FOXBORO, Mass. – New year, (basically) the same Patriots team.
New England continues to defy the odds this season, and they still somehow hold onto a chance at the postseason after their 23-21 win against the Dolphins on Sunday.
Despite the win, their struggles still remained the same. The offense was stagnant, the special teams made mistakes, and the coaching was subpar – a win is always a win. Here’s a look at the scoring drives from the afternoon:
Patriots 7 – Dolphins 0 | 10 plays, 81 yards – Tyquan Thornton 9-yard TD
Patriots 7 – Dolphins 7 | 13 plays, 75 yards – Tyreek Hill 2-yard TD
Patriots 7 – Dolphins 14 | 5 plays, 41 yards – Raheem Mostert 2-yard TD
Patriots 10 – Dolphins 14 | 9 plays, 51 yards – Nick Folk 49-yard FG
Patriots 16 – Dolphins 14 | Kyle Dugger 39-yard INT return TD
Patriots 23 – Dolphins 14 | 11 plays, 89 yards – Jakobi Meyers 1-yard TD
Patriots 23 – Dolphins 21 | 9 plays, 61 yards – Mike Gesicki 4-yard TD
What feels like a team of destiny continues to control that destiny week after week. Here are my five takeaways from New England’s win on Sunday against Miami:
5. Kendrick Bourne is still in the dog house, apparently.
After a career game last weekend where he caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne still couldn’t crack the Patriots starting lineup on Sunday.
Nelson Agholor started over him against the Dolphins and although they actually worked him into the game as #3 wide receiver behind Jakobi Meyers and Tyquan Thornton, his usage is nowhere near where it needs to be.
I understand giving reps to Thornton – he’s a promising young rookie who you want to keep in your game plan, but Agholor out-repping Bourne simply should not happen.
4. Special teams are once again a major issue.
Once the Patriots (hopefully) retool their offensive coaching staff this offseason, they should strongly consider giving Joe Judge the special team coordinator job back.
It’s, of course, not all on the coaching, but New England made mistake after mistake on special teams on Sunday and it once again played into the result of the game. Michael Palardy could hardly (lol) flip the field, Pierre Strong ran the ball out of the endzone when he clearly shouldn’t have and lost the offense seven yards, and Brenden Schooler ran into Dolphins punter on a drive that led to Miami’s first score. It needs to be cleaned up heading into 2023.
3. Banged-up secondary holds its own against Dolphins elite WR’s.
The story all week was the incredible mismatch New England would face in the secondary with Jalen Mills, Jack Jones, and Marcus Jones all nursing injuries – but they actually played pretty well on Sunday.
The Dolphins star wide receivers were held to just 107 total receiving yards, with both Tyreek Hill catching just three passes and Jaylen Waddle only four. An all-time performance from guys like Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant.
2. Whoever comes in to fix this Patriots offense has quite the tools to work with.
Whether it’s Bill O’Brien, Kliff Kingsbury, Chad O’Shea, or anyone else that will take over this New England offense in the offseason, they’re going to have a solid group of core players to build around.
Mac Jones once again looked like a quarterback that you can build a team around Sunday, Rhamondre Stevenson ran hard and has proven to be a monster RB when healthy, and they finally showed Tyquan Thornton’s speed off – he led them with 60 yards and a touchdown.
It’s not a talent issue on offense – it’s a coaching one, and it has been just about all season long.
1. Defense continues to keep New England’s playoff hopes alive.
Just when you thought the game was over for the Patriots, in came Kyle Dugger.
The third-year safety out of Lenoir-Rhyne read Teddy Bridgewater like a book on Miami’s second drive of the second half, intercepted the pass for a 39-yard touchdown, and kept New England’s playoff chances alive for one more week.
The score was Dugger’s third of the year, and he’s the first Patriots player to have three defensive touchdowns in one season since 1970. New England’s seven defensive touchdowns this season and their four defensive touchdowns in four consecutive games are both franchise records.
A dominant unit.
New England is now 8-8 and, with a win against the AFC-leading Buffalo Bills next Sunday, will make the playoffs for the second time in as many seasons with Mac Jones at the helm.
Keep it here on CLNSMedia.com for the best Patriots coverage as this unconventional season from Foxboro continues to have life for (at least) one more week.
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