Granted, Matt Cassel played his worst game since taking over for Tom Brady in Week 1, but with the way the defense played Sunday, it's highly unlikely the two-time Super Bowl MVP would've been able to save the New England Patriots from humiliation against the Dolphins.
Led by five touchdowns from Ronnie Brown (four rushing and one passing), winless Miami waltzed into Gillette Stadium and crushed the Patriots, 38-13, snapping New England's NFL-record 21-game regular-season winning streak.
What went wrong? The Patriots couldn't handle Miami's trickery. After getting crushed last weekend in Arizona, the Dolphins ran a spread offense Sunday that included five direct snaps to Brown, who lined up at quarterback on each attempt and scored on four of the five snaps.
"It was a total team loss," coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "I don't think we did a good job coaching, starting with me, and didn't do a good job of playing. We got pretty well beat in every phase of the game, other than special teams."
The Patriots allowed 216 rushing yards and 461 total yards of offense in Sunday's loss. Cassel's performance didn't help. Making just his second career start, he finished 19-of-31 for 131 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The lone pick - his first of the season - capped an awful sequence in the red zone in which he got sacked on back-to-back plays and threw an errant pass on third down while backpedaling that landed in the hands of Randy Starks.
"I think if you take away the interception in the first half, he's 15 for 20 and I thought he actually threw the ball pretty well," Belichick said of Cassel. "We got behind in the game that skews a lot of things - how you approach the game, how you play it and how you have to play it - so I think there were some good things and some plays he would probably like to have back just like the same way everybody else feels."
|"if you take away the interception in the first half, he's 15 for 20 and I thought he actually threw the ball pretty well" -- Bill Belichick on trying to find the silver lining in Sunday's 38-13 blowout|
Bill Belichick (AP)
The scary part regarding the defense's inability to adjust to Brown's trick plays is the fact the Patriots studied the spread formation as part of their preparation for last week's game against the Jets.
"That's the formation (they) used last week with Leon Washington and he's thrown out of it and run out of it," Belichick said. "We worked on it a week ago."
With a bye coming up this weekend, the Patriots will have more time to shore up their defense and work on recognizing trick formations, which is now a problem in the aftermath of Sunday's deflating loss. The team will resume its regular-season schedule on the road two weeks from now in San Francisco.
"Our football team just has to play better than that," Belichick said. "I know we are capable of that, but we just didn't do it (Sunday) and that's disappointing. We'll look at the corrections. We'll move on and try to be better for San Francisco. That's really about all that we can do - correct the mistakes on this one put it to rest and get on with the next one."
--Quarterback Matt Cassel's struggles certainly weren't unexpected considering his limited playing experience entering this season, but his inability to make simple reads and throws Sunday stood out during the Patriots' disastrous loss to Miami.
When the Dolphins applied pressure, Cassel looked hesitant and had trouble throwing on the run. He overthrew a handful of open receivers and once again failed to take any shots down the field against Miami's porous secondary.
"We just went along with the game plan and tried to throw it to the open guys," Cassel said. "They did a good job of stopping us once we got into the red zone and we didn't take advantage of the opportunities they gave us. That is sometimes how it goes."
-- Once again, Randy Moss was not a big part of the game plan on offense, catching just four passes for 25 yards.
Through three games, Moss has 12 catches and only one touchdown. At this point last year, he already had 22 catches and five touchdowns. As a first-year captain, Moss is trying to keep everyone's spirits up and make sure Cassel doesn't lose confidence.
"The main thing is no matter what happens we have to stay upbeat," Moss said. "Not just myself, but you've got a whole team and coaching staff that has to say upbeat. I think a lot of people are looking for the captains for all this leadership and to change things around, but you have a 53-man roster and all these coaches, so that's hard to do.
"I'm not saying that it's impossible, coach (Bill) Belichick is a hell of a coach. I look forward to good things coming from him this week and any other week."
-- Another major concern from Sunday's loss was Miami's ability to spread out the defense and target the middle of the field. Quarterback Chad Pennington completed several passes over the middle, specifically to Greg Camarillo, who caught four passes for 50 yards.
"I expected us to execute our game plan," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "I guess (Miami) saw it as a weak spot or a spot that they could hit in their game plan. I think they did an excellent job of what they wanted to do. They controlled pretty much every phase of the game."
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