The Patriots kept the ball rolling on Thursday night with another impressive victory. This time it was the Miami Dolphins falling victim as New England jumped to a 19-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 36-7 win at Gillette Stadium.
Here are some random thoughts to the Patriots seventh victory of 2015:
FEELING GOOD, LEWIS - After sitting out last week's win over the Jets with an abdominal injury, Dion Lewis returned to the lineup with a bang. Taking advantage of the Dolphins aggressive and penetrating front, Lewis was the target on several early screens and picked up big yards. On the first series of the game, the Patriots got backed up due to a penalty and faced a third-and-16 from their own 26. Lewis caught a screen from Tom Brady and made several cuts before picking up 17 yards and a first down. That kickstarted a drive that ended with a touchdown, but that wasn't all for Lewis. He caught a short pass in the flat on the next series and made an insane move to leave Koa Misi grasping at air while picking up 19 yards. He moved with his trademark quickness and cut decisively throughout the night. He finished with six catches for 93 yards – all in the first half – and added five carries for 19 yards. He provided a boost to the offense that was lacking against the Jets.
ADDED WRINKLE -The Patriots came out and tried to establish the run early with LeGarrette Blount but were unable to get it done. Blount managed just 34 yards on 10 first-half carries and was unable to get in the flow. So, the Patriots came out in the second half and had Lewis as the lone setback behind Brady. Lewis carried on two for the first three plays and picked up gains of 11 and 10 yards. He wasn't involved much in the running game thereafter but his running got things started on a drive that ended with a field goal. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a huge deal but the drive did manage to respond to the Dolphins only touchdown drive of the night.
RELEASE ME - One of the most incredible developments of the season's first half is watching opposing defenses consistently allow Rob Gronkowski to have a free release. Despite Gronkowski's immense production, the tight end still finds ways to jet off the line and into his route with ease. That was the case on the game's first possession when he easily found a gap between several Dolphins and raced across the field untouched. As Gronkowski cut upfield and raced to the sideline, he picked up a block from Brandon LaFell and bolted into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown to open the scoring. There's no doubting Gronk's ability but allowing him to roam free is like committing suicide.
BLESSING IN DISGUISE - The Patriots faced a fourth-and-one late in the second quarter and were prepared to go for it at the Dolphins 29. The offense lined up in a run-heavy set and tossed the ball to Blount toward the right sideline. The Dolphins appeared to have the play hemmed in, and unless Blount was able to break several tackle he surely would have been stuffed. But the play was whistled dead as Sebastian Vollmer and Michael Williams moved before the snap. The false start penalty pushed the ball back and Bill Belichick sent Stephen Gostkowski on the field to boot a 52-yard field goal. Had the penalty not been called the Patriots wouldn't have gotten points but it was a strange example of making a mistake actually helping the cause.
The New England Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins in a regular season game at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 29, 2015.
RUN STUFFERS - For the second week in a row the Patriots defense was stout against the run. Last week it was a compromised Chris Ivory and the Jets and this week it was Miami's Lamar Miller. Miller entered the game as hot as any running back in football but was stuffed for 10 yards on five first-half carries before the Dolphins had to open it up trailing 19-0. Alan Branch and Malcom Brown opened at defensive tackle and they consistently collapsed the middle and allowed the swarming linebackers to corral Miller. Even in the second half when Miami went almost exclusively through the air Sealver Siliga came up with a key stop on third-and-one, dropping Miller for a loss. The team's woes stopping the run early in the season seem like a lifetime ago at this point.
LAFELL REDUX –After a rocky start to his 2015 season against the Jets, LaFell more resembled the receiver we saw for most of 2014. He caught a couple of screens early for modest yardage, plays that may have been called with the intention of getting the ball in his hands quickly after his drops against New York. Then he caught a perfect back shoulder fade down the right sideline just before halftime for an 18-yard gain. The play set up Lewis' touchdown and showcased the tremendous rapport developed between he and Brady. LaFell waited for the exact right moment to turn back and found just enough separation to make the catch. It's a play that he executed dozens of times a year ago and quickly made the crowd forget about last week's blip on the radar.
JUST FOR KICKS –Stephen Gostkowski is off to a perfect start this season and shows no signs of letting up. He connected on a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter, which was his 25th consecutive made field goal. That matched Adam Vinatieri's franchise record, which was subsequently broken one quarter later when Gostkowski was good from 36 yards out. He also made all four of his extra points, extending his NFL record in the process. It would be hard to imagine any kicker doing it better than Gostkowski right now.
SACK EXCHANGE –Chandler Jones recorded a pair of sacks, giving him 8.5 on the season. That leads the league and his second one was quite impressive. He beat left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Jordan Cameron with a power move and buried Ryan Tannehill for an 8-yard loss. Jones hasn't always been as dominant as his sack total would suggest, but he certainly was in beating the Dolphins double team.
EXTRA POINTS –After being shut out in the opening quarter of the season against Pittsburgh, the Patriots have scored in every quarter since. The streak is up to 27 straight, which is the longest current streak in the league. … The Patriots improved to 7-0 for the second time in history and first since 2007. … The safety the Patriots recorded in the second quarter was the first by New England since Oct. 21, 2012, against the Jets. … The Patriots finished with five sacks, putting them on pace for 59 for the season, which would be a team record. … New England improved to 10-5 in Thursday games and 9-0 under Brady. … Brady tossed four touchdowns, giving him seven straight games with at least two. … Gornkowski finished with six catches for 113 yards, his fourth 100-yard game of the season and 19th of his career. He's on pace for 1,477 yards, which would shatter his own record for receiving yards by a tight end (1,327 in 2011).