Week 1 Patriots vs. Dolphins
The Patriots opened the 2014 season with the tough task of heading down to Miami in the sweltering heat. The Patriots always get their best from division opponents and this would be no different. On top of that, the weirdest things always seem to happen down in Miami, which leads to losses for the Patriots. The Patriots were looking to start the season off strong with a win on the road, but sadly things did not come anything close to that plan.
The game for the Patriots started with a three-and-out, which then turned into a blocked punt setting up the Dolphins in their red zone for a quick touchdown score to Lamar Miller in the flat. So before most fans in the stadium even found their seats, the Patriots were down 7-0 off of a special teams miscue. The Pats responded with a very nice 13 play, 80 yard drive highlighted by a couple flashy plays by Julian Edelman. Throughout the drive, the Patriots were in total control of the Dolphins and doing whatever they pleased. The drive was capped off with Shane Vereen punching itin from 2 yards out to tie the game at 7. Just a mere three plays later, Jamie Collins was able to come up big for the defense by making a huge hit a forcing a fumble that was recovered by Jerod Mayo. The defense set the offense up with great field position, but sadly the offense wasn’t able to muster up anything and had to settle for a field goal giving the Patriots a 10-7 lead. The Patriots were able to control the game throughout the 1st quarter and should have been walking away with a 10-0 lead instead of 10-7 if it wasn’t for a boneheaded special team’s mistake.
The 2nd quarter opened up with the Dolphins looking to answer the Patriots, but only four plays in, Ryan Tannehill threw an errand pass intended for Mike Wallace that fell right into Alfonso Dennard’s hands. The Patriots defense had now set the offense up at their own 6 looking to build on their 10-7 lead. The Patriots offense really got the drive going when Brady found Edelman for a 44 yard gain down the seam. The pass wasn’t a perfect one, but Edelman made a great play on the ball to complete the catch. The Patriots continued marching inside their 10 yard line, where Brady then found Rob Gronkowski cutting across the end zone for a 6 yard touchdown score. Now the Patriots were up 17-7 and looking to be in complete control of the game on both sides of the football. The Dolphins got the ball back yet again looking to answer the Patriots, but yet again, the defense came up with a big play forcing another turnover on a Miller fumble. Sadly, the offense wasn’t able to do anything with the ball this time and punted it back to Miami. The following drive, Miami got off to a hot start after a horrible roughing the passer penalty call on Hightower. Miami then was able to finish off the drive with a field goal cutting the Patriots lead to a touchdown. The Patriots hopped into the two minute offense and were able to net a field goal before half giving them a ten point lead. The Patriots played a very solid half of football to open the season with the defense forcing three turnovers and the offense controlling the game as well. It certainly looked like the Patriots were on their way to another opening day win, but Miami had other plans.
The second half opened up well for the Dolphins as they were able to put together a nice drive led by some very strong running from Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins were able to drive all the way inside the 10, but the Patriots defense stood tough and forced a field goal, holding the lead to just seven. The Patriots offense got the ball back looking to score, but only four plays into the drive, the offensive line allowed quick pressure and Brady fumbled the ball which the Phins recovered. From this point on, you already knew how this game may be turning out. Four plays later Tannehill forced a throw into zone coverage and Darrelle Revis tipped the pass, but Wallace was still able to haul it in for the touchdown. With the game now tied, the momentum had obviously switched at this point and you could sense the Pats were in trouble. Next possession: three and out. The offense line andBrady’s accuracy were quickly going down the drain. Moreno kept carrying Miami on his back as he was slicing through the Patriots defensive line and linebackers. The Dolphins were able to take a field goal on the drive and take back the lead 23-20 with all the momentum. The Patriots offense needed some sort of spark to get the game under control, but a holding penalty and a horrible sack ended those hopes really fast. The Patriots were again punting the ball back to Miami.
The fourth quarter started out with four consecutive three and outs combined between the two teams. On a third and nine, the Patriots really could’ve used a first down to possibly spark a drive, but Brady missed a wide open Edelman and the Pats had to settle with another three and out. The Dolphins got the ball back again and continued to push their way around the Pats front seven. The Patriots were close to holding the Phins to another field goal on a third and four, where Wilfork had Moreno dead to rights, but somehow, Moreno got away from the tackle and found pay dirt. The Dolphins now took a 30-20 lead with only six minutes remaining. That third down play that Vince missed was a huge killer as the Pats could’ve held the lead to only six. The Patriots needed a score, and fast. But, of course on third and ten, the Pats OLine let Cameron Wake almost go untouched rushing Brady. He forced a fumble which the Dolphins recovered and that all but ended the game. Miami ended up with another field goal making the score 33-20. The Pats offense got one more chance to improve the score but couldn’t even come close to scoring. The Patriots had completely fallen apart in the second half being outscored 23-0 in the second half.
Conclusion: The Patriots have many things that need to be improved on going forward. While both of the lines looked god-awful in the second half there are still easy improvements that can be made fundamentally. The Patriots need to find the right combination on the offensive line and stick with it to build continuity. Solder and Vollmer both played an awful game in particular as did the entire offensive line for that matter. Personally, I would like to see the offensive line look like this: Solder, Connolly, Stork (eventually), Cannon and Vollmer. I think that’s what they need to go with and stick with it. Defensively, I didn’t like the use of the 3-4. Dominque Easley is a penetrator, but was forced to play a two gapping role on Sunday, which killed his effectiveness. Vellano was pushed around all day and looks like he doesn’t belong out there. I hated the cutting of Kelly, but now I really hate it. Chandler Jones was invisible outside of his two roughing the passer penalties. Both Collins and Mayo did a terrible job in penetrating through the holes and making the tackles. The secondary looked good as they held Tannehill to under 200 yards and didn’t give up any egregious plays. Revis in particular wasn’t as good as I thought he would be, but he was still solid.
Offensively, the run game was sorry due to offensive line blocking and the pass game really couldn’t get going as the offensive line didn’t want to block and Brady missed some passes. The coaching in this game was suspect to say the least in my opinion. I didn’t like how the offense moved toward the pass so much. I also don’t like how Vereen is getting the most snaps at running back. It pretty much tells the defense that the play will be a pass. I think Ridley needs more opportunities, which can settle down the offensive line too. I also didn’t like the defensive calls. The 3-4 scheme is not a good fit for this defense. I hope we switch back to a 4-3 so the run can finally be stopped. I also hate the lack of pressure being applied to opposing offenses. I think this defense, with Revis, should man up every play and blitz at least 5-6 on most plays. That, in my opinion, would be the best way to utilize Revis in this defense. This defense needs to play aggressive and take chances instead of dropping into a zone and waiting for the quarterback to make a mistake. I think the Patriots still have all the talent in the world to win the #1 seed in this conference and be a Super Bowl contender, but they need to figure out their offensive and defensive lines quick to start winning again. I expect them to get back on track Sunday in Minnesota and pick up the first win of the season in a blowout.
Positives: Brady (1st half), Revis, Dennard, Gronk, Edelman
Negatives: The offensive line, Brady (2nd half), Jones, Vellano, Easley, Collins, Mayo