Monday Night Football didn’t go the way the Patriots planned. The Number 1 team in the AFC, walking into Miami with an 8 game win streak, slumped to the Dolphins and Jay Cutler.
Essentially everything about the game was poor performance by the Patriots. Early on the defense looked abysmal when attempting to contain new running back Kenyan Drake, who ran for 114 yards and a touchdown and caught 5 balls for 79 yards.
As I’ve mentioned previously this year (check the archives – it’s there!), adjusting to man to man for the secondary will inevitably create a terrible mismatch of a New England linebacker getting burnt by a running back. The proof is in the pudding folks, that’s how Miami had their way with New England.
On offense, everything looked inconsistent and sad. One has to wonder if Gronk being out was this big of a problem for the offense. Perhaps without our mismatch machine, other players would be taken care of. That’s exactly what happened. Cornerback Xavier Howard had Brandin Cooks shut down for almost 4 full quarters (up until the 2 minute mark to end the game), and picked off Brady twice. Speaking of missing Gronk, his blocking skills were desperately needed. For the first time since the 2015 Broncos AFC Championship Game, a pass rush got into Brady’s head. He had some downright bad throws on the field.
For the first time in a long time, it was appropriate to question the offensive playcalling as well. OC Josh McDaniels had some questionable plays, but what is worse is that the formula never really changed. If you go into the half loosing, even if you go into the half winning, it’s expected that the team will adjust to what they see on the field. The only real adjustment was that McDaniels shamefullly stopped RB Rex Burkhead’s snap count – a guy who was moving the rock for the team in the first half.
This leaves many questions for the rest of the season, especially going into Pittsburgh next week.
Or does it? The Pats have dropped 4 of the last 5 in Miami. They’ve also won 50% of the Super Bowls played during that time. Math isn’t my strong suit, but I think we’re OK here. For the most part, it’s really dependent on the health of Brady’s core. Chris Hogan was back last night, which is a bonus. Gronkowski had a night off to catch his health, which is another bonus. The biggest concerns would be RT Marcus Cannon, who has missed 6 straight games, and Safety Pat Chung who left the game last night with an injury.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are now in first of the AFC, would love to knock the Patriots down another peg and make them a 4-loss team. The Patriots, I’m sure, would love to win back the AFC next Sunday. Both of these teams will be once again reloaded and ready.
The bad news for New England is that LeVeon Bell is a lot shiftier than Kenyan Drake. Likewise, Antonio Brown is much greater than Jarvis Landry.
The good news is that the Steelers pass rush doesn’t consist of Cam Wake, who has sacked Brady more than any other active player, or Ndamukong Suh. The pass rush is much lighter than Miami’s, which may give Brady more comfort in the pocket.
Sunday Night’s game is really anyone’s for the taking after the Miami loss. I understand the Patriots routinely loose in Miami, but the play was so out-of-character and ugly that I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave another loss up to the top of the AFC Steelers.