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Bridgestone Performance Review: Patriots-Dolphins

Film breakdown of New England's 2014 season opener against Miami.


1st Quarter

…Ryan Allen's blocked punt on the first drive of the game was a result of two miscues. First, the snap from long snapper Danny Aiken was a low ball that landed at Allen's feet, causing him to have to lean down for it. Allen bobbled the ball for a moment, giving Miami's rush team that much more time to get to him. Secondly, the man to Aiken's right, Rob Ninkovich, didn't get enough of a hand on Chris McCain, the player who came darting up the middle and smothered Allen's boot. McCain was virtually untouched as he made his way to the ball. This led to the Dolphin's first score of the game.

…Needing just 15 yards to get to the end zone, the Miami offense had a distinct advantage over the New England defense in this situation. After picking up a first down at the Patriots' 4-yard line, Miami sent WR Brian Hartline wide left, with TE Charles Clay wide right. QB Ryan Tannehill had two backs flanking him in the shotgun formation. A third skill player, TE Dion Sims, was in a three-point stance beside the right tackle. New England countered with a base 3-4 defense, filling the box (the area closest to the line of scrimmage and the o-line) with nine players. At the snap, Tannehill faked a handoff to TE Harold Hoskins, who was to his right and moving left with the entire offensive line. Running back Lamar Miller, to Tannehill's left, crossed underneath them to the right. New England's defense responded to the fake fairly well, actually, and did not over-pursue Hoskins. Every eligible Dolphins receiver was covered, including Miller. However, Ninkovich, playing OLB in the 3-4 look, wasn't quick enough to keep up with the streaking Miller. He outpaced Ninkovich to the flat, where there was nothing but green grass, and secured the easy pass from Tannehill as he dove over the goal line. Patriots had their men covered, they just couldn't account for the mismatch of Miller's speed over Ninko's on that play.

…New England's response was impressive. After a touchback on the kickoff, Tom Brady crisply drove the Patriots 80 yards to knot the game at 7. WR Julian Edelman and RB Shane Vereen were the workhorses on the drive, accounting for eight of the 13 plays in the sequence. The last three were rushes between the tackles by Vereen in a goal-to-go situation. New England was in a "jumbo" package, with extra blockers at the ends of the line of scrimmage. ran quick snaps after breaking the huddle each time, in an effort to knife at the Dolphins defense before it was entirely set. The ploy worked, as Vereen picked up two yards on each of the three consecutive carries from the 6-yard line. It was just a matter of the Patriots' o-line getting a good enough push forward for Vereen to dive ahead and pick up the short but necessary yardage. Nothing fancy in the play-calling here, but it was certainly effective on that drive.

…The Patriots got the ball back shortly thereafter thanks to a great defensive play by linebacker Jamie Collins. Miami was in a trips left (three receivers to the left of the o-line), with Hartline the lone receiver to the right. Tannehill had one back in the backfield with him. WR Mike Wallace ran a slant from left to right and caught the short Tannehill pass. Having dropped back a bit into pass coverage, Collins came up to meet Wallace, throwing his shoulder at the football tucked under Wallace's right arm. Collins' attempt at a form tackle was an imperfect one, as he failed to wrap Wallace up, but he was lucky that his shoulder was driven into Wallace with enough force to dislodge the ball. LB Jerod Mayo was giving Wallace chase as well and was in the right place at the right time as he fell to the ground and rolled over to scoop up the loose ball that was bouncing right toward him.

2nd Quarter

…New England's defense was lining up predominantly in a 3-4 look throughout the first half, with some nickel mixed in on occasion. On the fourth play of the second quarter, it got its second turnover of the afternoon. Miami lined up on 1st-and-10 from the NE 37 with two receivers to the left, one to the right, and two backs flanking Tannehill in the shotgun. This was a time when the Patriots came out in nickel. Wallace, wide left, was again the intended target. He was covered closely by Alfonzo Dennard at the line of scrimmage. Wallace ran a stutter-and-go that momentarily froze Dennard near the line, giving Wallace some breathing room as he raced toward the goal line. Tannehill's pass, however, was underthrown by a hair, and that allowed Dennard, who'd recovered to within a step of Wallace, to turn and pivot in the air as he readjusted his body to make a really nice, athletic interception deep in New England territory. Nothing more than a great individual effort by Dennard and a slight misfire by Tannehill.

…From their own 6-yard line now, the Patriots went on another impressive scoring march of 94 yards. It culminated in Rob Gronkowski's first touchdown catch of the year. On 2nd-and-goal from Miami's 6, New England came out with Edelman and WR Danny Amendola wide left. TE Michael Hoomanawanui was in a three-point stance next to right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, with Vereen in the backfield deep behind Brady, who was under center. Gronk was matched up alone on the right flank in what looked like was setting up to be a classic "jump ball" in the corner of the end zone. Instead, at the snap, Gronk ran a slant to the left over the middle of the Dolphins end zone. Safety Jimmy Wilson was the defender assigned to Gronk, but he was trailing the tight end from the start. When Gronk paused in the middle of the field for a second, Wilson did, too. Gronk then quickly continued to the left to separate from Wilson. Brady sidestepped a pass rush up the middle and saw Gronk open just long enough to thread a pass his way. Miami's decision to go man-to-man and not double-team Gronkowski proved fatal for the Dolphins on this occasion.

…The third turnover the Patriots forced in the first have came again with them in the nickel. On 2nd-and-10 from near midfield, Miami handed off from the shotgun to RB Lamar Miller, who squirted through a huge hole in the line up the middle. As he approached the secondary, Logan Ryan, a corner playing safety on this play, threw his shoulder at Miller's arm, with no effort to wrap up and take the ball carrier down. Again, the Patriots were fortunate that Ryan's precise impact point caused a fumble. The ball popped out and bounced right into the waiting hands of cornerback Darrelle Revis, who'd come over to assist Ryan. While both Ryan's and Collins' forced fumbles were positive results for New England, their lack of proper form tackling is a concern long-term because of the potential missed tackles that could result.

…At the time of LB Dont'a Hightower's roughing-the-passer penalty, I thought it was unfair. Watching it again, I'm convinced of it. Hightower, coming from the right side of the Patriots defense, made a nice move to get around left tackle Branden Albert and bore down on Tannehill just as the QB was releasing the football. The official ruled that Hightower "drove" Tannehill into the ground with excessive force, but I'm not sure the linebacker's momentum would have allowed him to take the QB down any gentler. There just wasn't enough time for him to slow down. Seemed like an undeserved penalty for Hightower.

…Conversely, Patriots left tackle Nate Solder's holding penalty on the next possession was legitimate. He essentially tackled McCain by the neck and both players went to the ground in a heap. Easy call for the officials to make.

3rd Quarter

!…DE Chandler Jones was flagged for his first of two roughing-the-passer penalties early in the third quarter when he went for the throat of Tannehill. Though he protested the call afterward, Jones was clearly in the wrong. Hits to a quarterback's head (anywhere from the neck up) are not allowed, and it was evident that his hand made contact with Tannehill in that restricted area as he brought the QB to the ground.

…On offense, Brady suffered his first sack of the year on a 2nd-and-8 from his own 37. First possession of the second half. Patriots were lined up in an apparent run formation, with Edelman to the far right, WR Kenbrell Thompkins to the left, and Hoomanawanui with a hand on the ground next to Vollmer. FB James Develin was in a broken-I in the backfield for ball carrier Stevan Ridley. The Dolphins loaded up with 8 men in the box. Brady play-action faked, however, and DE Cameron Wake didn't fall for it. Rushing off the left side of the defense, Wake easily ran past Hooman, who was way late to react. Shouldn't have been a problem, though, as Ridley stayed in the backfield to block, but he whiffed, too. Wake slammed into Brady's midsection, jarring the ball loose. Teammate Louis Delmas recovered as a swarm of Dolphins defenders piled onto Brady. As inconsistent as the o-line was Sunday, you can't blame them for this particular sack.

…That turnover resulted in seven more points for Miami. Tannehill looked again for Wallace on 2nd-and-3 from New England's 14, even though he was matched up against the Patriots' top corner, Darrelle Revis. Wallace ran straight for the end zone, with Revis anticipating this and playing well off the line of scrimmage. The two came face to face in the end zone, just as the ball arrived from Tannehill, who forced the ball into triple coverage. It squeezed past Kyle Arrington (playing safety) and Collins, and Revis, in fact, reached around and got his right hand on the ball and nearly knocked it all the way to the ground. However, Wallace demonstrated tremendous awareness and concentration and secured the ball as it was fall to earth. Nice individual play by both players. Wallace was just a little luckier.

…Hooman's holding penalty on Ridley's 20-yard run at the tail end of the third quarter was undeniable. He wrapped his arms around the Dolphin defender's neck and threw him to the ground. No question there.

…Brady was sacked a second time as the quarter drew to a close. It was 2nd-and-20 from their own 22. They had four receivers, two on each side, and Ridley deep in the backfield. Brady, under center, dropped back. No sooner did the complete his seven-step drop than he was swallowed up by three Dolphins. The first to get there was McCain, who made a quick swim move over Solder and arrived at Brady untouched. He was also met by DT Jared Odrick, who had ripped under right guard Jordan Devey with relative ease. RT Sebastian Vollmer also had difficulty handling his man, Wake, who added insurance to Brady's demise. An almost complete collapse on that play by Brady's blockers up front. No excuses there. All three just got beaten by their opponents.

4th Quarter

!…Early in the fourth quarter, Brady was taken down a third time, at a most inopportune time: 3rd-and-8 from his own 34. The Patriots were in a trips left, with Gronk as the lone receiver to the right. Vereen was in the shotgun backfield to his right. Dolphins were in a nickel zone. Right DE Olivier Vernon executed a spin move on Solder to squeeze between him and left guard Marcus Cannon, who slid over to try to assist at the last moment. Too little too late, though. Vernon was in Brady's face and the QB crumbled. Wake again piled on after putting an identical move on Vollmer.

…New England finally got some pressure on Tannehill in the late stages. On a 2nd-and3 deep in Miami territory, Mayo came on a delayed blitz from deep behind the line of scrimmage and was untouched as he registered the sack. Helped force a punt two plays later.

…The Patriots might've taken the lead in the fourth quarter had Brady been able to connect with Edelman on a 3rd-and-9 from the Miami 44. Edelman, lined up wide left, easily beat cornerback Will Davis with a nice fake to the inside before darting back to the outside. Safety Michael Thomas was late arriving to help, so, if Brady's overthrown ball were on target, Edelman would have at least had a first down in the Miami red zone.

…Jones got a second personal foul when his helmet made contact with Tannehill's as Jones was wrapping him up as Tannehill released the ball on an incomplete pass. Nothing to argue about there, either. A clear violation of the rules, as written.

…New England's front seven looked overmatched in the late going against Miami's new offensive line. The 3-4 just doesn't seem to suit the personnel, which was getting pushed around pretty good when Miami ran the ball on their last touchdown drive to go up 30-20. Rush defense was a weakness of the Patriots defense in 2013, and that continued against Miami.

…The fourth and final sack of Brady was a simple case of Wake being too fast for Vollmer. Wake didn't even make any moves, he just speed-rushed Vollmer, who didn't get good leverage when he put his hands on Wake's chest. Brady never saw it coming. Wakes hit as Brady was in the throwing motion forced another fumble that Miami recovered and converted into three more points to make the final score 33-20.


DO YOUR JOB: Julian Edelman. Not only did Edelman lead all Patriots receivers with 6 catches for 95 yards against Miami, he also tied for the second-highest rushing total on the team Sunday. His two carries on end-around plays picked up 21 total yards.

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