We saw some promising signs throughout this Patriots team in week 1 to be excited about for this season as well as some fixable errors like penalties and fumbles which ultimately cost them the game.
Results wise, game 1 of the new season did not turn out to be what Patriot fans were hoping for. But when you look at how this Patriots team looks all around, there appears to be much more to work with this year than there was last year. It always hurts to lose a close division game at home but many fans are finding consolation around the biggest question that has been surrounding this team.
Since what most Patriot fans have been asking this preseason is ‘Have we found our guy?’ and because this past Sunday that question was answered by many with a yes, I think a lot of fans aren’t feeling too bad about the 0-1 start. But when our rookie QB has a good game and we still lose, should it cause us to be much more concerned than it appears many of us really are?
Here’s a quick plus and minus of overall thoughts on how Sunday went before I get into more of a review on the game.
• Offense spread the ball, controlled the clock, and looked good on the run block
• Defense made some big plays
• Mac Jones looked more and more confident as the game went on
• 4 Fumbles (2 lost) – 3 in the first half. Last one was at the MIA 11, recovered by the Dolphins, with 3 and a half minutes left in the game. (Jones, Stevenson, Smith, Harris)
• 8 penalties for 84 yards
• 1 / 4 Redzone Efficiency (25%)
The first play of the game from the line of scrimmage was a 35-yard run by Damien Harris. Setting the pace for what the gameplan was which would probably be to run all over the Dolphins. Shortly after Trent Brown went off due to injury and never returned. Brown is a difference maker on the line and this undoubtedly affected the rest of the game. It’s important he returns as soon as possible as he is now “day-to-day”.
Patriots’ OT Trent Brown has a minor calf strain and will be considered “day to day”, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 13, 2021
Mac Jones made a mistake early throwing the ball backwards on a broken play resulting in a fumble, fortunately recovered by New England. But as the game went on Jones looked very comfortable and accurate as he took plenty of hits in the pocket. He didn’t have a lot of time to get rid of the ball by NFL standards so being that this was his first regular season game it’s impressive how quick he was on his release. His stats show just that and he’s being recognized for it.
Mac Jones has the highest completion percentage (74.4%) of any rookie QB making their 1st NFL start in NFL history – (min > 25 pass attempts)
So there is that
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) September 12, 2021
Bill Belichick did it again ?
PFF’s Rookie of the Week: Mac Jones pic.twitter.com/ziZEprvmuk
— PFF (@PFF) September 14, 2021
After the first drive Bill started letting Mac throw and he wouldn’t regret it. It did seem however he regretted putting Stevenson in since he mostly kept him benched ever since his fumble turnover in the first. Replay looked like he was down but it apparently wasn’t enough to overturn what was called on the field as a fumble.
The first defensive series was a disaster and did not really look much different than they did last year despite so much money being spent. However, they improved as the game went on and had their moments.
The defense got a couple breaks like a wide-open drop by Miami on a 3rd down mid-2nd quarter. To finish out the first half Jalen Mills made a great, diving touchdown saving deflection. Then next play Josh Uche made a big sack to force a field goal.
Miami started the second half with the ball and again had a dominating first drive touchdown like they did in their first offensive possession of the game. This is concerning for the Patriots D and shows how much they need Gilmore back.
In the fourth quarter on a 3rd and 4 at the MIA 15 Mac Jones and Jakobi Meyers had a tough misconnect where Mac threw on the run to Meyers on a short out to get the first down, ball was low when it got to Meyers who got his hands on the ball but unfortunately dropped it. They had to settle for a field goal making the score 17-16 Miami with a little over 10 and a half minutes left.
Then next series the defense makes an incredible play. A multi deflection interception that went the Patriots way, with 8 minutes left in the game, putting the offense at mid field down one point. The Pats then pick up a couple big 3rd down conversions, a 3rd and 5 completed pass under pressure and a 3rd and 1 run. Then Jonnu Smith makes an 11-yard catch taking them up to the MIA 11 with 4 minutes left.
All of that momentum and they still somehow lose this game.
At this point I’m 75% sure they’re going to win the game but 99% sure they will at least score on this drive to go up, whether that be by 2,5, or 7 points and therefore put their defense in a position to win the game in the final series. Then the next play is the Damien Harris fumble.
I’ve watched this play a lot so far. I see how he lost it cause the ball clearly got punched out during a group tackle but I still wonder how he didn’t recover it because it looked as if he fumbled and then fell right onto the ball. But once the ball got out there were too many Dolphins players around and not really any Patriots around so that nearly any kind of bounce there would’ve gone Miami’s way.
I thought James White looked good on 3rd and short conversions so I felt like he could’ve been used more since they were going to Damien Harris a lot. Harris had a good game but wasn’t hiding that he was fatigued at the end of the game apparently asking for breaks on that last drive.
That play killed so much momentum and while the stadium stayed loud, you could tell this deflated the team from how the defense looked in the following series.
Down just 1 with 3 timeouts and 3 and a half minutes left, there was a clear opportunity to get the ball back. The energy just wasn’t there on the New England side of the ball for that series. First play Miami gets a holding call but it doesn’t slow them down at all.
Next play they make a big pass then just continue to run the ball down the Patriots throat for the rest of the game. The Dolphin O-line dominated to pick up the first downs they needed and did so looking much more energized and like they wanted it more.
As mentioned, a lack of discipline was indeed a factor in letting this game slip away. Penalties never come at a good time but here are some notable ones where the timing of it stung a bit.
• In the second quarter on Damien Harris’ 13-yard run to the MIA 1, Isiah Wynn was flagged for a holding that could’ve been called either way but probably didn’t prevent a tackle. The penalty however led to a field goal rather than a likely touchdown.
• Mid third quarter Justin Herron was penalized for holding on a Mac Jones scramble and completion to Kendrick Bourne for 33 yards. Tough not to call this one as it probably saved a sack. Regardless pass protection must improve.
• Around the end of the third quarter Matt Judon is called for unnecessary roughness on a 14-yard punt return to the NE 43 taking them back to the 28 to start the drive.
• Next play Shaq Mason made a thoughtless blindside block at the end of a huge catch and run by Kendrick Bourne. It led to an unnecessary roughness flag taking them back 15 yards. Another big play by the WR pick up from San Fran that would be taken back.
The theme of uncharacteristic mistakes by the Patriots began last year and continued this past Sunday. If you remember the Bills game in Buffalo last year and how that ended, you probably felt something similar at the end of this game.
If they continue to make these types of fundamental mistakes and lose more close games like they did last year it could be really concerning and point to a greater, deeper overall team issue related to pressure and situational football. I completely agree with what Bill Belichick was saying on Monday that they did enough to win but wasn’t good enough when it mattered most in that game. The DNA of last year’s team was not being able to finish, losing a lot of close games, and here they start game 1 of this year with another close loss.
While this loss may not feel as demoralizing as many of last years losses did, it’s still pretty tough to swallow because of how close they were and how much, especially from a fan’s perspective, it felt like they should’ve won this game. No way around it, this was 100% a missed opportunity. But this team can’t look back on this game now and fans shouldn’t either. The focus all around has got to be on going into MetLife and beating the Jets for win number 1.