December 4, 2023


A win over the Dolphins would give the Patriots a 3-1 document within the division, some momentum … and maybe a convincing argument that the restart had the specified impact.

Raheem Mostert ran for a season-best 121 yards on 18 carries and a pair of touchdowns within the Dolphins’ 24-17 victory over the Patriots in Week 2 at Gillette Stadium. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Welcome to Season 12, Episode 8 of the Unconventional Preview, a severe but lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted take a look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup . . .

After the Patriots acquired clobbered by the Cowboys and Saints by a mixed rating of 72-3 in Weeks 4 and 5, coach Invoice Belichick acknowledged that his mistake-plagued crew wanted to “begin throughout.”

A 21-17 loss to the Raiders in Week 6 steered the reset hadn’t labored. However then got here an surprising 29-25 victory over the Payments final Sunday by which the Patriots nonetheless made errors, however overcame them partly as a result of a lot that had gone flawed over the course of the season — significantly offensive line and quarterback play — immediately went proper.

Maybe it was the “begin throughout” Belichick was in search of, simply delayed by per week.

We should always discover out for certain whether or not the Patriots’ return to competence was actual or a mirage once they journey to Miami to tackle the high-powered Dolphins Sunday.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who leads the NFL in passing yards (2,092) and completion share (71.2) and is tied for second in landing passes (15), helms an offense that already has scored 240 factors, together with an absurd 70 on the Broncos in Week 3. However star receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are coping with accidents, and the Dolphins are coming off a torpid 31-17 loss to the Eagles final Sunday night time. And they’re starting to develop a fame for bullying dangerous groups however failing to match up with good ones (in Week 4, the Payments throttled them, 48-20).

The place do the Patriots fall on that spectrum? Good crew? That can’t be mentioned with a 2-5 document and a few apparent expertise deficiencies nonetheless on the roster. Unhealthy crew? Eventually, they didn’t appear like one final Sunday. Finally, they’ll most likely find yourself someplace within the center. However a win over the Dolphins would give them a 3-1 document within the division, some momentum . . . and maybe a convincing argument that the restart had the specified impact.

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

Three gamers to observe apart from the quarterbacks

Tyreek Hill: For a suspenseful stretch of hours midweek, it appeared as if the Patriots may catch a break. The Dolphins’ star receiver missed follow on Wednesday with a hip damage, and feedback by Tagovailoa appeared to point that his prime goal may very well be absent. “You’ve acquired to proceed to play and someplace down the road, we’re going to get Tyreek again in,” he mentioned.

So it was a light shock Thursday when Hill returned to follow, operating routes at full pace and telling reporters afterward, “Yeah, child, I’m good,” when requested about his standing for Sunday.

Tyreek Hill caught 27-yard touchdown in Miami's loss to the Eagles last week.
Tyreek Hill caught 27-yard landing in Miami’s loss to the Eagles final week.RICH SCHULTZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hill’s absence would have a large impression on the Dolphins’ top-ranked offense, which leads the league in passing yards per sport (300 on the nostril), whole offense (462.3), and factors per sport (34.3). The 29-year-old Hill leads the NFL in receiving yards (902) and touchdowns (7), and ranks third in receptions (53). The Dolphins’ offense has the type of pace normally reserved for the US Olympic monitor trials, however Hill is the No. 1 choice, the one who makes all of it work.

The Patriots have achieved a good job containing Hill, who spent the primary six seasons of his profession with the Chiefs earlier than coming to the Dolphins earlier than final season. In seven regular-season video games in opposition to the Patriots, he’s averaged six receptions for 83 yards, with roughly a landing per sport. Within the Week 2 assembly, he was restricted to 5 catches for simply 40 yards and a rating, with rookie Christian Gonzalez doing excellent work in protection in his second profession sport, together with accumulating the primary interception of his profession on a move aimed Hill’s manner within the fourth quarter. With Gonzalez on injured reserve (shoulder), Hill might change into the duty of Jack Jones, Jonathan Jones (who has defended him nicely prior to now), and/or Myles Bryant.

Demario Douglas: Say, is it a step too far to counsel that Douglas may very well be the second coming of Hill, a receiver neglected in his draft 12 months due to his measurement however who makes up for it along with his pace and shimmy? No, after all it’s not a step too far. It’s about 20 steps too far. Calm down over there. We’re not becoming anybody for a pink jacket simply but.

That disclaimer out of the best way, it’s not tough to have excessive hopes for what Douglas, the sixth-round select of Liberty, might change into, maybe quickly. Kendrick Bourne is the Patriots’ most well-rounded receiver, however Douglas is already their most dynamic, and he’s coming off the very best sport of his younger profession. Within the win over the Payments, Douglas had 4 catches for 54 yards (a profession excessive), ran for one more 20 yards, and returned a punt 25 yards.

That efficiency occurred after he had missed the loss to the Raiders whereas in concussion protocol. And it occurred 5 weeks after he was benched in the course of the first Dolphins sport when Bradley Chubb punched the ball from his grasp and Miami recovered the fumble on the finish of a nifty catch-and-run on the ultimate play of the primary quarter.

Douglas continues to be studying — he’s one receiver Mac Jones doesn’t hesitate to bark at if he’s within the flawed place — however he appears to have taken the benching to coronary heart. He’s acquired an opportunity for redemption in opposition to a Miami protection that expects to have cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey on the sector collectively for the primary time this season. Is Douglas the subsequent Hill? It’s manner too quickly for that. However he could be the shiftiest receiver Belichick has ever drafted. As he figures it out, he’s going to change into much more enjoyable to observe.

Raheem Mostert: Right here’s another excuse it’s crucial for the Patriots to take an early lead for the second week in a row: It will assist restrict how a lot the Dolphins can depend on their operating sport, which additionally ranks first within the league (162.3 yards per sport). The Dolphins fell behind the Eagles, 17-3, within the second quarter final week, and it was no coincidence that Miami had its worst speeding sport of the season, with simply 45 yards on 12 makes an attempt.

Mostert had 9 of these makes an attempt, a season low, whereas gaining 45 yards. (Tagovailoa misplaced 3 yards on a carry, whereas Salvon Ahmed gained 3 on two runs.) It was fairly a distinction to Mostert’s efficiency in Week 2 in opposition to the Patriots, when he ran for a season-best 121 yards on 18 carries and a pair of touchdowns, together with a 43-yard burst within the third quarter that put the Dolphins up, 24-10.

Mostert leads the NFL with 9 speeding touchdowns, and his 474 yards are fifth — and solely 18 fewer than the 492 mixed speeding yards by Patriots backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott. Mostert might have a excessive diploma of issue in getting the place he desires to go for the second straight week. The Dolphins’ offensive line is banged up — left deal with Terron Armstead, guard Isaiah Wynn (title sounds vaguely acquainted), and heart Connor Williams missed the Eagles sport — whereas the Patriots’ defensive entrance has solidified in latest weeks (100.7 speeding yards per sport, thirteenth within the NFL).

Grievance of the week

That is extra a common gripe than one thing particular to this week, however I’ve been that means to ask this. When Belichick’s document for drafting broad receivers is talked about in a narrative or on a program, how come David Givens is never cited as one in all his hits? It’s just about canon that his solely two draft success tales — amid the entire Taylor Costs, Chad Jacksons, and N’Keal Harrys — are Deion Department within the second spherical in 2002 and Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman within the seventh spherical in 2009.

Givens was a seventh-round choose himself in ‘02 out of Notre Dame, with Ernie Adams advocating for him. He was right here simply 4 seasons, by no means had 60 catches or 900 yards in a 12 months, however he was robust, fought for each yard, and owns one of many coolest information of the Patriots dynasty: Givens had a landing catch in seven straight postseason video games.

Patriots followers which have first-hand recollections of Part One of many dynasty won’t overlook him, though the nationwide media apparently has. Right here’s to you, David Givens, postseason touchdown-maker and excellent draft alternative.

The flashback

On Sept. 4, 1994, the Patriots opened their season with a 39-35 loss to the Dolphins. It might need been essentially the most satisfying and optimism-inducing loss in Patriots historical past. Dan Marino, getting back from torn a Achilles’ that ended his 1993 season, set free all of his pent-up frustration of his absence on the Patriots, throwing for 473 yards and 5 touchdowns, together with three to ex-Patriot Irving Fryar. However Patriots second-year quarterback Drew Bledsoe matched him dart for dart, slinging 51 passes and finishing 32 for 421 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a couple of interceptions. The Patriots faltered on the finish — Ben Coates dedicated a uncommon fumble to thwart one late drive, and a last possession stalled out — however the vibe after that sport and Bledsoe’s efficiency was one in all delight and nice hope. Robert Kraft couldn’t have had a extra entertaining sport for his first as Patriots proprietor.

Prediction, or are you aware Don Shula didn’t win a Tremendous Bowl in his last 22 seasons?

The Patriots did a lot flawed of their 24-17 loss to the Dolphins in Week 2, together with making Dolphins edge rusher Andrew Van Ginkel appear like the second coming of Jason Taylor. However the Patriots did maintain the Dolphins to 7 factors within the second half, and if the shift of Mike Onwenu to proper deal with completely shores up the road whereas absolutely restoring Mac Jones’s confidence, the Patriots are able to making it two in a row. It’s all the time robust to win in Miami. But it surely feels good, even when it finally ends up being fleeting, to have some religion within the Patriots once more. Patriots 22, Dolphins 20.