Five Takeaways from New England's 31-24 Victory against Miami
While the New England Patriots prepare for the arrival of the Houston Texans for a Thursday night matchup at Gillette Stadium, it is never too late to talk about Sunday’s victory against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots began the game on fire but as the game wore on, the fire slowly started to die. But before the flame was gone completely, Duron Harmon intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass in the end zone to secure the Patriots victory.
Here are five takeaways from the Patriots victory on Sunday.
1. Are injuries going to plague the Patriots again? Through the first two games of the season, the Patriots have gone through some crucial injuries to key players including All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive captain Dont’a Hightower. Last year the Patriots could not get a roll going down the stretch of the season when their offensive line was depleted and Tom Brady lost Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis as a two of his top targets.
Gronkowski has yet to take the field this season, Lewis has yet to take the field as well, Nate Solder missed the season opener and Hightower missed Sunday’s game against Miami. Four top players that are important to Patriots’ success are already showing up on the injury report. Being added to the list is backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Garoppolo was on a roll until he was driven to the turf and ending his afternoon earlier than expected. The status of Garoppolo, Hightower and Gronkowski are still up in the air for Thursday and it may be time to hope that this is not a weekly thing.
2. Whether they win or lose, New England will fight for 60 minutes. Whether it be holding Arizona to a last minute field goal or an interception in the end zone as time expires, the Patriots have proven they will be a fighting team so far in this young season. To win in the NFL, you need to play for 60 minutes and while the Patriots were outplaying the Dolphins in the first half on Sunday, they were clearly outplayed in the second half when the Dolphins offense came within one touchdown of tying the game up and forcing the game to go into overtime. In the previous week, the Patriots went into Arizona and played until the final whistle to open the season with a 1-0 record.
The Patriots did not play their best game but the fought and grinded out tough wins to stay undefeated at 2-0. If this is a sign of things to come, then the rest of the Patriots opponents better be prepared to play a full 60 minute game.
3. The Patriots finally have a running game. When Jimmy Garoppolo was taken out of the game due to an injured shoulder, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett was forced into the game. As a result of not being familiar with playing with the likes of Julian Edelman, the offensive game plan for the second half was to play it safe by running the ball. Miami knew this and yet they could not stop LeGarrette Blount for rushing for nearly 130 yards on almost 30 carries and one touchdown. With a healthy Gronkowski, Edelman, Martellus Bennett, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Dion Lewis, etc. the Patriots offense is going to be scary playing pass and catch. Now adding a running game to help balance out the offense, can the Patriots offense be unstoppable? Only time will tell.
4. The Patriots defense needs more pressure on the quarterback. Yes the Patriots defense played without Rob Ninkovich who is serving a suspension while being injured as well as Dont’a Hightower, but Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Jamie Collins and the rest of the front seven can still get significant pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Patriots front seven needs to get more of a consistent pass rush in order to make their defense more of an unstoppable force. Long tallied a sack against Miami and several Patriots’ defenders came close to taking Tannehill down to the turf.
5. Patriots must continue to win the turnover battle. Two fumbles forced by linebacker Jonathan Freeney and Logan Ryan to go along with Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon’s interception, the Patriots won the turnover battle with Miami. Winning the turnover battle will be key for the Patriots especially during the next two games as the defense will need to step up.
Up next for the Patriots will be the Houston Texans as they head to Foxboro for a Thursday Night Football matchup. The Patriots defeated Houston, in Houston by a score of 27-6.
Follow Michael Perry on Twitter @TheReal_MPerry