The New England Patriots started their 2022 season with a 20-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins. While the defense held Miami to just 13 points, New England’s offense continued the struggles we saw throughout the preseason and mustered only one touchdown.
Here’s who caught our eye in Sunday season’s opener for better or worse.
Loser: QB Mac Jones. While Mac Jones should not shoulder the blame for the Patriots’ poor offensive performance, it was a forgettable start to his sophomore campaign. Jones was efficient as usual in the quick game, but a constant theme throughout the day was him floating passes to his receivers outside the numbers.
Like last season, the Patriots’ passing attack was non-existent in the middle of the field. Whether nobody was open or if Jones was hesitant to deliver such throws with his skillset will be better told on film.
To make things even worse, he suffered a back injury during Sunday’s contest as well. While original X-rays were negative, the quarterback will be reevaluated back in Foxborough.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers. Despite Jones’ up-and-down day, his most reliable target was as solid as ever on Sunday. Meyers led the team in targets (6), receptions (4), and receiving yards (55) on the day. He also hauled in perhaps his best catch in a Patriot uniform, high-pointing a 27-yard reception down the right sideline on a slot fade.
"Jakobi Meyers what a catch!"— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 11, 2022
: #NEvsMIA on @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/FXRDhJpThS
Loser: CB Myles Bryant. Getting the start in the slot over rookie cornerback Marcus Jones, Bryant struggled against Miami. His performance was highlighted with a bad missed tackle on Raheem Mostert that resulted in a first down for the Dolphins, while also knocking a would-be interception away from Devin McCourty in the fourth quarter. New England may be best moving forward with Bryant as a depth safety option.
Winners: LB Matthew Judon and DE Deatrich Wise Jr. The Patriots pass rush was impressive in the season opener, sacking quarterback Tua Tagovailoa three times. That unit was led by Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise Jr.
In the first quarter, Wise Jr. beat right guard Robert Hunt clean off the line of scrimmage to quickly bring down Tagovailoa, forcing a fumble in the process. Judon later wrapped around Christian Barmore up the middle on a stunt to record his first sack of the season.
Loser: The playbook. This has nothing do with play-callers. Besides paying tribute to Josh McDaniels with a pair of questionable runs on 2nd-and-17 and 3rd-and-3 late in the game, Matt Patricia’s game-calling did not seem to be an issue.
The problem was with the Patriots playbook. New England appeared to have run every play out of 11- and 12-personnel, using very little motion and play-action. And after tinkering with run-pass option plays throughout the summer, they did not seem to dial up one on Sunday.
The Patriots offense looked as it did in the preseason, running through the motions of their base offense. New England’s offense isn't an explosive bunch to begin with and Mac Jones does not have the physical tools to consistently bail them out. The coaching staff needs to find more creative ways to help.
Winner: P Jake Bailey. With the offense struggling, Jake Bailey got to show off his skills on Sunday. Bailey put any concerns from last season to rest, dropping all three of his punts at or inside the Miami 10-yard line. As usual, Matthew Slater was there to down one.
Loser: OT Trent Brown. Brown was perhaps at fault for the strip sack that changed the early trajectory of the game. As both David Andrews and James Ferentz blocked their man to the left, Brown did not and failed to pick up Brandon Jones blitzing from the secondary.
Better angle of what Phil describes. Have to protect the blindside. https://t.co/pjtZ37Q567 pic.twitter.com/IpyGMrqZoY— Brian Hines (@iambrianhines) September 12, 2022
Earlier in the game, Brown seemed to be the issue on another set. He lost track of Emmanuel Ogbah rushing from the inside on a third down which led to a punt.
Honorable mentions: Kendrick Bourne and Kyle Dugger. Both Bourne and Dugger earn honorable mentions as they could have fallen in either the “winner” or “loser” category.
Starting with Bourne, the receiver did not see his the field until late in the fourth quarter and registered only two total snaps. After being the team’s most explosive receiver last season, him not seeing the field in a day the offense struggled was a head-scratcher.
When he was on the field, he proved his worth. In his second, and final, snap of the game, Bourne hauled in a 41-yard reception down the left sideline. It was New England’s longest offensive play of the game.
As for Dugger, the third-year safety was flying all over the field Sunday. That both helped and hurt New England. Dugger had a pair of impressive open-field tackles and tackles for loss, two on the elusive Tyreek Hill. However, he did admit postgame that he took a poor angle on Jaylen Waddle’s 42-yard touchdown at the end of the first half.
“Terrible angle by me,” he said. “Bad eyes. I didn’t locate the defender. I didn’t do my job basically; really poor play by me. Corners trust in me to be in the middle of the field and I wasn’t there. So it was definitely all me – bad play.”