July 17, 2024


The Patriots we noticed final Sunday towards the Eagles — even with the errors, even in defeat — had been a lot extra interesting than at any level a season in the past.

Mark J. Terrill
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three TDs in Week 1, and he is 4-0 in his profession towards the Patriots.

Welcome to Season 12, Episode 2 of the Unconventional Preview, a critical but lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted have a look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup . . .

Of their season-opening 25-20 loss to the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles final Sunday, the Patriots made a few inexcusable errors — a Darius Slay pick-6 of a Mac Jones move, adopted by an Ezekiel Elliott fumble — that led to misplaced alternatives, sleepless nights, and excruciating movie classes.

The Patriots made the sort of immediately regrettable, how-can-that-happen errors of their opener final 12 months, too. In a 20-7 highway loss to the Dolphins, a strip-sack that led to a Melvin Ingram fumble restoration for a landing and a 42-yard landing catch-and-run by Jaylen Waddle on fourth down simply earlier than halftime left the Patriots trying someplace between unprepared and inept.

However you understand what? This isn’t a parallel, or the frustrations and failures of 1 season bleeding into the following. It’s a coincidence, and nothing extra. As a result of the Patriots we noticed final Sunday towards the Eagles — even with the errors, even in defeat — had been a lot extra interesting than at any level a season in the past.

The protection was quick and fluid, at instances bewildering Eagles do-it-all quarterback Jalen Hurts. The offense? We might have settled for competent after final season’s debacle, but it surely was greater than that. It was artistic and unpredictable below new offensive coordinator Invoice O’Brien, again for his second stint with the Patriots. Jones received the ball out in a rush. The open receiver received the ball. Gamers’ strengths had been emphasised. You recognize, these apparent, elementary issues that we recognize a lot extra now.

That is epitomized by Kendrick Bourne. Within the doghouse final 12 months partly as a result of he was one of many first to acknowledge that Matt Patricia’s offense had issues, he didn’t play within the 2022 opener till the fourth quarter. He promptly got here in, made a 41-yard catch, and returned to the sideline as a bystander. It was dumbfounding and counterproductive, which occurred to be the pillars of Patricia’s philosophy.

On this 12 months’s opener, Bourne was utilized, accurately and very often, tying for the crew lead with six catches for 64 yards, and hauling in a pair of aesthetically superior landing catches. It regarded so proper that we might virtually neglect how he was executed flawed.

No, Jones, Bourne, and the remainder of the offense couldn’t make the play it wanted on the finish of the sport. However on the very least, it was one thing each hopeful and actual to construct on.

It doesn’t get a lot simpler this week towards a potent Dolphins crew coming off an exciting 36-34 win over the Chargers through which quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — he of the profession 4-0 document towards the Patriots — threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns.

Kick it off, Ryland, and let’s get this one began . . .

Three gamers to observe aside from the quarterbacks

Tyreek Hill: First thought when watching the previous Chiefs dynamo, now in his second season with the Dolphins, catch 11 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns towards the Chargers: I’m wondering if Patrick Mahomes, who might need the trendy equal of the 2006 Patriots receiving corps with him in Kansas Metropolis, is watching this.

Second thought: It’s outstanding that the Patriots have dealt with Hill comparatively nicely over time contemplating that he makes each different breathtakingly quick athlete on the sphere with him appear to be they’re working with 25-pound dumbbells tied to their ankles. In six profession regular-season video games towards the Patriots, Hill has averaged six catches for 92 yards, with a complete of 5 receiving touchdowns. That’s productive, however contemplating that he averages greater than 100 yards per recreation towards 10 groups, it might be a lot, a lot worse.

(In Hill’s one playoff matchup with the Patriots — a 37-31 New England win within the 2018 AFC Championship recreation — he had one catch for 42 yards.)

The Patriots did greater than an honest job on him final season. Within the opener, with the Dolphins attempting to force-feed Hill the ball, he made eight catches for 94 yards, along with his largest play a 26-yard seize late within the first half when he outfought Jack Jones for the ball. The Patriots did a fair higher job on Hill within the second assembly, with Jonathan Jones and, sure, Myles Bryant holding him to 4 catches for 55 yards.

The Dolphins, with a wholesome and assured Tagovailoa,had been working on one other degree offensively towards the Chargers. And even when Hill isn’t making dynamic performs, the specter of him doing so is at all times current. The Patriots defensive backs would profit enormously from a relentless move rush. The Chargers didn’t sack Tagovailoa as soon as.

Rhamondre Stevenson: Know what’s loopy? Stevenson has performed simply 30 profession video games, and but he’s solely about 3,700 yards away from being the Patriots’ all-time main rusher.

That tells us just a few issues: That Sam Cunningham and Jim Nance’s legends nonetheless endure (they’re 1-2 on the listing, and the one Patriots backs to clear 5,000 yards) . . . that it’ll at all times be infuriating that Curtis Martin is foremost related to the Jets . . . that promising working backs on this group have usually had a brief shelf life (the place have you ever gone, Horace Ivory?) . . . and that Stevenson is off to a darn good begin to his profession.

His begin to this season might have gone higher — he ran 12 instances for simply 25 towards the Eagles, partly due to the early 16-0 gap and partly as a result of Elliott picked up seven carries. Stevenson did contribute within the passing recreation, tying Bourne with six catches for 64 yards.

The Patriots’ greatest likelihood to gradual the Dolphins’ offense Sunday evening could be to stop them from possessing the soccer, which suggests the working recreation must be productive. And it ought to be towards acclaimed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s work-in-progress run protection, which allowed the Chargers’ Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelly to mix for 208 speeding yards. This ought to be every week through which Stevenson climbs 100 or so extra yards up that listing.

Keion White: It’s robust to gauge how a lot the second-round select of Georgia Tech will play towards the Dolphins, given the Patriots’ depth and flexibility amongst their defensive linemen and move rushers. White performed simply 23 (or 35 %) of the Patriots’ defensive snaps towards the Eagles. But he managed 4 hurries of Hurts, and his velocity and athleticism popped off the display towards arguably the most effective offensive line within the NFL. I can not wait to see extra of White, and right here’s hoping these reps start a fast enhance this week.

Grievance of the week

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Patriots debut wasn’t precisely inspiring. Towards the Eagles, the veteran receiver caught simply 4 of seven targets (Mac Jones threw him a sinking changeup on one dangerous drop, however hey, gotta catch it if it hits the mitts) for 33 yards, performed a mere 54 % of the snaps, and had a candy view from the sideline through the offense’s failed try to win the sport within the ultimate two minutes. However I’m not fairly positive who to be irritated with — Smith-Schuster for not making the most of performs that had been there to be made, some followers and media who’re leaning towards writing him off already, or the Patriots for giving a receiver nonetheless recovering from a knee damage three years and $33 million as a free agent. Let’s name this a grievance-in-progress, since I’m unsure with whom to be irritated fairly but. Possibly everybody.

The flashback

The Patriots are dressing for the event Sunday, breaking out the sharpest-looking uniforms they’ve ever worn — helmets with the Pat Patriot emblem, crimson jersey, and white pants from their sartorially superior 1984-92 period — for his or her prime-time look.

Although the Patriots had been the highway crew and wore their white jerseys for the second I’m about to reference, the opponent and the retro wardrobe this week jostled a welcome flashback to a specific recreation in 1986.

Within the regular-season finale, the Patriots traveled to Miami with easy tips: Win, they usually’d be the AFC East champions for simply the second time for the reason that AFL/NFL merger. Lose, and the season was over.

The Orange Bowl had lengthy been a stadium of disappointment for the Patriots, who lastly had ended an 18-game shedding streak on the facility with a 31-14 win within the 1985 AFC Championship recreation. This one began out nicely sufficient, with the Patriots leaping to a 10-0 lead. However initially of the fourth the Dolphins had come all the best way again and seized a 27-20 lead on Dan Marino’s third landing move of the sport.

Tony Collins tied the sport with a 12-yard landing catch from Steve Grogan — who had are available in for Tony Eason, injured within the first half attempting to get better a fumble. Then with 44 seconds left, Grogan discovered Stanley Morgan down the fitting sideline for a successful 30-yard landing catch, his second rating of the sport.

“It’s becoming and correct that it’s Morgan,” mentioned Frank Gifford on the ABC telecast. “He’s been chargeable for so lots of the Pats’ wins this season.”

It was the ultimate Dolphins recreation ever performed on the Orange Bowl. The purpose right here is two-fold. Most ghosts do get exorcised. And Stanley Morgan belongs within the Corridor of Fame.

Prediction, or which Mark was higher, Duper or Clayton?

You couldn’t blame Mac Jones if he has a nasty case of weapons envy of Tagovailoa, his good friend and former teammate at Alabama. Tagovailoa has Hill and Waddle — additionally a former Crimson Tide stalwart — at his disposal, and it must be the quickest receiver tandem within the league. Jones has . . . a whole lot of good gamers, even some underrated ones equivalent to like Bourne and tight finish Hunter Henry, however no sure-thing No. 1 goal.

He had one of many most interesting statistical video games of his profession towards the Eagles, with 35 completions and 316 yards. However he additionally left factors on the sphere, and I’m not fairly positive what to anticipate out of him Sunday towards a Dolphins protection that held the Chargers’ Justin Herbert to 228 passing yards final week. I do know this: Jones must be just a little extra correct than he was every week in the past, since that’s alleged to be certainly one of his strengths.

Yardage ought to be there for the taking beneath, however I’m not able to consider that the Patriots can outscore these Dolphins. Possibly a ball-control offensive recreation plan and this gifted Patriots protection have a shock in retailer. However I must see it to consider. Dolphins 26, Patriots 23.