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- Due to injuries, a suspension, and the schedule (the Patriots are on a five road games out of six stretch), the Dolphins came into this game with favorable matchups, and head coach Adam Gase did a terrific job of taking advantage. The Dolphins dominated this game, schematically and physically.
- Patriots: Offensively, there really wasn’t much head coach Bill Belichick could do schematically. The Dolphins had the favorable line matchup tonight, as well as the man to man matchups outside. From a formation standpoint, the Patriots got a little stale – they didn’t go bunch at all. Perhaps this could have helped WR Brandin Cooks as he struggled to get separation all night, and WR Chris Hogan, who was showing signs of rust coming off an injury.
- The Patriots had mostly long fields and little to no success on first down; it’s not a winning recipe.
- The most important offensive series of the game for the Patriots came on their first possession of the 3rd quarter. They had closed to 13-10 at the end of the half, and could tie or go ahead on this possession. Instead, they were sacked on 2nd down, which led to a 3rd & 17, and QB Tom Brady threw his 2nd interception on a play that had little chance – we would have preferred a running play, followed by a punt. The interception gave the Dolphins a short field starting on the Patriots’ 47, and they converted for a TD and their first two-score lead at 20-10.
- Defensively, the Patriots played well, considering the lack of offense tonight, as well as the quick incorporation of new players who literally have just joined their team within the last two weeks (e.g. DE Eric Lee, LB Jonathan Freeny, etc.). After the Dolphins went ahead 6-0, the Dolphins had three consecutive opportunities to go ahead by two scores, but each time the Patriots defense shut down the Dolphins.
- There were breakdowns on defense, however. Two of them illustrate how coaches can do their job well, but if the players fail to execute the assignment, the coaches still look as if they did not succeed.
- With the Patriots ahead 7-6, the Dolphins were driving and faced a 3rd & 7 at the Patriots’ 13 when DC Matt Patricia called for a blitz. The Dolphins ran the ball with RB Kenyan Drake, and Patriots safety Jordan Richards had blitzed into position for a sure loss and stop on the play to force a field goal. But Richards whiffed, Drake ran for a first down, and Cutler subsequently passed to WR Jarvis Landry for a TD. So instead of trailing 9-7, the Patriots trailed 13-7.
- On another play in the 3rd quarter with the Dolphins leading 20-10, the Dolphins had a 1st & 10 on the Patriots’ 35. DC Patricia again called the perfect blitz, and S Patrick Chung had RB Kenyan Drake stopped for a sure three yard loss…except Chung whiffed as well. Drake made a brilliant run all the way to the Patriots’ 4-yard line, and the Dolphins punched it in from there for a 27-10 lead.
- Dolphins: Offensively and defensively, almost everything the Dolphins dialed up worked, and worked well.
- On offense, head coach Adam Gase was expert in utilizing a lot of formations. He utilized the spread well and got favorable one-on-one matchups (e.g. a long pass to Drake vs Patriots LB Elandon Roberts in coverage) and he also went into tight run formations to get Drake into a groove running the ball.
- Defensively, the Dolphins challenged the Patriots’ WRs with man coverage, and challenged the Patriots’ offensive line, betting on their superior personnel. DC Matt Burke also blitzed well; they got continual pressure all night.
- Patriots: While they lost, we feel they did as well as they could have with the personnel they had on hand. The matchups simply didn’t favor them.
- Dolphins: Two revelations: RB Kenyan Drake, who flashed all over the field running and receiving, and CB Xavien Howard, who shut down WR Brandin Cooks.
- Gase gave TE Julius Thomas opportunities to show he could make one-on-one plays vs Patriots safety Patrick Chung, but Thomas looked ineffective.
- Patriots: In order to be successful in this game, they had to have success on first down, and they simply didn’t. They didn’t convert a 3rd down in the game, the first time they had done that since 1991.
- Dolphins: Defensively, their game plan was to force favorable down & distance situations and let their DL take it from there, and they did. Well-timed blitzes also played a part, but this game belonged to the corners and DL.
- Patriots: They could not figure out a way to get off man coverage in the passing game.
- Dolphins: When most everything is working, you don’t have to make too many adjustments. One thing head coach Adam Gase did well was manage QB Jay Cutler – there simply weren’t a lot of throws to the middle of the field, and he kept the down & distance favorable.
- The Dolphins had to burn time outs in some unfavorable spots, but they got caught with the play clock running down on at least two occasions. The Patriots didn’t seem in rhythm with the play clock all night – they were cutting it close on the play clock on too many plays; perhaps this was a result of taking as much time as possible to get a read on the Dolphins defense.
What We Liked
- The Dolphins came to play tonight, but many teams get up for the Patriots. The trick for the Dolphins is to get up for other teams. But on this night, they looked as good as we’ve ever seen them in all three phases under Adam Gase. They avoided the penalties they typically make: procedure, 12 men on the field, personal fouls, etc.
What We Didn’t Like
- After going up 27-10, the Dolphins went very, very conservative, and let a very green Patriots defense keep giving the ball back to their offense.