New England Patriots: Five Additional Thoughts From 33-20 Loss To The Miami Dolphins


The New England Patriots suffered a pretty bad 33-20 loss to the Dolphins yesterday, opening up the season 0-1 for the first time since 2003. I posted an initial piece with my five biggest takeaways immediately after the game ended, but as always, you can never have enough analysis on the Patriots. Especially when they serve up a stinker like they did Sunday.

1. Adjustments for offensive line

We all know the offensive line was bad in this game, so I won’t spend more time dwelling on that. Instead, let’s think about how Bill Belichick will go about making adjustments going forward. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer aren’t going anywhere on the outside, so we should focus in on the interior. I honestly can’t believe the Pats went with Jordan Devey yesterday, especially after Tom Brady began taking hit after hit in the second half.

In my opinion, the best combination for the Patriots going forward, would be to take out Devey, and stick with Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly at the two guards, and Ryan Wendell as the center. I know Wendell is not the best choice, but until rookie Bryan Stork is ready, he is the best possible option. In a few weeks, I believe Stork will be the starting center for this team, and the offensive line will look much, much better.

2. Penalties 

One of the biggest issues fans and more importantly, Bill Belichick, had coming out of this game, was the amount of penalties New England committed. Nine fouls for a total of 100 yards is not acceptable, and while fixing the offensive line will garner the most headlines this week, this is an issue that must be fixed. “We gotta find a way to play without getting penalized, Belichick said after the game. “How many did we get penalized today? One hundred and I don’t know what is was. It’s just too many.”

A lot of these penalties were committed in crucial situations, and they helped swing the game in the Dolphins’ direction. I think Chandler Jones‘ two roughing-the-passer penalties stick out in my mind the most, and while they weren’t blatant mistakes, they are just an indictment of how un-disciplined the Patriots were all game.

3. Special teams disappointing

Aside from Stephen Gostkowski‘s two first half field goals, Scott O’Brien’s group were incredibly disappointing in yesterday’s contest. On their first possession of the game, a low snap from Danny Aiken resulted in a blocked punt, which translated into an easy touchdown for the Dolphins. Gostkowski also wasn’t perfect on his kickoffs, frequently kicking short line drives, which gave Miami multiple opportunities to bring back the kick.

Ryan Allen had a decent game, but by his usual terrific standards, it was sub-par. As Mike Loyko noted during the game, I would not be surprised to see some competition brought in this week to try and ratchet up the level of play going forward. Field position is huge in the NFL, and the Pats definitely lost that battle in their season opener.

4. Play-calling

Coming into this game, I thought the Patriots absolutely needed to have a balanced attack to play well against Miami.

Well, they didn’t exactly do that. New England called three times as many pass plays to run plays, which just won’t cut it against a defensive front as talented as Miami’s. And when you factor in the Patriots’ mediocre offensive line, I just don’t understand why they would send Brady back 60 times, while only giving Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen a combined 15 carries.

In addition to this, when the Pats began losing control of the game, and the offensive line completely collapsed, Josh McDaniels didn’t decide to run quick passing plays, or a few draws. No, he continued calling deep, play-action passes, which gave the Dolphins an even easier chance to hit Brady.

5. Rob Ninkovich comes off the field in sub-packages

Doug Kyed of NESN was on top of this before anyone, but it was interesting to see defensive end Rob Ninkovich come off the field when the Patriots went to a sub-package. According to Kyed, Ninkovich was off the field for nearly 52 plays on Sunday, which just about equaled the total amount of snaps he missed in 2013.

I really don’t know why Bill Belichick decided to go with Dont’a Hightower instead of Ninkovich, and I think he will return to the old veteran after this result. I love Hightower’s game, but I would much rather have Ninkovich in there not only rushing the passer, but setting the edge against the run. Ninkovich is one of, if not the best in the business in setting the edge, and it is an underrated aspect of a successful defense.

This should be one of the top situations to monitor going forward, although with next week’s game being against the Vikings, the Pats probably won’t need to go to their sub-packages very often.