HomeSportsGame observations: Eight takeaways from the Patriots' loss to the Dolphins in...

Game observations: Eight takeaways from the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins in Week 2

“(Joe) Judge, (Joe) Houston and Cam (Achord) created a really good scheme for that block and saw a weak spot in their field goal operation. We worked on it throughout the week and felt pretty confident it would come into play. action. “I had the right opportunity, I counted my steps correctly and I timed it well. As soon as the ball was snapped, I felt myself and the momentum take each other. I knew I was going to get there. “I just wanted to make sure I had a hand on the ball.”

“I’d never seen it before. It was new for me, and I think it was new for a lot of guys on the team. Like I said, we trust our coaches and we’re going to go out and compete.” Schooler said, explaining the play to reporters.

After a disappointing year in 2022, the Patriots overhauled the kicking game by drafting two rookie specialists and moving Judge back into a special teams role. Although it wasn’t enough to win this week, the early results have been positive for the revamped operation.

2. Patriots offense still short of talent at playmaker positions

At some point, the Patriots must determine the main reasons for their offensive struggles since the second half of quarterback Mac Jones’ rookie campaign.

They are now on their third coordinator with Jones under center. While we can all agree that last year’s offensive setup wasn’t the answer, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is looking for consistent execution from this group, much like the last two OCs before him.

The Patriots come into almost every game at a disadvantage when it comes to talent on the offensive side of the ball, and that couldn’t be more evident Sunday night. Tagovailoa is a really good quarterback, make no mistake. Still, the reality is that Tua took the field this week with at least two receivers who are better than anyone Mac is throwing to these days, and the same could be said for Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts last week .

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are quarterback-proof playmakers who can generate explosive plays to make the quarterback’s job easier. For example, Waddle’s first explosive was a 28-yard screen pass on a throw behind the line of scrimmage, and when the deep safety’s attention turned to Hill, Waddle got the ball on a 32-yard completion in coverage. simple.

New England’s offense, on the other hand, still has to work for every yard and point it puts on the scoreboard, even with O’Brien designing the offense. Partial wins aren’t as easy for this group as they are for Miami, and it shows. I’m not here to tell you that the Pats quarterback would be an MVP candidate with a better supporting cast, but very few young interlocutors in that conversation are working with less.

3. Patriots feature three-deep safety defense in chess matchup against Dolphins

As we mentioned at the beginning, the Patriots’ game plan on defense was to play a three-deep safety structure designed to disguise coverage to give the offense a pause and keep the top of the defense to force the Dolphins to chain plays together instead of hitting a few big winners. Obviously, with a quick-strike offense like Miami’s, it makes sense to force them to put the ball down the field instead of giving up points in one or two stretches.

From the Dolphins’ perspective, many of Miami’s offensive players actually talked after the game about how unique the Patriots’ defensive strategy was, saying they had never seen it before.

“It seemed like they wanted to put an umbrella over our two fast guys. And then as the game went on, they started going back to what they normally would do. But I think they do a tremendous job of adjusting in the game. And, you know “That’s really a very, very important thing I would say for any defense of Bill Belichick,” Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said.

The Patriots continued a three-game trend against these Dolphins where they played zone coverage on 71 percent of Miami’s snaps, reducing their typical man coverage rate to limit explosive plays against receivers challenging to cover in man-to-man schemes. . The Pats combined single-high safety coverages (16) and split-safety schemes (13) at a fairly even rate, turning the three-safety dial into double-thief and Tampa-2 schemes.

Although not perfect, the defense limited the Dolphins’ explosive offense to 24 points, with only seven points in the second half, giving the Patriots a chance to make the game interesting. Unfortunately, things did not go as expected again.

4. Without starting LT Trent Brown, Patriots offensive line woes continue

After a difficult summer filled with injuries and uncertainty, it comes as no surprise to anyone in daily training camp that the offensive line’s play has been uneven. Although it was an admirable performance against a great defensive front, the film told a less favorable story about the offensive line’s play against Philadelphia. Under the circumstances, it wasn’t a total disaster, but it was far from good when you reviewed the Week 1 tape.

This week, the Dolphins began to pile up pressures on the quarterbacks in the second half, with the Patriots in obvious passing situations as they tried to make a comeback. Jones was under pressure on 14 of his 46 dropbacks, or 30.4%, according to NextGen Stats, and was sacked four times. Obviously, you need to throw when you’re down, so going back a total of 104 times in the first two weeks will create pressure, with the defense with its ears back.

Pressures that weren’t as concerning were an assignment-based error by second-year LG Cole Strange, who appeared to block the Dolphins’ first sack instead of picking up the second-level blitzer, and the sacks allowed by backup LT Vederian Lowe. and substitute point guard Atonio Mafi. Those mental errors will occur when guys haven’t been representing much together in O’Brien and O-Line coach Adrian Klemm’s system. They’ll fix it, while Brown is expected to return next week at left tackle, and Onwenu should be able to return to work at end-to-end soon.

However, right tackle remains a problem spot with current starter Calvin Anderson struggling with his footwork and punch timing to block speed off the edge. Dolphins edge rusher Andrew Van Ginkel recorded a sack and six quarterback pressures against Anderson, who is not getting enough depth on his slides to protect his lead, leading to a short corner that Van Ginkel circled several times on Sunday night.

With the team too reluctant to kick right guard Michael Onwenu out, Anderson, who deserves some freedom as he recovers from a serious illness that limited him all summer, is their best option at right tackle. This is what they have on the roster right now, which opens them up to criticism for not using more resources in overtime during the offseason.

If the current right tackle situation doesn’t improve, the Patriots should aggressively pursue free agent tackle La’el Collins, whom the Bengals recently released.

5. Besides getting the O-line going, how can the Patriots get the running game going?

While it would help get the O-line in order, it’s not the only reason the Patriots have produced just 164 rushing yards on 47 attempts through two weeks (3.5 average).

The only criticism of O’Brien in the first two contests is that the running game could have design flaws. New England has ditched the fullback for the second year in a row to be a one-back scheme between 11 standard players or two sets of tight ends (12), which are actually not a true “12” if Gesicki is in the game. . Between leader Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott, only seven of his 20 running back runs came from under center. Bottom line: The Patriots are trying to run away from spread formations using RPOs with power backs who are better suited to run from under center (which is why I had hopes for Pierre Strong before the trade).

In addition to largely scoring runs, Mac only had three pass attempts from downtown this week, with a play-action rate of 10.9 percent Sunday night. From this perspective, the Pats haven’t given themselves the opportunity to run the ball effectively because they aren’t leaning enough on the run/play-action sequencing under center to make it work.

Because of their offensive personnel, the Pats also don’t have the option of going “big” with the fullback outside of regular formations, which was their way of getting the offense back on track after a difficult stretch under McDaniels. Yes, playing from behind presents another problem, but Stevenson is arguably the Patriots’ best offensive player, while play-action is arguably their most effective way of passing the ball; it’s up to O’Brien to find a way to plan for it better on the field. floor.

6. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones shows high-level plays in loss to Miami

After last week’s better scoring performance, my film review was still pretty critical of Jones, who made too many unforced errors in the game against the Eagles for my liking.

We’ll reserve judgment until we see the tape, but Jones made some impressive plays on the move and under pressure. According to NextGen, Jones was 7-of-10 for 58 yards and a touchdown while under pressure, with a passer rating of 117.9 and an excellent completion percentage above expectations of +22.4. Mac also completed 4 of 6 throws for 36 yards and a score when “on the run” he moved outside the pocket, which he normally doesn’t do well.

For example, Jones made an excellent throw while facing DeVante Parker, where he threw with excellent anticipation from a muddy pocket to hit Parker on an inbound route on third down. We’ve talked a lot about Mac needing to throw from a solid base to get speed on the ball, but he used enough timing and speed to do it.

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