Oct 27, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Miami Dolphins safety Chris Clemons (30) and linebacker Jonathan Freeny (56) force New England Patriots kick returner Julian Edelman (11) out of bounds on a put return during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Yesterday, the New England Patriots staged an impressive second half comeback, en route to a 27-17 win over their divisional rivals. The first half was, as tight end Rob Gronkowski put it, “brutal”. I think that this statement is accurate, as nothing went right for the Pats in that first period, and the scoreboard showed it. They faced a 17-3 deficit heading into the second half, but it was quickly erased by a resilient Patriots squad.
Shortly after the game concluded, I put together three quick reaction takeaways from the contest, but a game this “interesting”, warrants much more discussion.
1. Dobson Over Thompkins
Over the last couple of weeks, rookie Aaron Dobson has slowly been incorporated into the team’s offense, while also becoming a favorite of quarterback Tom Brady. Yesterday he started the game for the Patriots, coming up with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, saw his role vanish in this game, as he was held without a catch for this first time in 2013, seeing only 14 offensive snaps (lowest total of season). Dobson’s ability to be a solid deep threat was one of the big reasons why New England drafted him, and we are finally beginning to see why scouts raved over Dobson’s skill-set. Over the last four games he has totaled 15 catches, 206 yards and a touchdown. I think that we will only see Dobson’s production increase from here on out, which is good news for the stagnant Patriots offense.
2. Brady Still Struggling
This is something that has been detailed on a national stage, as anytime an elite quarterback’s play suffers, people take notice. His accuracy has been down, his decision making questionable, and his knowledge of his pocket has been spotty at best (although is offensive line isn’t helping). He did hurt his throwing hand last week in New York, and it was obvious that the swelling was bothering him yesterday (don’t tell Brady that, as according to him, his hand is “perfect”). No matter how Brady feels about his injured hand, his play hasn’t been up to par, and he struggled once again against Miami. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 116 yards, one touchdown and a bad interception on his first throw of the game.
3. Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington Stand Out In Coverage
Based on watching this game live on a TV broadcast, I thought that both Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard were excellent in coverage. Arrington was taken out of last week’s contest versus the Jets because of bad play, but he redeemed himself yesterday. He was matched up with the speedy Mike Wallace for the majority of the game, and Wallace was unable to shake free. Wallace caught only two balls for 16 yards while Arrington was on the field, and he had zero impact on the Dolphin passing attack. Arrington is a quality slot cornerback, but he showed that he can hang with some of the best in the NFL on the outside, which is not only important for the Patriots, but also for his own psyche.
Dennard’s success wasn’t nearly as much of a surprise, as we have come to expect great play from this young man. Dennard is quickly emerging as one of the best cover corners in the NFL, and he is holding down the fort (along with Devin McCourty) in the back end while Aqib Talib is gone.
4. Amendola, Edelman Absent From Offense
With tight end Rob Gronkowski making his return to the offense, it was expected that the roles of guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola would diminish a little bit. But I didn’t think that they would go completely missing like they did yesterday. The two of them combined to catch five balls for a grand total of 22 yards. Amendola did come up with a few big catches for first downs, but he also had a critical drop late in the game, which could have cost the Pats points. I am not placing all of the blame for the offenses struggles on these two, because everybody struggled this week, but they didn’t do the rest of the team any favors by failing to produce.
5. Use Of The DB Pressure
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Patriots sent pressure with a defensive back 14 times against the Dolphins, after only doing it five times in the previous seven games. They saw that rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggled when faced with pressure, so Bill Belichick decided to test him. The strategy worked, as the Pats came up with six sacks, including a big strip sack by cornerback Logan Ryan in the third quarter, which led to New England tying the football game.