The Patriots got off to a good start against the Dolphins in Miami, flipping a Kyle Dugger interception into a Kendrick Bourne touchdown that opened a 7-0 lead, but from there familiar problems began to strike, as Miami took over the lead and did not relinquish it, rolling to a 31-17 win.
Miami built a 17-7 at halftime and although New England used a third-quarter fumble recovery to close the lead to 17-10, Miami reeled off another touchdown-scoring drive and maintained their lead to victory despite a fourth-quarter push by New England that briefly made it a one-score game, until Miami sealed the win on a 31-yard touchdown by Jaylen Waddle.
It was a disappointing loss as the Patriots were unable to keep things rolling after their win over the Bills last weekend had breathed new life into their season. Here are the key takeaways from a familiar-looking defeat.
1. Barmore, Dugger get it going
The two teams traded punts through three initial possessions, with each picking up just one first down before things started to get interesting. It started with Christian Barmore producing a second-down sack, the game's first big play that put Miami into a third-and-long situation. Barmore has been coming on in recent games and continued that pace with a good start against Miami as he quickly slipped by the right tackle and was able to get to Tagovailoa and drop him for a six-yard loss.
On the ensuing third down, Kyle Dugger dropped into deep coverage but charged forward at the snap, undercutting an in-cut by Tyreek Hill and intercepting the pass. It's been a quiet start for Dugger this season as the team has looked to fill the loss of Devin McCourty, but this was the kind of play that could jumpstart his season, handing his team the kind of big play that set up a solid start for the second-straight week.
Three plays later Mac Jones hit Kendrick Bourne on a crossing route and he scampered untouched into the end zone for a 24-yard score and an early 7-0 lead. The game unfolded favorably for the Patriots for a second-straight week as both the defense and offense chipped in complementary plays that helped build an early lead.
2. Big Play Dolphins Strike Back
It took just six plays for Miami to even the score, as the Dolphins explosive offense can quickly alter the complexion on the scoreboard. This time it was a 42-yard strike to Tyreek Hill as J.C. Jackson took a bad step toward the line of scrimmage, fooled by misdirection in the backfield. Hill streaked by Jackson and got away from safety Marte Mapu, collecting the perfect throw for an easy score.
The Patriots had done a good job not letting Hill make explosive plays against them in recent games, however, this play showed how quickly past performance can go out the window and become meaningless. Stopping big plays is always a primary responsibility on defense, but this one break quickly resulted in a touchdown.
Miami would take the lead on their next possession following another New England three-and-out punt, however, the Patriots had their chances to get the stop along the way. Twice was Miami in third-and-14 situations, thanks to a tackle-for-loss by Keion White and a sack by Kyle Dugger, but New England's defense allowed too much yardage on those plays to keep the Dolphins from going for it on fourth down. Both a fourth-and-four and a fourth-and-one were converted to keep the drive going, while attrition continued to add up for the Patriots, losing both Ja'Whaun Bentley (hamstring) and Myles Bryant (knee) along the way.
They'd get to another third down along the goalline but a J.C. Jackson pass interference penalty would hand Miami a new set of downs at the one-yard line and they'd punch it in with a quick pass to Cedric Wilson to take a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. It was a 14-play drive where they tallied six first downs though only traveling 43 total yards.
New England's defense had a good plan to keep Miami's rushing attack contained early on, but their pass defense could not chip in at key moments. Miami started off 0-of-11 on third down, but converted all three of their fourth down attempts.
3. Mac Gets Picked
Down 14-7, the Patriots started to string together their best drive of the afternoon, picking up first downs on nice passes to Demario Douglas and DeVante Parker, while getting another from a hard run by Rhamondre Stevenson who broke multiple tackles.
They'd travel over 50 yards but on the ninth play of the drive an all-too-familiar script would unfold as Mac Jones would come off of a fake then take a downfield shot intended for Kendrick Bourne. However, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, in his first game action of the season as a member of Miami, read the play and crashed down on the throw, picking up the interception and running it back close to midfield.
It was a disappointing turn, as the biggest problem of the 2023 Patriots season, turnovers, reared its ugly head just as the offense looked like they were putting a drive together.
The Patriots defense would hold strong in the red zone off the turnover, making Miami kick a field goal that brought them to a familiar point total. In the Patriots last three losses to Miami, the Dolphins have held leads of 17-0, 17-0 and 17-3. The score at halftime was 17-7 as Miami rung up the magic number of 17 once again.
4. Jennings on the spot
The 17-7 hole at halftime was deflating, however, Anfernee Jennings pounced on a fumble on Miami's first offensive play of the second half as Tua and Mostert mishandled a handoff. It was an immediate dose of needed energy for the Patriots, especially since it came just as their captain and leader Ja'Whaun Bentley was officially ruled out of the game at the half.
The Patriots offense however could not feed off that energy, failing to pick up a first down and instead settling for a 38-yard field goal by Chad Ryland. It wasn't an ideal response, one that would've included a touchdown off the takeaway, yet they still put points on the board and stopped some of Miami's momentum, again making it a one-score game.
Jennings, who has seen an increase in snaps due to the absences of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, continues to elevate his play and is starting to chip in with bigger contributions like the fumble recovery. Jahlani Tavai and Mack Wilson saw increased snaps in Bentley's absence.
5. Miami rolls
As was the case with Tua's first-quarter interception, Miami quickly shrugged off a mistake by their offense and put together a masterful scoring drive, following the fumble up with a nine-play, 82-yard touchdown trot down the field to re-establish a 24-10 lead.
Injuries continued to strike New England in the second half, as DeVante Parker (head) and Kendrick Bourne (knee) both headed to the locker room and did not return, joining Bentley as the attrition hit the offense as well.
Despite the losses at wide receiver, the Patriots strung together their best drive of the day early in the fourth quarter, going 13 plays for 86 yards and finally finishing it off on fourth down with a quick pass to Juju Smith-Schuster, his first touchdown as a Patriot. Down by two scores, the game was hanging by a thread for the Patriots and they were able to put together a late rally to keep things interesting down the stretch, putting the pressure on Miami, up 24-17, to put the game away.
Put the game away is just what Miami did, running the remaining clock out with a long drive that included a conversion on third-and-nine and then, on third-and-one, Tua took to the air and hit Jaylen Waddle for a game-sealing 31-yard touchdown. The drive ate up six minutes of clock time and scored points, a double whammy that the Patriots could not prevent.
6. Patriots are now 2-6
With the loss, the Patriots fall to 2-6 on the 2023 season. The game script featured some alterations, as the Pats opened up a 7-0 lead, but ultimately it was a familiar plot that unfolded, as penalties, big plays and turnovers quickly turned the tables and led to a 10-point deficit by halftime. The Patriots got some takeaways and even turned one of them into a touchdown, but ultimately the offense could not do enough on their own to keep pace with the relentless Miami attack, nor could the defense do enough to slow down Tua, Tyree, Waddle and Mostert, even with an overall solid performance on third down.
The Patriots have now been swept by Miami for the second time in three seasons and have yet to solve Tua Tagovailoa, who now boasts a 6-0 record against New England. Next up for the Patriots will be the Washington Commanders as they look to recapture some of the magic from last week's win over the Bills.