ball had less air in it, we would've held onto it better. *rimshot for Norm MacDonald*
No more loose ends?
We've got TIGHT ends. There was a gaping hole on the roster after last season and the Patriots addressed it by signing the two top free agents at tight end. Adult jokes aside, it worked out better in one game than it did for the entire last couple of years. In 2020, Ryan Izzo caught 13 balls for 199 yards, Devin Asiasi caught 2 for 39 yards and a TD, while IR mainstay Dalton Keene caught 3 passes for 16 yards. That's the entire production from the tight end room. It totals 18 catches for 254 yards and a TD. In week 1, Jonnu Smith had 5 catches for 42 yards, and a run for 6 yards, while Hunter Henry added 3 catches for 31 yards. That's 8 catches for 73 yards in one game. Ryan Izzo never had more than 3 catches in a game and had more than 40 yards total once. It's not an overwhelming amount of production from the two newcomers, but they did show up which is more than could be said for the past few years. These weren't diamond in the rough players like Matt LaCosse was supposed to be, these were starters in the NFL who have had success. They actually showed up on game day, and that could signal big things for Mac Jones.
Run, run, run away!
As someone who wanted to see a two headed monster with Sony Michel and Damien Harris, I was pleasantly surprised to see Damien take a vast majority of the work. Fumbling doesn't help Rhamondre's case early on to see more time, but the training wheels will remain on at least for now. Damien Harris started off the game by gashing the Dolphins defense. In my week 1 preview I even said the first play of the game would be a run up the middle or a screen pass. Neither of which I thought would be for a 35 yard gain. James White, not known for running prowess in the NFL, added a whopping 12 yards to go with his near 50 receiving. J.J. Taylor was holding down the bench in case of strong winds, but he should factor into the rotation throughout the year eventually. Rhamondre Stevenson, NFL preseason rushing champion, will hope to become what most people saw in the preseason. He's good. Some even labeled him as a steal in the draft, but if Damien runs like this weekly, Rhamondre is going to be the biggest red zone threat that the Patriots have had since Blount.
JC Jackson is well entrenched as the CB1 with Gilmore out. But who's number 2? Joejuan Williams was on the edge a handful of times, Jonathan Jones is a better cover corner by most accounts than Williams, was it Jalen Mills? He did have that sweet pass deflection that prevented a touchdown. It's gonna be a committee approach depending on matchups for at least the first 6 weeks. But other teams will probably try to attack that. The Dolphins ran slant routes left and right with success. Gilmore and Jackson are usually right on their hip, so they attack the slot or Jackson. Jackson and someone, you're going to attack the someone. Jackson is at a crossroads to prove that he can be a number 1. Nobody expects him to be Jaire Alexander, Jalen Ramsey, or even Stephon Gilmore, but that remains to be seen. If you watched the Bills and Steelers game, the Steelers went after Levi Johnson relentlessly. Tre White was manning the other side of the field. The Steelers coaxed Johnson into multiple penalties at crucial times. Granted, Johnson is probably a 2nd tier starter if that on deeper teams, but he was still a wide open target. The Patriots could face the same problem. If the Patriots commit to stopping the pass, does the run defense suffer? A more aggressive approach with blitzing seemed to take some pressure off of the run defense, but also allowed the aforementioned slant routes to garner some success on quick-hit pass plays. Watching the Patriots pass defense, they didn't get gashed anywhere in the pass game. Other than a 36 yarder to Jaylen Waddle and a 30 yarder to DeVante Parker, the secondary held Tua to barely over 200 yards. The run defense held them to under 100 yards total. So what happens at the second corner spot? Who knows?
The Patriots (0-1) take on the Jets (0-1) in a battle of the 2021 rookie QBs. Zach Wilson. Mac Jones.
There will be plenty of overreactions stemming from the 2nd game, it's only natural. Hopefully we can come out of there with a win so the overreactions will be in a more positive light.