There wasn't a lot of good stuff going on for the Patriots at Sun Life Stadium Sunday afternoon in Miami.
Bill Belichick knew it.
"We just didn't do anything well enough that we needed to do in the game all the way across the boards. We gotta get back to work. We gotta improve in every phase of the game. Playing. Coaching. Offense. Defense. Special teams. You name it. It just wasn't what we needed to do today and therefore we got the results that we did," Belichick said of the 33-20 defeat to the Dolphins.
Tom Brady knew it.
"The guys in the blue jerseys, I don't think any of us played very well," Brady concluded.
That's true, and it was certainly easier to come up with a group of Patriots whose stock was falling after the team's first opening day loss since 2003. But that doesn't mean it was all bad in Miami.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the highs and lows for New England after one disappointing week of work:
Julian Edelman – Tom Brady's favorite target continued in that role and brought his impressive summer momentum into the regular season opener with six catches for 95 yards (15.8 avg.) and a touchdown. He had a 44-yard catch that probably could have been a touchdown play with a slightly better throw. Edelman used his body to shield the defender on that play, something he's done often this summer and he appears poised to be a greater threat down the field this season.
Jamie Collins/Dont'a Hightower – There weren't too many bright spots on the Patriots defense on the way to giving up 360 total yards, but the two young linebackers each flashed at various times. Hightower got some chances to pressure the quarterback off the edge early and made some noise, even if he did end up with a roughing the passer penalty. Collins was active in coverage, including a huge, fundamental hit on Mike Wallace that forced an early fumble. On a day when the defense was left grasping for straws, Collins and Hightower each showed the athletic versatility in the passing game that might be put to better use down the road.
Rob Gronkowski – It wasn't perfect and Gronkowski looked a little stiff and lacking fluidity at times. But just to see No. 87 back on the field catching passes and throwing down his trademark Gronk Spike after his 6-yard touchdown has to be a beautiful thing for Patriots fans. It may take some time for he and Tom Brady to get back on the same page, given that Gronk's four catches came on 11 targets, but individually it was a decent first step coming off an ACL injury for the Patriots most important weapon.
Darrelle Revis – It's not that Revis was horrible. It's just that the expectations for the greatest free agent addition in Patriots history, a Hall of Fame talent in the middle of his prime, were much higher. Revis trailed Mike Wallace too often. He gave up a touchdown on what was actually solid coverage, but that came after Wallace failed to stay in bounds on a would-be score after beating Revis badly on a double-move. Revis' regular season debut in New England, like just about every other area of the team in the loss, left quite a bit to be desired.
Offensive line – A group that lost its legendry positional coach (Dante Scarnecchia) and its best player (Logan Mankins) looked a lot like a group that lost its legendary coach and star player. Sebastian Vollmer may see Cameron Wake (2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) in his nightmares. Nate Solder had his issues on the left side. There was some rotating on the inside with Ryan Wendell and Jordan Devey splitting snaps, leaving Dan Connolly to play both guard and center. Marcus Cannon filled the starting job at left guard vacated by Mankins. Brady was sacked and pressured all day. Lead back Stevan Ridley averaged just 2.6 yards a carry in traditional running situations. It was ugly up front.
Run D – It was ugly up front on defense, too. Miami owned the trenches, despite a new-look offensive line with five new starters. The Patriots undersized 3-4 front, with Chandler Jones and Joe Vellano flanking nose tackle Vince Wilfork, was pushed around. Knowshon Moreno notched 134 yards on 24 attempts, while Lamar Miller added 59 on his 11 carries. The Dolphins averaged 5 yards a pop with the longest run coming in at 15 yards. It was consistent domination up front, kind of like when Moreno put up more than 200 yards on the ground against New England while with the Broncos last fall. The tackling was bad. The push was bad. The work up front was just plain bad.