In our weekly preview, we discussed what areas the Dolphins and Patriots could possibly expose each other. Division games are always interesting because the teams are so familiar that there is bound to be some big plays and surprising results. Let's review what occurred on Sunday and determine what the Dolphins ultimate downfall was in their 41-13 loss.
When the Patriots Passed :
Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game had an ugly first half. Brady was 8/15 for 82 yards and one interception, which isn’t awful, but it’s extremely average. Brady was having problems with accuracy and he couldn’t find Rob Gronkowski, who was doubled most of the game. Julian Edelman had a few catches to get the offense rolling on the first drive, but a deflected pass led to an interception and threw Brady into a tailspin for the remainder of the half. The second half was a completely different story. On the first play from scrimmage, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 35 yards on a perfectly executed seam route and the offense was rolling from there. Brady was 13/20 for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, a complete turnaround from the first half. Shane Vereen wasn’t used in the passing game, which is his only real strength, and the screen game was non-existent, which makes no sense against a strong pass rushing team like the Dolphins. That’s two weeks in a row where the offensive gameplan doesn’t make a lot of sense; sometimes I get the feeling that Josh McDaniels forces HIS ideas instead of adapting to what the defense will allow you to do. Rob Gronkowski had a huge second half, making three catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. When Gronk goes, the offense goes, and yesterday was a perfect example.
When the Patriots Ran :
Similar to the passing game, the running game got off to a slow start. In the first half, New England ran the ball 13 times for 20 yards; Shane Vereen had six carries for five yards, Blount had five carries for 10 yards, Julian Edelman had one carry for six yards (jet sweep for a first down, one of the few good runs) and Brady had one carry for negative one yard. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty, but this wasn’t because the backs are terrible. The offensive line was getting dominated and couldn’t open anything up. You could have Adrian Peterson as your running back, but if you don’t block, you won’t pickup yardage. One knock on the backs- Shane Vereen' explosiveness just isn’t there and he looks very tentative when he runs. He’s running to not get hurt, and that is the worst way to play. He’s been useless in the passing game for three weeks too, so Vereen might be getting phased out as the playoffs get closer. In the second half, the offensive line took over and the running game flourished. It also didn’t hurt that Jonas Gray was featured more, carrying the ball 11 times for 62 yards and showing the same explosiveness we saw against the Colts. Gray WAS in the doghouse, but his outing yesterday proved that he’s the type of back that makes a difference in this offense. Brady also contributed one of the longest runs of his career on a crucial third down, picking up 17 yards and setting the Patriots up for a touchdown that set the tone for the huge third quarter. Committing to the run is essential, and we all saw the difference in the offense when they finally did it. Rob Gronkowski was excellent run blocking, opening up big holes for Jonas Gray to bounce through. Gray’ running style fits this offensive line very well and it is time to get him at least 10-15 carries per game. New England finished the game with 29 carries for 108 yards.
When the Dolphins Passed :Ryan Tannehill had plenty of opportunities to throw yesterday, completing 29 passes on 47 attempts. He spread the ball around and showed no fear when it came to throwing at the tough Patriots secondary, but he makes crucial mistakes. In the first half, Tannehill was 13/23 for 187 yards. He had a bad overthrow that led to a Duron Harmon interception, which was returned 60 yards and resulted in a Patriots touchdown. That type of mistake is inexcusable and is one of the reasons the Dolphins are 7-7. Tannehill also had two beautiful throws, one to open the game (50 yard completion to Mike Wallace) and an excellent 35 yard touchdown pass, also to Wallace, that brought the Dolphins within a point at halftime. After four years in the league, Tannehill has improved, but not at the pace the Dolphins want and need. The second half was more of the same; 16/24 for 159 yards and one interception, another that came at a point in the game where the Dolphins needed to gain some momentum. That pick led to a backbreaking touchdown and next thing the Dolphins knew, they were down 31-13. Mike Wallace (5-104-1) had a much better first half than second, and a lot of that had to do with who was covering him. As soon as Revis took the assignment, Tannehill started going to Jarvis Landry (8-99-0) and Charles Clay (6-59-0) more because Revis, as we stated in the preview, is locking down EVERYONE he faces. In the first half, Tannehill scrambled and caused some problems, but the Patriots pass rush woke up and finished with four sacks. Overall, it was a decent day for the Miami pass offense, but to beat the Patriots at home, Tannehill has to have a great day.
When the Dolphins Ran :
The Dolphins committed to the run in the first half, running the ball 17 times for 71 yards. Most of the carries went to Lamar Miller, who had 14 carries for 53 yards. New England was having a hard time stopping the run at times and it was also setting up the Miami passing game because the Patriots couldn’t key in on what Miami was doing. The second half was a completely different story; Miami ran the ball six times for a total of five yards. Again, six carries, five yards. When the Patriots went down and scored to open the second half, it appeared that the Dolphins coaching staff panicked. They did run it two times on their first drive of the second half, but after they stalled and punted, they gave up another field goal to make it 24-13. On the ensuing drive, Tannehill threw an interception that led to another touchdown, and the Dolphins officially abandoned the run. There was a ton of time left in the half and the Dolphins desperately needed to get the offense going, but they stayed one-dimensional and it played right into the Patriots hands. Good coaching staffs don’t panic when they are down 18 with almost a full half to go; clearly Miami doesn’t have the best coaching staff.
Just like they have all year, the Patriots special teams made a huge play that set the tone for the game. After a strong drive, the Dolphins lined up to kick a field goal to take the opening lead. Jamie Collins had other plans and blocked the field goal attempt which was scooped up by Patrick Chung and returned for a 62-yard touchdown. Collins freakish athleticism allowed him to get incredible height on his jump-and-block and Chung showed great instincts and speed on the scoop-and-score. Ryan Allen continued his excellent year, averaging 48 yards per punt with a long of 60. There was one breakdown in punt coverage at the end of the first half which led to a Dolphins score, but that was the only coverage issue. Stephen Gostkowski had a historic day as he moved ahead of Adam Vinatieri in points, making him the highest scorer in Patriots history; congratulations to Stephen.
Joe Philbin and his staff did an excellent job in the first half, running the ball and keeping the Patriots defense off balance. They also did a great job of shutting Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski down, which was clear when the Patriots tried to close out the half but couldn’t because Miami stuffed them and got the ball back. In the second half, it was like a completely different coaching staff on the Miami sideline. New England walked down the field and the Dolphins had no answers, and then went three-and-out which resulted in another Patriots field goal. Instead of trying to slow things down and running the ball, the Dolphins came out throwing again and gave up another interception which led to a touchdown. At this point it’s 31-13, but there is still a ton of time left. The Dolphins threw 95% of the time going forward, which played right into New England’ hands; why be impatient? The run was working, Miami got scared and they got away from it; that’s just foolish. The Patriots coaching staff adjusted and took over in the second half and may have cost Philbin his job in the process.
Statistics Provided by http://www.pro-football-reference.com/