Pats Poach The ‘Phins, Lose Garoppolo In Process
After a dominating start to the game, which saw them on top 31-3 in the third quarter, the New England Patriots battled an injury to starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and held on to win 31-24 over the Miami Dolphins, at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
Here are some quick thoughts following the victory:
Blount Carries The Load- When starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo left the game late in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett was fluxed into emergency duty. Because Brissett has not had much time, if any, with the first team offense, the coaching staff had to scale back the game plan and implement a more running heavy package. That style of play called on power back LeGarrette Blount to carry the load. While he is often criticized for inconsistent play and not being the most agile player out of the backfield, Blount played extremely well Sunday. On 29 carries, the tailback rushed for 123 yards and a score. Running behind top lineman Nate Solder, who played in his first game this season after missing the opener with a hamstring injury, Blount helped the team get in a good position to ice the game late. If not for a rare missed field goal attempt by usually solid kicker Stephen Gostkowski, that would have given the Pats a 10-point lead with 1:05 remaining and for all intents and purposes ended the game, Blount would probably be getting acclaim for his role late in this one.
Brissett Steps Up- After being called upon, following the Garoppolo injury, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett did as well as could be expected out of a rookie quarterback with little experience in the first team offense. The 2016 third round pick out of North Carolina State was six of nine for 91 yards, throwing mostly to the flats and screen passes two running backs and tight end Martellus Bennett. Two of Brissett's three incompletions were also passes that looked catchable but were dropped by top receiver Julian Edelman. That could be a result of the two not working a lot together and having their timing just slightly off. Long story short, while the score reflects a close battle and a big comeback by Miami, none of that is Brissett's fault. For a rookie fluxed into emergency duty, he did a good job.
Underachieving Defense- For the second consecutive week, the New England defense was not nearly as strong as many people have expected them to be after a strong preseason. After playing well in the first half and holding the Dolphins to no points until their final drive of the second quarter, the Patriots defense was flat in the second half. With Brissett in for Garoppolo, the defense was called upon to hold the lead and help put the game on ice, but they struggled to stop the Miami passing attack in the second half. While they did force four turnovers on the game, including a pick in the end zone by Duron Harmon to officially end the game, the Pats' defense allowed 21 second half points to Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill and company. After a rough first half, Tannehill used his trio of top flight wide outs to pick apart the Patriots defense. All in all, Tannehill threw for 389 yards and two touchdowns on 32 of 45 passing.
Suffering Secondary- One of the top reasons why the Patriots defense allowed the Dolphins back into the game was poor secondary play. Top cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan led the team in tackles with eight and seven respectively. That is not a good thing, however. When your defensive backs lead the team in tackling that usually means that they are allowing the receivers that they are covering to catch passes. Miami's top three receivers Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills combined for 20 receptions for 282 yards and a score, while tight end Jordan Cameron added five catches for 49 yards and a touchdown, himself. The secondary needs to be better against Houston on Thursday night, to help out Brissett and the offense.
Marty Shines Again- Last week tight end Martellus Bennett shined as a blocker, playing in place of the injured Rob Gronkowski in the team's opening night win over Arizona. This week, Bennett, again starting in Gronkowski's place, was a driving force for the team in the passing game. While he didn't shine in the passing game in Week 1, Bennett caught five balls, including a touchdown, Sunday for 114 yards, with a bulk of those coming after the catch. With Brissett in under center, Bennett used his size as an asset to help out the young quarterback, presenting himself as an inviting option to dump the ball to in the flat. From there he made plays with his feet and allowed the team to get down the field. More play from this like Bennett will help ingratiate the big tight end to the New England fans.
Quick Turnaround- The Pats can only celebrate this victory for a short while, as they must prepare for a quick turnaround and a Thursday night match up with the Houston Texans at Gillette, this week. The team will have to play without Garoppolo as well, who according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, is already out for the midweek battle. With Brissett likely to start that game, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will have his hands full at putting a game plan in place that will allow the rookie quarterback to succeed with little experience in game action. The defense will need to step up as well to help take pressure off of the offense. With a stronger game this week, in terms of the turnover battle, they will have to shake off a tough second half and find a way to limit Houston's passing game. One big benefit to that plan is that the Texans are led by Belichick disciple Bill O'Brien. New England should be familiar with what O'Brien likes to do offensively and should be able to devise a game plan to limit the offense's success.
All in all, the win was a gritty and imperfect one that leaves plenty of room for improvement. At the end of the day, New England is 2-0 with a lead in the division, but they must get ready to go quickly for Houston.