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2 winners and 4 losers from the Patriots’ 31-17 loss to the Dolphins

Here is who caught our eye, for better or worse, in the Patriots’ Week 8 loss.

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots dropped their Week 8 contest 31-17 to the Miami Dolphins. Here is who caught our eye for better or worse upon live viewing.

Loser: QB Mac Jones. For the second time this season, New England’s offense struggled to move the ball against Vic Fangio’s Dolphins defense. Jones mustered only 161 yards through the air with an average depth of target at just 6.4 yards. The QB also had another backbreaking interception in scoring territory, as Jalen Ramsey sniffed out the bluff screen perfectly. It was an unfortunate follow-up for Jones after finding some success last week against Buffalo.

Winner: S Kyle Dugger. The fourth-year safety heard the noise of late. After having a quiet start to the season, Dugger had his best game of the year on Sunday. He started things off with an easy interception off Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on a well-designed defensive play, setting New England’s offense up for a score. Dugger then led the team with nine total tackles, recording one sack and one tackle for loss.

Loser: CB J.C. Jackson. With Jonathan Jones perhaps still slowed down with a knee injury, Jackson saw plenty of Tyreek Hill on Sunday. It didn't go well. A false step forward on play-action put Jackson and safety Marte Mapu in poor position on Hill’s 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The corner was then called for a pass interference on Hill in the end zone before being beaten by Cedrick Wilson Jr. for a score shortly after.

Loser: Situational defense. While New England’s offense continues to deserve most of the criticism, the Patriots’ defense struggled to get off the field at key times on Sunday. On the first drive of the second quarter, Miami faced two 3rd-and-14s. Each time they got a chunk gain on third down to help set up a fourth-down conversion — in which they went 3-for-3 on the day. And after New England’s final touchdown drive to make it a one-score game, Miami marched on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard touchdown for Jaylen Waddle on a coverage bust between Jonathan and Jack Jones.

Winner: Defensive linemen Christian Barmore and Keion White. Another game where Christian Barmore was causing havoc, as he continued his hot streak with a sack and a tackle for loss. As for White, the rookie had a strong game in his return to action. The second-round draft pick was disruptive throughout, recording a tackle for loss, strong run stuff, and drawing a pair of holding penalties.

Loser: Injuries. In an unfortunate trend for the Patriots this season, this got worse as they lost several key pieces on both sides of the ball. That included their most productive receiver Kendrick Bourne departing with a knee injury, while DeVante Parker also left early with a head injury. On the defensive side of the ball, Ja’Whaun Bentley exited in the first half and did not return with a hamstring injury.

Honorable mentions:

  • In his return to action, JuJu Smith-Schuster did not see any playing time until Bourne suffered an injury in the fourth quarter. Smith-Schuster’s lone target did go for a walk-in 3-yard score on a nicely designed motion play.
  • It was nice to see Demario Douglas continue to serve as the No. 2 receiver and lead the team with seven targets. He was affecting the play even without the ball, as Miami doubled the rookie helping free Kendrick Bourne on his touchdown.
  • Rhamondre Stevenson looked more like the Rhamondre Stevenson of last year on Sunday, breaking a handful of tackles to move the chains on multiple runs. Ezekiel Elliott also averaged over 5.0 yards per attempt on seven carries, but was lucky not to lose a fumble in the first half.
  • Pharaoh Brown shockingly had a pass go for just nine yards, but came back later in the game with a 24-yard gain. He’s been an awesome signing this season.
  • Jahlani Tavai continues to string together positive games, recording seven tackles and a pass deflection on third down.
  • We’ll make one thing very clear: the Patriots did not lose this game because of officiating. And while the J.C. Jackson DPI and illegal man downfield on Miami were close calls, they were some clear misses on Miami’s illegal shifts and on the helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Parker out of the game.