“[Joe] Judge, [Joe] Houston and Cam [Achord] chose a really good plan for this block and identified a weakness in their field goal operation. We worked on it throughout the week and were pretty confident it would come into play. I just had the right opportunity, counted my steps correctly and timed them well. As soon as the ball was snapped, I felt myself and the momentum carry me. I knew I would get there. I just wanted to make sure I had the ball in my hands.
“I had never seen it before. It was new for me, and I think it was new for a lot of people on the team. Like I said, we trusted our coaches and we’re going to go out and compete,” Schooler said, breaking down the play for reporters.
After a disappointing year in 2022, the Patriots revamped the kicking game by recruiting two rookie specialists and moving Judge back into a special teams role. Although it wasn’t enough to win this week, the early results were positive for the revamped operation.
2. The Patriots offense continues to have a talent disadvantage at the playmaking positions
At some point, the Patriots will have to figure out the main reasons for their offensive woes since the second half of quarterback Mac Jones’ rookie campaign.
They are now on their third coordinator with Jones under center. While we can all agree that last year’s offensive configuration wasn’t the answer, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is looking for consistent execution from this group, similar to the two OCs before him.
The Patriots enter almost every game at a disadvantage when it comes to roster talent on the offensive side of the ball, and that couldn’t be more evident on Sunday night. Tagovailoa is a really good quarterback, we don’t want to distort that. The reality, however, is that Tua took the field this week with at least two receivers better than anyone Mac throws these days, and the same was true last week for Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are quarterback-safe playmakers who can generate explosive plays to make the quarterback’s job easier. For example, Waddle’s first explosive pass was a 28-yard screen pass on a throw behind the line of scrimmage, and with the deep safety’s attention on Hill, Waddle brought the ball into single coverage after a 32-yard completion .
New England’s offense, on the other hand, still has to squeeze out every yard and every point it puts on the scoreboard, even with O’Brien planning the offense. Big wins don’t come as easily for this group as they did for Miami, and it shows. I’m not here to tell you that the Pats quarterback would be an MVP candidate with a better supporting cast, but very few young signalers in this conversation are working with less.
3. Patriots unveil triple safety defense in chess game against Dolphins
As we mentioned right up front, the Patriots’ game plan on defense was to play a three-deep safety structure designed to obscure coverage to give the offense a break and keep the lead on defense, to force the Dolphins to string plays together instead of hitting for a few big winners. Obviously, with a fast-paced offense like Miami’s, it makes sense to force them to spread the ball around the court instead of giving up points in one or two blocks.
From the Dolphins’ perspective, many of Miami’s offensive players actually talked after the game about how unique the Patriots’ defensive strategy was, saying they had never seen it before.
“It seemed like they wanted to put a protective shield over our two fast guys. And then as the game progressed, they started to get back to what they normally would run. But I think they do a great job with in-game customization. And.” “You know, that’s really a big, big thing I would say for any Bill Belichick defense,” Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said.
The Patriots continued their three-game trend against these Dolphins in which they played zone coverage on 71 percent of Miami’s snaps and reduced their typical man-coverage rate to make explosive plays against challenging receivers who were in man-to -Man systems had to be limited. The Pats combined single-high safety coverages (16) and split-safety coverages (13) in a fairly even ratio, converting three-safety coverage into double-robber and Tampa-2 systems.
While it wasn’t perfect, the defense held the Dolphins’ explosive offense to 24 points, with just seven points in the second half, giving the Patriots a chance to make the game interesting. Unfortunately it didn’t work out again.
4. Without starting LT Trent Brown, the Patriots offensive line woes continue
After a rocky summer filled with injuries and uncertainty, it’s no surprise to anyone at day-to-day training camp that the offensive play has been inconsistent. Although it was an admirable performance against a great defense, the film told a less positive story about the offensive play against Philly. It wasn’t a complete disaster given the circumstances, but looking at the tape from Week 1, it was anything but good.
This week, the Dolphins began to increase the pressure on the quarterbacks in the second half, with the Patriots running into obvious passing situations as they attempted to mount a comeback. According to NextGen Stats, Jones was under pressure on 14 of his 46 dropbacks, or 30.4%, and was sacked four times. Obviously you have to throw when you’re down. So falling behind a total of 104 times in the first two weeks will create pressure and the defense will sit up and take notice.
The pressures that weren’t as concerning were an assignment-related error by second-year LG Cole Strange, who appeared to block the Dolphins’ first sack instead of picking up the second-level blitzer, and sacks allowed by backup LT Vederian Lowe and Substitute guard Atonio Mafi. These mental mistakes will happen when the guys in O’Brien and O-line coach Adrian Klemm’s system haven’t played much together. They’ll sort it out, while Brown will hopefully be back at left tackle next week and Onwenu should be able to go wire-to-wire again soon.
However, right tackle continues to be a problematic spot as current starter Calvin Anderson struggles with his footwork and shot timing to fend off speed off the edge. Dolphins edge rusher Andrew Van Ginkel collected a sack and six quarterback pressures against Anderson, who can’t get enough depth in his slides to protect his edge, leading to a short corner that Van Ginkel took several times on Sunday night circled.
With the team too wary of throwing right back Michael Onwenu out wide, Anderson, who deserves some leeway while he recovers from a serious illness that has limited him all summer, is the best option for the right tackle. This is what they currently have on the roster, which opens them up to criticism for not dedicating more resources to OT in the offseason.
If the current right tackle situation doesn’t improve, the Patriots should aggressively pursue free agent tackle La’el Collins, who the Bengals recently released.
5. Aside from getting the O-line rolling, how can the Patriots get the run game going?
While fixing up the O-line would help, that’s not the only reason the Patriots have managed just 164 rushing yards on 47 attempts through two weeks (3.5 average).
The only criticism of O’Brien in the first two contests is that the running game may have design flaws. New England has given up on fullback for the second straight year and is now a one-back running scheme that consists of either a standard 11-man set or a two-tight end set (12), which isn’t really a true “12.” when Gesicki is involved. Between leadback Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott, only seven of their 20 halfback runs came from below center. Long story short: The Patriots are trying to escape from spread formations by using RPOs with power backs who are better suited to running from down the middle (which is why I was hoping for Pierre Strong before the trade) .
Aside from choosing spread runs primarily, Mac only had three pass attempts from below center this week, with a play-action rate of 10.9 percent on Sunday night. From this perspective, the Pats haven’t given themselves a chance to run the ball effectively because they don’t rely enough on the run/play-action sequence under center to get it going.
Because of their offensive personnel, the Pats also no longer have the ability to play “big” with the fullback outside of regular formations, which would have given them the opportunity to get the offense back on track after a rocky stretch under McDaniels. Yes, playing from behind presents another problem, but Stevenson is arguably the Patriots’ best offensive player, while play-action is arguably their most effective way of passing the ball – it’s up to O’Brien to find a way to get it on that Ball to plan better ground.
6. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones shows playmaking at the highest level in the loss to Miami
After last week’s better performance in the box score, my film review was still pretty critical of Jones, who made too many unforced errors for my liking in the game against the Eagles.
We’ll reserve judgment until we see the tape, but Jones made some impressive plays on the move and under pressure. According to NextGen, Jones was 7 of 10 under pressure for 58 yards and a touchdown, with a passer rating of 117.9 and an outstanding completion percentage of +22.4 above expectations. Mac also completed 4 of 6 throws for 36 yards and a score while moving outside the pocket “on the run,” something he typically doesn’t do well.
For example, Jones made a great throw while staring down the run at DeVante Parker, where he threw with excellent foresight out of a muddy pocket to hit Parker on an in-break route on third down. We’ve talked so many times about Mac having to throw from a solid base to hit the ball quickly, but he used his timing and enough speed to get it there.