…New England was forced to start the game with a dime personnel package on defense, in part because of Miami's formations, but also because they were without starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy (right calf injury). Elandon Roberts and Marquis Flowers got the start at LB, while Trevor Reilly rotated in throughout the night (David Harris was an inactive healthy scratch). Extra cornerback Jonathan Jones and safety Duron Harmon frequently factored in the secondary mix as well.
…Both Roberts and Jones missed tackles on the game's opening drive that allowed Miami to march down the field with relative ease. Missed tackles were all too common for the Patriots on this night.
…New England didn't have the ball much in the first quarter, partly due to a rare INT by Tom Brady. Facing a 3rd-and-10 deep in his own end, Brady had WR Brandin Cooks open on a corner route down the left sideline, but underthrew Cooks. This allowed CB Xavien Howard, who'd been beaten by Cooks, to make a relatively easy pick, although it appeared as if he pushed Cooks away before the ball arrived. No flags were thrown, however, by referee Pete Morelli's crew.
…DT Alan Branch had to leave the game very early (on the second Dolphins drive) after injuring his right knee. It seems to have occurred on a 3rd-and-1 handoff to TE/FB MarQueis Gray. Branch had his leg rolled on from the side, twisting it awkwardly. He came back on the field for one play on the next series and actually made the tackle, but his night was effectively over at this point.
…The Dolphins D blitzed Brady quite a bit Monday night, and that contributed to his having to throw the ball away an unusual number of times (six) and misfiring on several other passes.
…DT Malcom Brown's neutral zone infraction penalty looked like a deserved call, as he jumped over the line of scrimmage and caused Miami's right guard to shuffle backward prior to the snap.
…Same for CB Stephon Gilmore's pass interference against WR DeVante Parker. Gilmore grabbed Parker for a moment and caused the receiver's body to spin backward for a moment… just enough for the refs to notice and throw the flag.
…New England has been doing more blitzing of late, compared to earlier in the season, and it paid off early in the 2nd quarter when safety Devin McCourty came off the right edge unmolested. QB Jay Cutler had no chance to evade McCourty, who brought Cutler down for an 11-yard loss on 2nd-and-7 deep in Miami territory.
…Third-stringer Cameron Fleming was forced to start once again at right tackle because starter Marcus Cannon (left ankle) and backup LaAdrian Waddle (right ankle) are still not ready to return. Fleming did well last week in Buffalo, and fared OK against the Dolphins, but did incur a false start penalty Monday night. It appeared he was thrown off by a motioning TE Dwayne Allen right behind him and to his right. Otherwise, a solid week once again for Fleming.
…Yes, RB Rex Burkhead made a nifty move to elude an oncoming Dolphin defender en route to the end zone , but he wouldn't have had the chance were it not for a great block to the outside (a kick-out block) by FB James Develin that created the running lane for Burkhead on 1st-and-goal from the Miami 3. Give Develin the assist on that TD run by Burkhead.
…Roberts was victimized earlier on a pass route by RB Kenyan Drake, and again late in the first half when Drake ran a go-route, blowing right by Roberts. New England blitzed Cutler on this play, but he did a nice job of staying in the pocket, looking off Harmon (the deep safety) momentarily to give Drake extra room to make a big catch downfield.
…Those missed tackles we mentioned earlier came back to haunt the Patriots again in their red zone when safety Jordan Richards blitzed Cutler untouched, but couldn't wrap him up properly, allowing Cutler to spin out of harm's way and complete an 8-yard pass to Drake on 3rd-and-7. Miami would score on the next play
…Cutler was effective on bootlegs throughout the night, and that's how he found WR Jarvis Landry for this first Miami touchdown. Landry, in the slot left, cut across the back of the o-line to the right as Cutler faked a toss left to Drake. Culter bootlegged to the right, and in so doing, managed to elude a rushing DE Eric Lee to complete and easy toss to Landry. The receiver then beat Jones to the pylon.
3rd & 4th Quarters
…Right guard Joe Thuney was responsible for Brady being sacked on the second play of the half when DT Jordan Phillips just beat him cleanly without making much of a move. It looked like Thuney may have overextended in his attempt to block Phillips and the defender used his leverage to toss Thuney to the ground. Clear shot to Brady for Phillips after that. Brady was swallowed up by him and Ndamukong Suh, who drove center David Andrews backward into Brady just as Phillips arrived.
…Very next play, Brady tried to go for it all with another deep ball to Cooks, who again had Howard beaten by a couple of steps. Again, though, the ball was slightly underthrown and that gave Howard a chance to recover and make the play underneath Cooks.
…Cutler's next touchdown pass was a brilliant throw to the back corner of the end zone, but an even better adjustment by his diminutive receiver, Jakeem Grant, to leap over CB Malcolm Butler and snare the pass in the air before keeping his body in bounds for the score. Butler had decent coverage, but Grant's effort was better.
…Can't argue with the PI call against Jones while covering Landry. Clear violation.
…A missed tackle in the backfield by safety Patrick Chung allowed Drake to pick up 31 yards down to the NE 4, rather than be dropped for a loss.
…Hard to tell exactly who it was, but someone on defense blew their coverage assignment, it seemed, when Cutler found Landry left alone in the middle of the field, just over the goal line. Landry was in a bunch formation with two other receivers to the right and ran a simple shallow cross and sat down in the gaping hole in the middle of the defense. Easiest touchdown of the night.
…Good work by rookie d-lineman Adam Butler to sack Culter late in the 3rd. It looked like Butler knew he had a chance, even before the snap, to beat right guard Jesse Davis. Butler's hand-twitch indicated that he saw something he could exploit, and as soon as the ball was snapped, he darted to Davis's right to knife his way into the backfield and bring down Cutler.
…Despite mounting a legitimate effort to come back and win, New England played enough sloppy football in the 4th quarter, committing six of their 10 total penalties Monday night, to prevent themselves from staging what would have been a monumental victory in a game that they mostly didn't deserve to win.
…Yes, the Patriots were missing several players due to injuries or, in Rob Gronkowski's case, suspension, but after the game, none of the Patriots who played in Miami used that as an excuse for the way they underperformed. It was certainly a factor, however.
…Burkhead continues to impress as a receiver out of the backfield. His play was a bright spot for the Patriots on an otherwise dismal night in Miami.