The Rear View Mirror – Game Thirteen
The Dolphins defeated the Patriots on Monday Night Football more completely than the 27-20 final score would suggest. The domination was so complete that Pro-Football-Reference calculated Miami’s win probability over 90% midway through the 3rd quarter. The home team was led by quarterback Jay Cutler (263 yards and three touchdowns on 38 attempts) and running back Kenyan Drake (114 yards on 25 attempts). Bad game all around for the New England offense, as they were limited to 248 yards, two turnovers, and 0-for-11 futility on third down.
Adam Butler pressures the passer
Photograph by Wilfredo Lee (AP) and published on Patriots.com
Nine Observations from Game Thirteen…
1. Defensive tackle Adam Butler pushed through blocks by guard Jesse Davis and tackle Sam Young to end a drive with a third-down sack in the 3rd quarter. Earlier, Butler showed good hustle midway through the 3rd quarter when he ran down field to tackle Kenyan Drake after the running back had ripped through defensive end Eric Lee’s tackle attempt at the line of scrimmage.
2. Running back Kenyan Drake was the engine in three of the Dolphins’ four plays of 20 yards or more. In the 2nd quarter, Miami lined up Drake wide right and he ran right past Roberts for a 47 yard catch and run. New England was slow reacting to that obvious mismatch, as they stayed in man defense and the single-high safety – Duron Harmon – was slow in helping.
3. At the beginning of the game, linebacker Elandon Roberts blitzed and failed to wrap up Drake, who scampered for 26 yards up the middle. In the 3rd quarter, Drake gained 31 yards around the right end when safety Patrick Chung missed a tackle in the backfield. That defensive miss was reminiscent of a near-sack in the 2nd by Jordan Richards that Jay Cutler spun out of and converted a third-and-seven opportunity.
4. Ironically, two players who could have helped the defense short comings – end Trey Flowers and linebacker Kyle Van Noy – were unavailable due to injuries sustained in the first meeting with the Dolphins two weeks ago. On Monday, New England’s linebacker positions were manned by back-up Elandon Roberts, and special teamers Marquis Flowers, Trevor Reilly, and Jonathan Freeny.
5. In the 3rd quarter, cornerback Malcolm Butler was step-for-step with receiver Jakeem Grant up the left sideline, but the Dolphin jumped for the touchdown reception while Butler didn’t seem to react quickly enough. In the 4th quarter Grant beat Butler badly on another go-route but the receiver dropped the sure touchdown pass.
Third-string tackle Cameron Fleming (71) played in his fourth consecutive game
Photograph by Lynne Sladky (AP) and published by Patriots.com
6. Despite picking up a false start penalty in the 2nd quarter, Cameron Fleming was noticeably serviceable at right tackle. Two weeks ago, Miami defensive end had three tackles, one sack, and five quarterback hits. Against Fleming on Monday, Wake was limited to no tackles, no sacks, and only one quarterback hit. For an end-of-the-roster player like Fleming, that’s positive.
7. Rough day at the office for receiver Brandin Cooks, who caught only one pass on seven attempts – and that one coming in the game’s final minutes once the Dolphins’ had switched to a zone defense. For most of the game, cornerback Xavien Howard shut down Cooks. In the 1st quarter Howard was step-for-step on Cooks’ out route and picked off a slightly underthrown pass. In the 3rd, Howard made up ground in the final second to intercept a late pass deep up the left seam. Later in the 3rd, Howard knocks away a third-and-one comeback route that derailed another drive.
8. In the 4th quarter, quarterback Tom Brady threw behind Cooks on a third-down slant route and later he threw the ball short on an out patter that Cooks had gotten open on. On 11 third-down drop backs, Brady completed three of ten attempts, for 13 yards, two interceptions, plus one sack. Their average yards-to-go on those plays was nine – equivalent to third-and-nine – which demonstrated how the team struggled on first and second down.
9. Brady’s quarterback rating has declined about 20% per game over the last three games, which begs the question, “Is there something physically wrong with him?” Over the past three weeks Brady has missed the Wednesday practice to receive “extra [physical] treatment.” While he’s been appearing on the injury report with an Achilles injury, close watching of the recent games indicate that he also has something going on with his right hand/wrist area.
… And one comment about Game Fourteen.
New England next travels to Pittsburgh with the first seed in the AFC playoffs potentially on the line. The Steelers will bring [arguably] the best receiver – Antonio Brown – and best running back – Le'Veon Bell – to play against Patriots’ defense that had a lot of trouble simply tackling in Miami.