The Rear View Mirror – Game Eleven

The Patriots returned home and defeated the underwhelming Miami Dolphins, 35-17 on Sunday afternoon. Mentally, it was a strong showing by the home team, who maintained their pose after two Dolphins – Andre Branch and Bobby McCain – turned the game into a shoving match in the 3rd quarter. Physically, the game was a war of attrition as the home team as the defensive and special team units lost Trey Flowers, Nate Ebner, Trevor Reilly, Marquis Flowers, and Kyle Van Noy in the game.

Jonathan Jones (31) celebrates his 4th quarter sack

Photograph by Michael Dwyer (AP), published by NY Daily News

Nine Observations from Game Eleven…

1. In the final cut downs before the 2016 season, New England cut cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc and retained corner Jonathan Jones. While LeBlanc has been productive with the Chicago Bears, Jones’ resume continues to grow with the Patriots. Often covering Jarvis Landry in the slot, Jones made quick open field tackles on the Dolphins most productive receiver in the 1st and 4th quarter. In the 2nd, Jones trailed Landry’s pre-snap motion left, but then reacted quickly to the run to cut down the run to the right for minimal gain. In the 3rd, Jones recovered Danny Amendola’s muffed punt after Miami’s gunner, Walk Aikens, made a terrific play to punch the ball free.

2. Late in the first half, the Patriots’ countered the Dolphins trips (three receivers in a bunch) right formation with Stephon Gilmore pressing at the line of scrimmage and the play resulted in a 15 yard completion to Jarvis Landry. Early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots’ countered a trips left again with Gilmore at the line, but Malcolm Butler ran down before the snap aggressively replaced Gilmore at the line. That play resulted in 28 yard completion to Kenny Stills for a fourth down conversion. Gilmore gets credit for drive ending, end zone interception in the final seconds of the first half.

3. In the 2nd quarter Flowers’ took advantage of confusion between left tackle Laremy Tunsil and guard Ted Larsen on Malcolm Butler’s corner blitz for his first sack. In the 3rd, easily beat Tunsil on an inside move to sack Matt Moore (215 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions on 34 attempts) at the Miami six yard line. Rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler showed surprising speed when he ran past Mike Pouncey to force a third-down incompletion.

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia had choice words for the offensive line after a fumble

CBS Sports as seen from NFL Game Pass screenshot

4. Rough day for offensive lineman Ted Karras who started for David Andrews (illness) at center for the second consecutive game. Early in the 2nd quarter Karras snapped early and the loose ball was picked up by the Dolphins for a touchdown. On the next drive, Karras was late on the snap and the Patriots’ offense was penalize for a false start. In the 4th, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips pushed Karras a yard into the backfield to blow up a fourth-and-one run attempt.

5. Although it didn’t show up in the stat sheet, Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was dominant on Sunday. Midway through the 1st quarter Suh beat Shaq Mason’s bloc with an outside-and-back-inside move to put a hit on Tom Brady, one of eight quarterback hits in the game. Early in the 3rd, Suh got off a Mason block to knock down a Brady pass attempt. Also in the 3rd, Mason pulled left and Suh ran right past Ted Karras’ down block to run down Dion Lewis (112 yards on 15 carries) behind the line of scrimmage.

6. Early in the 2nd quarter, defensive end Cameron Wake put a power rush on reserve right tackle LaAdrian Waddle get one of his five quarterback hits. In the 4th, Waddle left the game for a lower body injury and was replaced by Cameron Fleming for a third-and-four play. New England’s coaches lined tight end Rob Gronkowski next to Fleming, but surprising didn’t provide any help for the third-string tackle, allowing Cameron Wake to run right through the line for a quick sack on Brady.

7. Quarterback Tom Brady started cold – underthrowing Rob Gronkowski twice – but he got warmer after Nate Ebner’s 19-yard run out a punt formation gained the team’s initial first down. Midway through the 1st he perfectly hit Gronkowski (82 yards) up the left seam off play action, and then a couple of minutes later he pinpointed an out-route completion for a touchdown.

8. Brady (227 yards, four touchdowns, one interception on 28 attempts) showed great pocket presence in the 1st quarter to avoid defensive linemen Jordan Phillips’ and Andre Branch’s pass rush before finding Gronkowski on a broken route. Again in the 2nd, Brady rolled out of near sack by defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Charles Harris, and bought enough time draw a defensive holding penalty down field.

9. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels got the offense rolling on the team’s first drive: Following a nice Dion Lewis run with a play-action call that got receiver Phillip Dorsett wide open for 39 yards. In the 2nd, McDaniels called a new play for 2017, faking the screen pass to Amendola and then hitting Gronkowski for 21 yards coming off a faux block attempt. In the 4th, McDaniels relived a successful play from the Atlanta Falcons’ game, calling a quick shuttle pass to Brandin Cooks (83 yards), who followed Gronkowski in for a red zone touchdown.

…And one comment about Game Twelve.

The Patriots’ go back on the road to play the 6-5 Buffalo Bills, the second place team in the division. The Bills are in the NFL’s top ten for pass defense (80.5 opponent quarterback rating), top ten for sacking opponents (31), and top five for intercepting their opponents (12).

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