The Patriots defense allowed just 17 points on Sunday against the Dolphins, a total very much in line with the kind of performances we've come to expect in New England. But in the finer points, the defense wasn't up to their usual standards.
Both opening drives of each half led to touchdowns for Miami, with New England mounting too little resistance on the 10- and nine-play scoring drives. They also failed to give their offense back the ball after Miami took over on their own nine-yard line with 3:31 left in the contest, allowing the Dolphins to run the clock out despite taking a holding penalty that backed them up to their own five-yard line.
Captain Dont'a Hightower started off his Thursday media availability by holding himself accountable.
"I pride myself on being, not the smartest guy, but definitely want to push up my awareness as far as situational awareness," said Hightower. "It's coming along, but obviously I want to play a lot better. Be a little bit more impactful."
After a year off some rust was to be expected, even from the veteran performer who's made some of the biggest plays in team history, but registering only four tackles and no quarterback hits or sacks was still a disappointing output.
How can Hightower and the defense be more impactful?
"Just playing faster, having better awareness," said Hightower. "It's Week 1 and we're still growing. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but obviously, the more guys who play the best that they can, it helps out the team. I want to do a little bit better than that."
Now, the defense will face rookie Zach Wilson, a quarterback who Hightower pointed out has a "cannon" for an arm.
"You don't want to be passive about anybody you're playing, you want to respect your opponent but at the same time, we feel we have a good defense obviously and we have guys who can win one-on-one in the past rush and guys just in the front seven who can get pressure on the quarterback," said Hightower. "Carolina did that very well throughout the game so hopefully, we can do that, get pressure on him, but like I said before he'll stay in the pocket and deliver really good throws.
"We just gotta come out, start faster, play harder."
Practice & Injury Report
Attendance remained the same at Thursday's practice, which was held on the upper practice fields in shells and shorts, with Trent Brown (calf) and Kyle Van Noy (throat) once again the only absences. With two missed practices this week, it's looking less likely both starters will play. For Brown, it appears that Yasir Durant could be filling in at right tackle. He entered the game against the Dolphins and had a solid showing considering he spent most of his summer with Kansas City.
As for Van Noy, his potential absence could open up an opportunity for Josh Uche, who had a sack in the opener but only played 15 defensive snaps. Chase Winovich could also be a candidate for increased reps, he played 12 defensive snaps.
On the injury report, Jonnu Smith (hip) was a new addition, as was kicker Quinn Nordin (abdomen), both listed as limited. They were joined by Ronnie Perkins (shoulder) and Yodny Cajuste (hamstring). Nelson Agholor, Jalen Mills and Kyle Dugger were all full participants.
Quotes of Note
James White on getting back on track:
"I want to do whatever it takes to help the team win, whether it's blocking, running, catching the football. All of us running backs are going to be out there, nobody's gonna play the entire time so when my number is called whether it's blocking, catching, running, I just wanna do whatever I can to help the team win so if it's getting the ball, if it's blocking, it doesn't matter."
Shaun Wade on arriving in New England:
When I first walked in they welcomed me, all the players welcomed me, just wanted to get to know me. I'm a quiet person so they get me to talk and things like that. Just being around Gillmore, J.C., Mills, AP, you got Dev... just being around all them guys seeing how they practice, how they work, how they put a lot of time into their craft in the film room and it shows up on the field and on game day. So right now I'm just trying to learn and grasp everything from them and from the coaches.
Matthew Slater on the team's mindset:
"You have to be able to hit the reset button in this league. Every week is a new week, it's a new opportunity, you have to be refocused, re-energized and just focused on the task at hand. So for us, what happened last week has no bearing on this week. We have a tall task ahead of us playing another opponent that's in the division."