FOXBOROUGH — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 24-17 loss to the Dolphins:
⋅ Any positivity that was generated from the 25-20 loss to the Eagles in Week 1 was squandered on Sunday night. The Patriots authored a stinker on both sides of the ball and had the same old issues that have plagued them in the past.
Another slow start. The offense was dull. The offensive line had too many miscues. The quarterback couldn’t generate any big plays down the field. They turned the ball over. The defense couldn’t match the speed on the other side. And they couldn’t make enough plays in crunch time.
The Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001, with both losses coming at home. It’s obviously not time to throw in the towel, but it’s disheartening to see that the changes this offseason — adding Bill O’Brien, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others — have so far been the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They’re still the same old punchless Patriots.
⋅ Another week, another game where the Patriots fall into an early hole and can’t climb out. Last week, it was a 16-0 deficit. Sunday night, the Patriots fell behind, 10-0, in the second quarter and 17-3 at halftime. The Dolphins outgained the Patriots, 237-116, in the first half.
It’s the same problem as last year, when they ranked 24th in first-half point differential. They simply aren’t explosive enough to keep playing from behind.
⋅ A massively disappointing performance from the offense against a defense that allowed 433 yards and 34 points a week ago to the Chargers. The Patriots had no explosion on Sunday night, gaining just 288 total yards, scoring one touchdown on their first eight drives, and not executing a pass play longer than 14 yards.
Jones, who finished with 231 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception, was a dink-and-dunk machine. He completed 26 of 27 throws under 10 yards, and just 5 of 15 with an interception beyond 10. He spread the ball around to seven receivers, but the pass catchers were bottled up the entire night.
DeVante Parker is the Patriots’ best deep ball/contested catch receiver, but his return to the lineup didn’t have much of an impact, with a quiet six catches for 57 yards and an interception thrown his way. The Patriots still are a slow, plodding offense.
⋅ The offensive line played like it started four players who barely practiced together during training camp — which is exactly what it did. Jones took four sacks and was under duress all night.
Guards Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu returned to the lineup after missing most of training camp with injuries; Strange had a communication error which led to a free sack on Jones, and Onwenu got replaced by Atonio Mafi in the second half. The Patriots had just 48 yards on 14 rushes to the left side (3.4 average), though they may want to use Strange as a short-yardage running back after his run late in the fourth quarter.
Backup left tackle Vederian Lowe, acquired in a trade with the Vikings in late August, was part of that communication mixup with Strange on one sack, and allowed another sack on the final drive. And right tackle Calvin Anderson, who also missed most of training camp with an illness, was treated like a turnstile by Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who beat him for a sack and three QB hits. Anderson also didn’t identify his block and let Javon Holland race free into the backfield for a tackle for loss on third-and-1.
A week after the Dolphins allowed 233 rushing yards to the Chargers, the Patriots rushed for just 88 on 3.5 yards per carry. They better get left tackle Trent Brown back next week, and they better shore up their offensive line before facing the Jets’ ferocious pass rush next Sunday.
⋅ The defense played off-coverage all night with three deep safeties, and they successfully took away the Dolphins’ downfield passing game. Tua Tagovailoa was just 4 of 10 on throws over 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, for 87 yards and an interception on an underthrown ball. The Patriots did a nice job on Tyreek Hill, limiting him to 5 catches on 9 targets for 40 yards and a short touchdown.
But the Patriots had no answer for the Dolphins’ speed and quick passing game, badly missing speedy cornerback Jonathan Jones. Tagovailoa was 17 of 19 on throws under 10 yards, giving his receivers a ton of room to run — 141 of Tagovailoa’s 249 passing yards came after the catch. And no one on the defense could keep up with Raheem Mostert, who finished with 121 yards on just 18 carries and sealed the win with a 43-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
The Patriots’ lack of speed on both sides of the ball was glaring, and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is a wizard with the playsheet. His ability to create space and get the ball to his playmakers is highly impressive.
⋅ It’s no secret Bill Belichick values ball security, and Demario Douglas isn’t the first player to hit the bench after losing a fumble. But the Patriots aren’t dynamic enough on offense to be able to bench their quickest, shiftiest playmaker. They need to keep Douglas in the game and help him get his confidence back.
⋅ One positive has been the play of first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez. He was a tackling machine in Week 1, finishing with seven and a sack. Gonzalez had six more tackles on Sunday plus his first career interception, going up and over Hill to make an impressive catch. Gonzalez is barely 21 years old and might already be the Patriots’ best cornerback.
⋅ The special teams were solid on Sunday night. Rookie kicker Chad Ryland connected on his first and only field goal attempt of the season, nailing a 49-yarder with plenty of distance. Rookie punter Bryce Baringer landed three of his four punts inside the 20. And special teams ace Brenden Schooler had one of the more impressive field goal blocks you will see, coming in motion from the wing and timing the snap perfectly for the Patriots’ first blocked field goal since 2020 against the Chargers.
Read more Patriots coverage:
- Dolphins 24, Patriots 17: New England drops to 0-2 for first time since 2001
- Another wild Patriots-Dolphins finish featuring a late lateral fails to go New England’s way
- Local firefighters resuscitate fan who suffered cardiac arrest at Gillette Stadium
- Demario Douglas was benched after a fumble. But this roster isn’t talented enough for Bill Belichick to keep weapons off the field.
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.