When the Patriots ran:
For most of the game this matchup was a lot more of the same: very little push from the offensive line and even less push from running back LeGarrette Blount. Through three quarters Blount had just 54 yards on 18 carries for a pathetic 3-yard average, and that included a 12-yard run on his first attempt. He was slow to the hole and often got stacked up at the line by Ndamukong Suh and friends. But in the fourth quarter and the Patriots suddenly trying to protect a 7-point lead with rookie backup Jacoby Brissett in the game, Blount sealed it. He carried 11 times for 69 yards in the final quarter, often sweeping to the left behind Nate Solder for big chunks. His 26-yard scamper included a hurdle over cornerback Byron Maxwell, and his work on the final possession brought the Patriots within field goal range. Blount finished with 123 yards on 29 carries (4.2-yard average) but his production was even more impressive considering the circumstances in which he accounted for most of it.
When the Patriots passed:
The injury to Jimmy Garoppolo will obviously have much more significant implications but if for no other reason it's a shame we didn't see what kind of game he could have had. Garoppolo was far more impressive in his encore than he was in Arizona, ripping the Dolphins to shreds in a little less than two quarters of play. He finished 18 of 29 for 234 yards and three touchdowns, each coming on the first three possessions of the game. He was under heavy pressure for much of that time as well but deftly avoided it while spreading the ball effectively. Julian Edelman (seven catches, 76 yards), Danny Amendola (four catches, 50 yards, two TDs) and Chris Hogan (four catches, 59 yards) all torched the 'Phins secondary while tight end Martellus Bennett (five catches, 114 yards, one TD) took advantage of some blown assignments to post a huge day. Brissett managed the game effectively enough after Kiko Alonso ended Garoppolo's day late in the first half, completing 6 of 9 passes for 92 yards. He also ran four times for 12 yards, picking up a pair of first downs. Prior to the injury, the Patriots were on their way to hanging 50 on Miami.
When the Dolphins ran:
Miami tried briefly to establish Arian Foster early on but went nowhere. And even after the Dolphins fell way behind, very few of their runs caught the Patriots defense off guard later on either. Foster had three carries for 9 yards before leaving with a groin injury. His replacement, Jay Ajayi, lost a fumble and finished with just 14 yards on his five carries. Miami wound up with 70 yards on 16 carries, half of that (35 yards) coming on Ryan Tannehill scrambles. The Patriots were stout up front and prevented the Dolphins from using their zone-read schemes to gash them inside. Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and Vincent Valentine all saw action inside and effectively clogged the lanes until the Dolphins were forced to abandon the run while playing catchup. A nice all-around performance without linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) in the run defense department.
When the Dolphins passed:
The Patriots defense pitched a shutout for all but five seconds of the first half. The secondary applied solid coverage on the Dolphins wideouts and when they didn't Tannehill was off just enough to prevent Miami from moving the chains. Things all changed late in the first half. Miami went 77 yards and kicked a field goal as time expired, and after a fumble on the first possession of the third quarter the visitor's offense was unstoppable. Tannehill completed 32 of 45 for 389 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions, the last coming on a desperation heave into the end zone on the final play. Jarvis Landry was a beast, catching 10 of 13 passes thrown his way for 137 yards. He showed incredible toughness throughout the day. DeVante Parker also topped the century mark with 106 yards on eight catches while tight end Jordan Cameron added five receptions for 49 yards. The Patriots secondary was in shambles by the end of the game as Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman were all victimized and the safeties struggled with Cameron and in provided help over the top. In the meantime Tannehill was not sacked after going down five times in the opener in Seattle.
Amendola's 19-yard punt return in the second quarter was one of the few bright spots of the day for the Patriots special teams. Miami rookie Kenyan Drake made an ill-advised decision to take a high kick out of the end zone and was slammed at the 10, but other than that it wasn't pretty. Both kickers recorded touchbacks on all but one of their kickoffs and Matthew Slater didn't make it to the 20 on his attempt either. Ryan Allen really struggled, averaging just 32 yards on his four punts while his counterpart, Matt Darr, averaged almost 50 on his four kicks. But the biggest play on special teams came late and it almost cost the Patriots the game. Gostkowski missed a 39-yard field goal that would have iced the game wide right, giving Miami one last shot to tie or win it on the final possession. Miami then traveled 54 yards to move inside the Patriots 30 but ran out of time while throwing an interception in the end zone. The normally reliable Gostkowski also missed twice during the preseason, and fortunately this miss didn't cost the team.