The best and worst of the Patriots week one game

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10), before the start of their game agains the Miami Dolphins during NFL game Sept 11, 2022, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.Dolphins V Patriots Nfl Game 04
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10), before the start of their game agains the Miami Dolphins during NFL game Sept 11, 2022, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.Dolphins V Patriots Nfl Game 04 /

When the NFL schedules were released this spring, seeing the Patriots’ first opponent as the Dolphins in Miami was not how anyone hoped New England season would start.

Historically, the Patriots haven’t performed well when playing at Hard Rock Stadium and that continued on Sunday in their 20-7 loss, making it their 3rd straight L to the Dolphins. Self-inflicted wounds would be the biggest culprit in a game that was certainly winnable, but their overall lack of execution and overcoming the obstacles they put in front of themselves led to issues they could not recover from.

Even though the team’s overall lackluster performance was underwhelming, to say the least, there were a handful of players deserving recognition for their positive contributions.

Who performed the best for the Patriots?

The defense as a unit

Because of their overall effort and effectiveness from the defense overall, it seems only fair to credit them all for Sunday’s performance.

With such a dominant showing during preseason practices and games, they proved to be the more efficient side of the football. That continued to ring true in Sunday’s game, as they allowed the Dolphins’ speedy offense to score just 13 offensive points on the day.

Kyle Dugger

Continuing on his path as the most up-and-coming star of the Patriots’ defense, Kyle Dugger flashed with his performance in Miami. In typical fashion, he could be seen all over the field and continued as a consistently impactful player for the team.

His most impressive plays of the day came when he matched up with Tyreek Hill. On one play, Dugger limited the receiver to only a 6-yard gain, and later he would get a big hit in to stop Hill from gaining any positive yardage.

Hanging with the fastest receiver in the league is not a simple task, but Dugger was able to hold his own throughout this game.

Jonathan Jones

It was Jones’ first return to action since his season ended last year due to injury and his presence was felt early on. Like Dugger, he too matched up with Hill and prevented the receiver from making a bigger impact in this game. When covering Hill, Jones only allowed gains of 26 and 23 yards at most. Knowing what a receiver like Hill is capable of, Jones was able to essentially shut him down once again.

Pass rush

The pass rush that fell flat for the latter half of the 2021 season was alive and well in this game, with the usual suspects leading the charge. At the end of the game, they totaled 3 sacks, 6 TFL, and 7 quarterback hits, with most of the success coming from the few same names.

Ja’Whaun Bentley

As one of the newly announced captains of the 2022 team, Bentley was in menace mode for Sunday’s game. From getting to Tua Tagovailoa and stopping any chance of a successful run, Bentley showed why he’s earned the trust of his teammates.

He ended the day with the best stat line of all the defense, totaling 7 tackles, one sack, one TFL and one quarterback hit. With such an aggressive performance against a difficult opponent, Bentley will become a huge part of the defense’s success this season

Matthew Judon

Back to his early 2021 season self in this first matchup, Judon was making plays while consistently in the Dolphins’ face all game long. He would rack in one of the three sacks on the day late in the 2nd quarter, bringing Tua down for -9 yards. He would continue his time spent taking him down as he totaled a team-high of 4 QB hits on the day.

Deatrich Wise Jr.

Also one of the newly crowned captains, Wise had fun creating issues for the Dolphins offense. He would tally the first sack of the day, taking Tua down in the first quarter for -8 yards. The quarterback would fumble the football during the play, but Miami would come up with the recovery. Wise would also get in a TFL and a QB hit, rounding out the fantastic overall performance by the defense.

Jakobi Meyers

Would it be a Patriots game if Jakobi Meyers wasn’t the most reliable receiver on the field?

Entering the season as the presumed WR1, Meyers showed why he’s earned that title in this game. He would be Jones’ favorite target, making 4/6 catches for 55 yards on the day, with a highlight-worthy contested catch on the sideline for 27-yards in the second quarter.

What stands out most about Meyers is his consistency. He is always making positive plays and showed up a lot for third-down completions in this game. With Kendrick Bourne’s mysterious absence continuing for the majority of this game, Meyers appears to remain on track as the most trusted target for Jones.

Run game – Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery

There has been a lot made out of the competition for RB1 between Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson this offseason, but Harris remained the top guy in the backfield with his performance in the Miami heat.

As one of the more troublesome groups leading up to the regular season, it was refreshing to see gaps opening up for the backs to run through and make plays. Harris led the way in the first series with runs of 12 and 8 yards.

Both he and Stevenson would continue alternating throughout the day, with some plays to Ty Montgomery as well. But Harris would log the most time on the field being involved in 22 offensive snaps.

Montgomery would be most successful in the passing game, which isn’t surprising given his skillset. He would also go on to score the only points for the Patriots with a nice 6-yard touchdown on their first possession of the second half.

None of their performances were necessarily remarkable, but given the lack of success for the group in August, it was a much improved day for the backfield.

Who performed the worst for the Patriots?

Mac Jones

With the offense’s overall performance throughout the preseason at the front of everyone’s mind, there were a lot of question marks about how it would all come together by game time.

Unfortunately, it didn’t appear as if much changed since the last game of the preseason. Although the o-line was able to keep Mac Jones off the ground better than they had been, there were too many mistakes made to maintain any sort of offensive success.

The Patriots would have first possession and start with a good drive. Jones made good passes to Meyers and Hunter Henry and running backs Harris and Stevenson had their way on the ground. But it would end in a momentum-changing interception in the endzone, on a 50/50 ball between DeVante Parker and Jevon Holland leading to Xavien Howard making the catch.

Although the play should’ve resulted in a DPI call on Holland, Jones made a questionable decision to make the throw to Parker. He was smothered by Holland the entire play, and it wasn’t a necessary throw to make on just 1st and ten.

Later in the game, Jones would test more deep passes to Jonnu Smith, which ended in offsetting penalties and a punt, incomplete to Agholor and incomplete to Henry on 4th and 3.

Jones would end the day making 21/30 completions for 213 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Outside of the continued issues from the offensive line, much of the struggles he faced in this game was from mistakes in reading the defense pre-snap. As a usual strength of his, it’s unclear why he appeared so jumbled in his decision-making.

Offensive line

Based on what was seen in the preseason by the offensive line, there wasn’t much hope for a dramatic turnaround for the better by the start of the regular season.

Considering how terrible they looked collectively during practices and preseason games, the o-line was able to hold its own for a majority of the game. They were able to protect Jones, only allowing two sacks and three QB hits on the day. And they were able to create gaps for positive run plays early on.

But the issues came from their inconsistency and leaving defenders unblocked. The Miami defense was able to get into the Patriots’ backfield throughout the game, creating a hazardous environment for ball carriers and their quarterback.

Their worst play of the day came on the team’s second drive of the game. Brandon Jones went completely unblocked and got to Jones with ease, sacking him for a loss of 9 yards and forcing the fumble. Melvin Ingram would recover the ball and run it in for a 2-yard touchdown.

This play put the Patriots in a hole early and it was an easily avoidable mistake. A lot needs to be cleaned up by the next game, especially going against a defense like the Pittsburgh Steelers. But it also begs the question: is Matt Patricia carrying too much on his plate as the OL coach and the apparent OC?

Missed opportunities and mistakes

One of the most repeated mantras from Belichick over the years has been to limit mistakes and take advantage of opportunities given to you by your opponent. In several instances on Sunday, the Patriots did not fulfill their duties in those areas.

Jack Jones and Myles Bryant near INTs – The rookie cornerback Jack Jones got the start in Jonathan Jones’ place when he was on the sideline and made a great impression quickly with a near INT over Hill. The ball was in his grasp but Hill snatched the ball away in what would’ve been a big momentum changer for the Patriots.

Later in the game, Myles Bryant would drop an easy interception off of a bad read/overthrow by Tua. With just under nine minutes to play in the game and only down two scores, coming up with the football would have given the Patriots a good chance to work their way back.

Penalties – Over the years, the Patriots have been one of the least penalized teams in the league. But that has changed over the last two seasons specifically, and although they wouldn’t total many penalty yards on the day (3 for 15 yards), the timing of the flags made all the difference.

The first of the problematic penalties came when Carl Davis would earn a neutral zone infraction on the Dolphins’ first drive. It would come on 4th and 1 at the 50-yard line, leading to Miami receiving a new set of downs.

Early in the 4th quarter, Mac Jones would be sacked by Holland in a 3rd and 6 play ending in an incomplete pass. He would be given a roughing the passer penalty, but it would be offset due to David Andrews and Montgomery both earning chop block penalties. Over 13 minutes were remaining in the game and this was yet another blow in the Patriots’ attempt to close the score gap.

The defense would also be flagged for too many men on the field, which is nearly an inexcusable penalty in the eyes of Bill Belichick.

Lack of protecting the football – Another big point on Belichick’s bulletin board is to protect the football no matter what. As the most daunting issue in their last two matchups, it was likely a point of emphasis throughout practice this past week. But alas, the streak of turnovers would continue in this game, too.

Mac Jones threw a deep pass to Parker in the end zone that was tipped to Howard for an interception. And on two drives later, he would be sacked which lead to a fumble and touchdown by the Dolphins. Nelson Agholor would fumble on their last series of the game as well.

Ball security continued to rear its ugly head in this game and if not taken care of soon, the Patriots will likely see more ugly losses this year.

Kendrick Bourne apparent benching – One of the biggest storylines coming out of this game was the lack of Kendrick Bourne’s involvement with the offense. He would not take the field until late in the 4th quarter and made the biggest play of the day with a 41-yard catch to Miami’s 43-yard-line.

As the number two receiver on the team in 2021, the recent apparent “benching” has led to many questions regarding why Belichick would decide to not use him. In his post-game presser, the coach would give little insight behind Bourne’s limited involvement and no indication regarding the reason behind his current situation.

In the next few games, there’s hope Jones will have the opportunity to involve Bourne more in big plays. His impactful play has solidified in his first year with the team and it’s only serving as a hindrance overall to see him staying on the sideline.

The biggest lesson of the game? E X E C U T I O N! – The easiest point of blame for Sunday’s disaster would be to blame Matt Patricia and the overall play-calling. But the root of the issues in this game had little to do with the offensive game plan.

There will always be questionable calls made in a game, no matter the team or the coaches, and the Patriots were not on the receiving end of a perfectly-called game. But the glaring problem came from the team’s ineptitude to execute the plays given to them.

If the play-calling continues to appear as a non-issue, there will be no excuse for the lack of success offensively.