46 degrees / high winds
- Key Decision #1 – The coin toss. Miami won and deferred. New England is one of the best opening drive teams in the game over the entire Tom Brady era, and also one of the best front running teams with the lead, particularly at home. We understand that when New England wins the toss, they generally prefer to defer, so perhaps Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase was trying to somehow affect New England’s routine. For three downs, deferring the choice seemed to be a good decision until…
- Key Decision #2 – On 4th & 9 on their own 26 on the opening possession of the game, the Patriots called and executed a fake punt for a first down. They kept the ball, marched down the field for an opening TD, and never looked back.
- Special Teams are called ‘special’ for a reason – We don’t know if the Patriots’ fake punt call came from the bench, or if protector Nate Ebner was empowered to make the call on his own, but either way, it was a brilliant pickup by Bill Belichick’s staff, and completely altered the tone of the game. The Dolphins had shut the Patriots down on the first three offensive plays of the game, and their defenders left the field giddy. They had to come back on the field and couldn’t hold, and the entire tone of the game changed as the Patriots’ fans were back into the game.
- Gase’s 4th Down Dilemmas – Down 14-0 near the end of the first quarter, Gase faced a 4th & 1 on his own 46. He went for it, and got the first down, and we felt this was the prudent call. We liked his aggressiveness here. However, down 21-10 in the 3rd quarter, and on their first possession of the half with a chance to close to within one score, Gase had a 4th and inches – perhaps eight inches – on his own 33. Gase chose to punt. The Patriots promptly marched down the field for a TD and their first three-score lead of the game. We felt Gase’s better option was to try and pick up the eight inches because at that point in the game, the Dolphins defense hadn’t had any luck stopping the Patriots. If he had failed to gain the eight inches, it would have made no material difference for the Patriots to get the ball at the Dolphins 33 or the Patriots 23. But if the Dolphins had gained the first down, and could have closed to within one score, the entire tenor of the game would have changed.
- Gase also had a couple of other interesting 4th down judgments. Down 28-17 and with 4th & 11 on his 35 yard line with 8:48 minutes left, he switched to being aggressive again and decided to go for the first down. He didn’t get it, the Patriots got the ball back, scored a TD and led 35-17. Later, down three scores with about five minutes left and facing a 4th & 17, however, Gase chose to punt.
- High Winds Or Practice During A Live Game? – Bill Belichick also had an interesting judgment call, aside from the fake punt. Up 28-10 at the start of the 4th quarter, the Patriots faced a 4th &1 at the Miami 25. Belichick passed up a 42 yard FG attempt and went for the first down, but did not get it. We felt this was a curious decision. It could be that the high winds caused him to pass up the FG, or it could be he wanted his team to get more live reps in a short yardage situation because they have not been a good short yardage team thus far this season.