Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) yells out from the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Game Grades: Solid Overall Effort Ruined By End Result

Even though the New England Patriots didn’t come out on top, I thought that this game was one of the best they have played in weeks. The offense moved the ball all game long (although stalled in the red zone), and the defense held up other than the all important game winning drive. The end result wasn’t what the Patriots wanted, but seeing how they played against a quality opponent was encouraging.

Here are the game grades.

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA: New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) runs with the ball againsg the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Offense: B+

When you consider that this group was working without Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins, they performed very well against a stout defensive unit. Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman ripped apart the middle of the Miami defense, getting open all game long. Josh Boyce gave us little flashes of his talent, but he also made quite a few mistakes. When Dobson and Thompkins return, I think Boyce will find himself back at the bottom of the depth chart, but in the future he will prove to be a key piece in Tom Brady’s offense. The offensive line lost left tackle Nate Solder early in the fourth quarter to a head injury, which forced Logan Mankins to take his spot, and Josh Kline to move to the left guard position. Brady frequently found himself under pressure after this change was made, and it definitely hurt them on that final drive. The health of Solder will be important to monitor going forward, as he is one of the best left tackles this league has to offer. Right guard Dan Connolly added another bad game to his 2013 resume, getting beat off the ball countless times, and allowing Miami defenders to shoot into the backfield quickly. Some of the big guys struggles were due to scheme (leaving Hoomanawanui alone on Cameron Wake on a third and eight play), but overall they just got beat by the Dolphins. The offensive line’s struggles led to the Pats going one for four in the red zone, but lacking a big offensive threat hurt them even more. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are great for moving the ball in between the 20’s, but they simply can’t separate when the field gets condensed, and they are forced to make plays designed for taller wide receivers. The return of Dobson and Thompkins should help the Patriots ability to score touchdowns, but in the meantime, it will be a struggle inside the 20 yard line.

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA: New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) is tackled by Miami Dolphins strong safety Chris Clemons (30) free safety Reshad Jones (20) safety Jimmy Wilson (27) in the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Rushing Offense: B-

This was another game where the Patriots ran the bell well to start off the contest, but gradually drifted away from it as the game progressed. LeGarrette Bount has run very well as of late, and the combination of him and Stevan Ridley pounding away at the Miami defense, seemed to be extremely effective. I don’t understand why the Patriots decided to go away from it, especially with how hard it was for them to finish drives in the end zone. New England’s struggling offensive line also could have benefited from a sustained running attack, as whenever the rushing attack gets going, that helps out all other facets of the game. Running the ball 22 times and throwing it 55 won’t cut it in the future, particularly with the Baltimore Ravens on the horizon.

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) makes the catch over New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) in the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated New England 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Pass Defense: B-

The Pats secondary started off the 2013 season in a great fashion, shutting down opponent after opponent. But they have taken a turn for the worse over the last couple of weeks, and they struggled again against the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, including a masterful game winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter. New England seemed to be playing a lot of zone coverage on Sunday, which gave the young quarterback an opportunity to sit back, read the coverage, and deliver the throw to the right receiver. I feel that the Pats are at their best when playing physical man coverage, considering that they have two of the best in the game at doing that, in Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib. Obviously you can’t do that every down against a team with Mike Wallace running down the field, but it would have been nice to see New England run more man coverage.

The pass rush was solid, getting to Tannehill four times, and getting five hits on him. But it wasn’t consistent, which has been a big problem for this unit here in 2013. If Chandler Jones and that front four could get continuous pressure on the opposing quarterback, then a lot of the problems in the back end would be forgotten.

Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Dont

Run Defense: A-

It seems like this group has turned a corner over these last two games, as they have been stout in the middle, not giving up much yardage on the ground. Sealver Siliga has been inserted into the lineup, and he has played terrific football, doing the best Vince Wilfork impression that he possibly can. Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes continue to play good run defense, although their pass coverage really can be a liability at times. However I was generally impressed with the front sevens’ play this past week, holding Miami to an average of 3.9 yards per rush. If this young defensive line can keep up their hot play, then their chances of advancing in this years’ playoffs will skyrocket.

Nov 18, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) reacts with holder Ryan Allen (6) after making a field goal in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams: C

Stephen Gostkowski has had an amazing 2013 season, but his play against Miami definitely hurt the Patriots. He missed a key 46 yard field goal on their opening possession of the second half, which ended up being extremely costly at the end of this ballgame. Then, when the Dolphins were set to get the ball back after Brady had taken the lead back for the Pats, Gostkowski kicked the ball out of bounds, setting up Tannehill at the 40 yard line. This made it much easier for him to drive Miami into field goal range, although they ended up just punching it in for six. Gostkowski gets a pass for his mediocre performance this past week, but hopefully he gets things back on the right track, as the Patriots head to Baltimore to take on the defending Super Bowl champions.

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