Throughout the regular season, I will be handing out grades to the New England Patriots following their previous contest. Unfortunately, this week the marks are pretty bad all around.
Passing Offense: D
If it weren’t for a good first half, this group would have received an F-minus, because they had a horrid second half. Tom Brady‘s bunch was nice and efficient in the first half, as Brady was getting decent protection, and his receivers (particularly Edelman) were finding holes all over the place. Edelman alone caught six balls for 95 yards in the first half, which I think sets him up for a monster season.
However it all changed in the second half, and it started up front. If Brady had time to set up, and make a throw, I think the Patriots would have won this football game. I am sure he would have found either Edelman, Gronkowski, or Vereen open at some point, even with the Dolphins stepping up their overall intensity. But Brady was sacked four times in the final two quarters, and the offense was completely shut out to finish the game. This must change going forward, otherwise Brady is in for a long season of looking for help off the ground.
Rushing Offense: C
It is hard to knock the run game down too far, mainly because the Patriots didn’t commit to it at all. New England only ran the ball 20 times all game long, amassing a total of 89 yards. Whether it was Stevan Ridley, or Shane Vereen, the Pats just couldn’t get anything started. As I just mentioned, a big part of it definitely has to do with the lack of running plays called, but we also need to place some blame on the offensive line, who didn’t just struggle in pass protection on Sunday.
Everyone is going to be focused on the group up front improving in protecting Brady, but they also have to work on establishing some sort of running game going forward.
Pass Defense: B+
This was the one positive area for the Patriots in this game, and it was one that gave me hope for the rest of the season. Miami totaled a mere 169 yards in the passing game, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s QBR was a lowly 34.9. This entire group played very well, from Darrelle Revis, all the way down to Malcolm Butler.
The pass rush needs some work, but I saw a few positives things from them as the game progressed, including linebacker Dont’a Hightower getting a few chances at going after the quarterback. I was particularly impressed with Alfonzo Dennard‘s work, who once again reminded me why I have been raving about him ever since the Pats selected him in the draft. Once Brandon Browner returns, this secondary is going to be extremely dangerous.
Run Defense: D+
The run defense wasn’t much better than the passing offense, as they nearly gave up 200 yards on the ground, and just completely collapsed late. I don’t know if this was because of the 3-4 defense they were running, or them simply not getting off blocks (or making tackles), but it was a pretty bad performance for what I thought was a stout front seven. New England couldn’t get the Dolphins off the field late, and ultimately, that may have been what did the Pats in.
However, I think Bill Belichick and company will fix this up fairly quickly, and have nice bounce-back game against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings next week.
Special Teams: D
Ryan Allen had an early blocked punt, and he had a number of shorter punts throughout the game. Allen has been terrific in his time in Foxboro up until this point, so I am hopeful that he will come back strong over the next few weeks.