For the most part, Kyle Dugger played a pretty good game in the New England Patriots’ regular season opener versus the Miami Dolphins. He rarely left the field, was disruptive when coming downhill, and flying all over the secondary from his box safety position.
His lone miss of the day, however, was a devastating one.
Down 10-0 in the late second quarter, the Patriots defense had its opponent facing a 4th-and-7. Miami kept the offense on the field, giving New England an opportunity to make a big stop before the half and get back some much-needed momentum. Unfortunately for the unit, the opposite took place.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found Jaylen Waddle on a crossing route, and the second-year wide receiver was able to break free for a 42-yard touchdown. Waddle getting open against cornerback Jalen Mills made the reception possible; Kyle Dugger missing the ensuing tackle attempt allowed Waddle to get through the last line of defense and take what otherwise would have been a 15-yard play to the house.
Unsurprisingly, the defensive back was hard on himself following the game.
“Terrible angle by me,” Dugger told reporters in the locker room. “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. ...
“I just never located the receiver. or I didn’t put myself in a position to be inside of him once he caught it. It was just a poor angle, poor placement, and too late.”
Waddle’s touchdown allowed the Dolphins to take a 17-0 lead into the locker room at the half. The Patriots were never really able to close the gap afterwards, eventually losing with a final score of 20-7.
After the game, head coach Bill Belichick pointed to two big plays as the main reason why his team came up short. One was a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown earlier in the second quarter, the other was Waddle’s score after Dugger’s bad angle — the lone offensive TD scored by the Dolphins throughout the entire game.
On Monday, Belichick was asked about Dugger’s tackling abilities. He was quick to defend the third-year safety, and instead lauded his skills in this department.
“I think overall Kyle’s one of our better and stronger tacklers,” Belichick said. “Anybody that plays an NFL game is going to have plays that they would like to have back or do a little bit differently. On the touchdown there were a couple things that could have happened better on that play. So, hopefully all of us can coach and execute a little bit better so that that doesn’t happen. The result of that was preventable.”