Pick Six:  Observations from Game Thirteen

New England lost 34-33 down in Miami Florida on Sunday afternoon. The game will be remembered for the Dolphins’ desperation, hook-and-ladder, 69-yard touchdown play with no time on the clock. But the Patriots owe the loss to more than one “Yakety Sax” play, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point, a 42-yard field goal attempt, and Tom Brady lost control of the clock and allowed the 2nd quarter to end with the ball on the Miami two yard line.

Six Observations from Game Thirteen

1. On the final play of the game, cornerback Jonathan Jones missed a tackle on Kenny Stills that could have ended the play before the first lateral to DeVante Parker. After Parker lateraled to Kenyan Drake, the Patriot with the best opportunity to tackle Drake was Patrick Chung. Two former Patriots – Danny Amendola first and guard Ted Larsen second – blocked Chung to give Drake a change to complete his 52 yard run to the end zone. Much has been made in sports media about tight end Rob Gronkowski being on the field – instead of safety Devin McCourty – in anticipation of a Hail Mary pass play. Gronkowski took a bad angle at Drake and might have prevented J.C. Jackson from tripping up the Dolphins’ running back at the one yard line.

2. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a nearly perfect quarterback rating of 155.2 for the game. On only 19 attempts, Tannehill piled up 265 yards and three touchdowns. Half of the quarterback’s targets went to receiver Kenny Stills, who was shadowed by cornerback Jason McCourty a designed roll-out, seven yard touchdown pass in the 1st quarter and 21-yard crossing route in the 2nd. Also in the 2nd, Jason McCourty was the closest defender on a Kenny Stills’ 43 yard pass play against what appeared to be a breakdown in New England’s zone defense. In the 4th, Stills caught a short pass, then ran out of JC Jackson’s tackle attempt, to pick up 16 yards and a first down.

3. The Patriots’ run defense was overwhelmed by Frank Gore, Brandon Bolden, and Kenyan Drake, who combined for 176 yards (8.8 average). ESPN’s Mike Reiss noted that in the second half the Patriots played heavier fronts and – perhaps causally – the Dolphins’ run average went from 11.7 yards on 11 first half carries to 5.2 yards on nine second half carries. In the 1st quarter Frank Gore picked up 36 yards out of trips bunch formation behind right guard Jesse Davis and right tackle Ja'Wuan James pulling to the left. In the 2nd quarter, Brandon Bolden ran off right tackle for a 54 yard touchdown. On that play, tight end Durham Smythe wham blocked defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, and safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Elandon Roberts couldn’t get off their blocks to slow down the running back. In the 3rd quarter Frank Gore picked up 16 yards up the middle when right guard Jesse Davis and center Travis Swanson effectively passing off defensive tackle Malcom Brown to pick up blitzing linebacker Nicholas Grigsby.

4 Albert McClellan – a special teamer who was added to the Patriots in November – altered two punts in the first half. His block in the 1st quarter was recovered by Ramon Humber and was converted into a touchdown five plays later. His 2nd quarter disruption resulted in a net two yard punt and set the Patriots up in at the Miami 31 yard line. Apparently there was some pre-game planning because on both plays McClellan ran past long snapper John Denney to get to the ball.

5. Tom Brady had a strong game, notably on third down where he had a quarterback rating of 133 on thirteen drop backs. Late in the 3rd quarter Brady stood patient in the pocket with pressure baring down on him, and found Rob Gronkowski over the middle, between zones, for a thirteen yard, first down conversion. Speaking of Gronkowski, the tight end had his second 100-yard receiving game of 2018. Late in the 3rd quarter Gronkowski caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone with cornerback Bobby McCain flying over the big tight end to try and disrupt the pass.

6. Receiver Josh Gordon leads the Patriots this season with 18 yards per catch. On Sunday the pass catcher accounted for 75 receiving yards and another 41 yards on a pass interference penalty against Minkah Fitzpatrick. In the 3rd quarter, free safety Reshad Jones clearly hit Gordon before the ball arrived, but the pass interference was uncalled. For what it’s worth, most of Gordon’s contributions came when the Dolphins were in zone coverage.

Originally posted on PatriotsPulpit.com

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