A closer look at the finer points of the Patriots’ 38-7 victory on Sunday over the Dolphins:
Slow starts have dogged the Patriots the last two weeks and reversing that trend has been a major talking point leading up to the date with the Dolphins.
On Sunday, New England backed up that talk, stopping the Dolphins on four downs on the opening drive and then launching a long scoring drive to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
The Patriots put the strategy on rinse and repeat the rest of the first half, with the defense consistently getting off the field on third down and the offense consistently putting points on the board.
“It all starts in practice,’’ said Sony Michel. “Our guys made it an emphasis and Coach talked about starting fast. We had to do it in practice and I think we as a team did a great job starting fast in practice throughout the week. We did a good job executing our plays and it translated over to the field today.’’
The Patriots were a sterling 10 of 15 on third down, and held the Dolphins to a miserable 3 of 11. It was a huge turnaround from the last few weeks when the Patriots struggled to find a rhythm on offense and simply couldn’t get off the field on defense.
“Our offensive line did a good job, this is a very good pass rushing team. We had receivers get open,’’ said coach Bill Belichick.
A week after struggling to run the ball, particularly on third-and-short situations, the Patriots put together a tremendous rushing attack, piling up 175 yards and picking up 10 first downs.
It was a coming-out party for Sony Michel, who displayed the kind of burst and power he showed in college.
Michel ran for 112 yards on 25 carries and scored his first career touchdown on a 10-yard sweep that gave the Patriots a 38-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Michel had been maligned after a pair of mediocre performances but perhaps he gave a glimpse of the future.
“It’s all about how you execute,’’ said Michel, when asked why he was more successful Sunday. “I did a little bit of a better job this week than I did last week.’’
PLAY THAT NUMBER
Sony Michel and James White might not be the biggest running back combo but they have a chance to be among the best.
While Michel rushed for 112 yards, White hit that number as well, rushing for 44 yards and piling up a game-high 68 yards receiving. White had touchdowns rushing and receiving.
The Patriots have had bad luck with their backs with Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead landing on injured reserve during the first three weeks, but this is a performance that can help turn the tide.
“I think both those guys did a great job,’’ said Tom Brady. “James played a big role today and it was a big win today. We needed it, and hopefully we can build on it, gain some confidence in some things. You know, it’s a quick turnaround, so it’s good to win and we’ve got to get ready to go again here shortly.’’
The Patriots pulled off the rare hat trick of committing three penalties on one play early in the second quarter, wiping out a nifty 13-yard run by Sony Michel.
Left tackle Trent Brown and receiver Chris Hogan both were flagged for holding while guard Shaq Mason was whistled for tripping. The holding penalties were declined and only Mason’s infraction was enforced. He was not sent to the penalty box, however.
Phillip Dorsett made an astounding front-somersault catch in the end zone – all that was missing was the balance beam — on Tom Brady’s low delivery at the close of the first half to give the Patriots a 24-0 lead.
It was the best catch of the season by a Patriot and of Dorsett’s New England tenure.
“I don’t know how I did that, honestly. I just did it,’’ said Dorsett, who asked if it looked good on video. It did.
It wasn’t all great for Dorsett, however. He might have had another touchdown but he dropped perhaps Tom Brady’s best pass of the day, a deep shot over the middle on the first drive of the second half.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Cordarrelle Patterson became the 70th player to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady when the speedy receiver scored on a 55-yard play — New England’s longest from scrimmage this season — for the first touchdown of the day.
Patterson took advantage of a great pick from James White and found himself all alone on a wheel route down the left sideline. He caught Brady’s pass and made a nifty sidestep on safety T.J. McDonald before waltzing into the end zone.
In an oddity, Patterson’s other two receptions resulted in losses, including one in which he fell despite not being touched. It led to weird stat line of 3 catches for 54 yards, including a 55-yarder.
SUNSHINE STATE OF THE PATRIOTS
Miami was done in in large part by a trio of South Florida natives who combined for four touchdowns. James White (Fort Lauderdale), Sony Michel (Plantation), and Phillip Dorsett (West Park) all grew up in the Dolphins’ backyard.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
While all eyes were on Josh Gordon, the Patriots received solid contributions from two other newcomers, with defensive end John Simon and running back Kenjon Barner making their Patriots debuts.
Simon had five tackles and a 10-yard sack of Ryan Tannehill, and Barner carried three times for 11 yards.
“It felt great. That’s what I’m here for, to help us get wins whenever possible,’’ Simon said. “I was happy that I was able to go out there and get some reps today and contribute to a win.’’
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Tom’s a passionate guy and I love that, and I love the game of football and I think we’re going to mesh just fine,’’ said Josh Gordon when asked about his post-catch celebration with Tom Brady.
Rob Gronkowski left in the third quarter with an ankle injury after the tight end’s fourth and final reception. He has been dealing with a balky ankle for two weeks.
Defensive tackle Adam Butler left the field with an apparent leg injury on Miami’s last series but said after the game he was “feeling good.’’
Linebacker Elandon Roberts hobbled off later in the same drive and seemed to be favoring his right ankle.
The Patriots have a quick turnaround with the Colts arriving for a prime-time visit on Thursday night. During his pregame radio appearance, Bill Belichick was asked about the work that goes into preparing for a short week.
“A lot,’’ said the coach. “When this game’s over we’re already at Wednesday night of the following week. It’ll be a tough week.’’
The coach said not a lot of time will be spent going over the Dolphins game except to make some “basic corrections.’’
The Colts, led by rookie coach Frank Reich, who was the Eagles offensive coordinator last year, come to Foxborough 1-3 after an overtime loss to Houston Sunday.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who missed all of last season with shoulder complications, seems to be rounding into form after throwing for 464 yards and 4 touchdowns in the defeat.