1st& 2nd Quarters
…WR Josh Gordon made his first appearance in a Patriots game uniform against Miami Sunday. He was in the starting lineup and took the field for several plays on New England’s opening drive. They were all running plays until a 3rd-and-6 from the Miami 16-yard line.
Gordon, lined up as the far right flanker, ran a shallow post and caught QB Tom Brady’s pass at around the 9-yard line, where evaded one Dolphins defender. It took a pair of Miami players to bring Gordon down at the 3, but not before he’d picked up a first down with this first grab.
Gordon would have another catch later in the game, his only other reception of the day. However, the mere fact that he has learned enough in just two weeks to jump into the starting lineup and contribute is testament to what he told reporters after the game – that he recognizes this opportunity is a precious one and he plans to make the most of it.
…Overall, the Patriots’ running game was strong Sunday, but one of the few times it wasn’t came at the end of the first Patriots possession. Backup tackle LaAdrian Waddle came into the game as an extra blocker at the end of the line on the right side.
Rookie RB Sony Michel was designed to run the ball to that side on a 2nd-and-goal from the 1, but Waddle got bulldozed into the backfield by a Dolphins d-lineman. Michel’s running lane was clogged up and he was thrown to the ground. This set up a failed third-down pass and an eventual field goal. Otherwise, New England likely would have punched it into the end zone on this opening drive.
…The first of Tom Brady’s two INTs appeared to come from a combination of pressure by the Dolphins front and a good bit of defending by the Miami secondary.
The player LT Trent Brown was staving off at the start of the play eventually broke free of Brown and raced toward Brady in the pocket. This forced Brady to rush his throw.
Meanwhile, the eventual interceptor, CB Bobby McCain, started the play by guarding WR Chris Hogan in the slot. Brady’s pass was intended for WR Phillip Dorsett, who began as a flanker to Hogan’s left. As Hogan ran a fly pattern, Dorsett ran a dig (a short in-route). Instead of following Hogan, McCain, who had safety help with Hogan, let Hogan go and picked up Dorsett.
This occurred just as Brady was unloading the ball. Perhaps if Brady hadn’t been rushed, he might spotted this coverage, but McCain wound up in the right position to step in front of Dorsett and make the pick.
…Gordon helped move the chains again in the second quarter, even though he didn’t make a catch. Brady targeted Gordon for a sideline pass, but the ball fell short. However, Gordon was able to bait CB Xavien Howard into committing an illegal contact penalty, which automatically resulted in a first down for the Patriots.
…Good day for RB James White. In addition to his own production (112 combined yards, two TDs), White delivered a critical pick block at the line of scrimmage to free up WR Cordarrelle Patterson on the receiver’s 55-yard scoring catch-and-run. Because White delivered the block within a yard of the line, it was a legal play. Had it been any further downfield, the play would have been penalized.
…One of the key defensive plays – LB Kyle Van Noy’s fumble recovery deep in Miami territory – came on a shotgun snap that QB Ryan Tannehill mishandled. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, that snap was administered by Miami’s backup center, Travis Swanson, after starter Daniel Kilgore had to exit with an injury.
…On the very next play, White took a draw handoff from Brady and went to the right of formation. When that closed up, he cut sharply to the left and found a big opening. Downfield, Gordon threw a critical block on a Miami defender to allow White to make it all the way to the end zone. Great awareness and effort by Gordon to help complete a fantastic individual effort by White.
…Several offensive players had great outings Sunday, including WR Phillip Dorsett. He made a number of key receptions throughout the first half and finished off with a spectacular somersaulting touchdown catch to close out the first half. The work of the receiving corps as a whole helped open up some pockets of space for TE Rob Gronkowski, who eventually had to leave with a right ankle injury.
The receivers must continue to produce like this in order for New England’s offense to continue being effective at controlling the ball and scoring as much as the Patriots did Sunday.
3rd& 4th Quarters
…DL Adam Butler’s sack of Tannehill came as a result of teamwork with DE Adrian Clayborn. The latter came off the left offensive side and nearly brought Tannehill down himself. That pressure, though, forced Tannehill to leave the pocket. Butler deftly shed his blocker and raced toward Tannehill to complete the takedown. Good individual and collective effort by both defenders.
…Gronkowski’s ankle injury appeared to take place with just under 10 minutes to play in the third quarter. He made a catch along the Dolphins sideline after running a short out-pattern. It didn’t look like he landed awkwardly on the ankle, so, perhaps it occurred as he was planting hard with that right foot to make the cut.
Ironically, on the play that ended his afternoon, Gronk set a franchise record with his 491stcareer catch, surpassing former TE Ben Coates.
…Michel recorded his first-ever 100-yard rushing performance Sunday, thanks in large part to New England’s success in stretch plays – runs to the far end of either side of the o-line. It wasn’t just the o-line doing a good blocking job, either. Fullback James Develin and Patriots tight ends and receivers deserve credit for helping open up Michel’s running lanes.
…Michel’s first touchdown in the NFL came in the early fourth quarter, moments after he eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the last play of the third. It was a toss to the left, and LT Trent Brown showed rare athleticism for a man his size (6-8, 380) by pulling out and landed a decisive block downfield to clear out a path for Michel to waltz untouched into the end zone.
…The game was obviously over by halftime, for all intents and purposes, so, much of what transpired in the second half must be placed in that context, particularly toward the end of the fourth.
A notable performance on the day, overall, by the defense included some solid coverage by the secondary, whether it was Jonathan Jones early on, Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty in the middle, or rookie J.C. Jackson playing a nice deep route with tight coverage before turning his head at the right time to make a great interception of Tannehill.
Perhaps a bit under-the-radar was the strong showing by LB Dont’a Hightower, who lost his “green dot” play-calling duties to rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley a week earlier in Detroit. Hightower was back in his customary role as defensive signal caller on the field and looked more like his comfortable self out there after a slow start to the 2018 season.