Patriots-Dolphins film review: What Bill Belichick can and can’t fix after an 0-2 start

Bill Belichick’s determination to bench his most dynamic offensive playmaker for the final three quarters Sunday will finally fade into the white noise of this Patriots season.

What it represented within the second, nonetheless, encapsulates the conundrum the Patriots now face at 0-2.

The Patriots offense unequivocally wants Demario Douglas, a sixth-round rookie from Liberty University, to perform at its highest degree. But being a rookie, Douglas is vulnerable to rookie errors, like his fumble within the first quarter in opposition to Miami.

To Belichick, that fumble meant one thing extra: an inexcusable repeat of the errors that value the Patriots their season opener, a recreation they’d have gained had been it not for 2 first-quarter turnovers.

Belichick pulled Douglas as a result of he noticed the rookie as an issue he may repair, one thing he may management. And proper or fallacious, Belichick believed eliminating the added danger of one other turnover was within the Patriots’ greatest curiosity; a technique to elevate the ground on their win likelihood versus Miami.

Except, due to the shortage of receiving expertise round Douglas, benching him concurrently capped the ceiling. Without Douglas, the Patriots have zero explosion. None.

No defensive coordinator is dropping any sleep over dealing with this roster. The Patriots’ offense is the antithesis of the Dolphins’ assault, a dizzying 4×100 relay workforce and true pick-your-poison operation.

Foxboro, MA – Sept. 17: New England Patriots broad receiver DeVante Parker makes a catch defended by Miami Dolphins cornerback Eli Apple throughout the first quarter of the sport at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

Want to restrict Tyreek Hill, because the Pats managed on Sunday? Watch and wave goodbye to Jaylen Waddle, as he averages 21.5 yards per catch or operating again Raheem Mostert, as he speeds to a 43-yard landing. And for those who blitz to pressure Tua Tagovailoa’s hand, his lightning-quick launch will common the fourth-quickest time to throw (2.08 seconds) in a single recreation since 2020, simply because it did Sunday, per Next Gen Stats.

What is the Patriots’ poison? Can you identify one?

How about one among their explosive performs Sunday? There had been two: Mac Jones’ scramble for 18 yards, and a Rhamondre Stevenson’s rumble for 12. That was it. Two!

Heading into Week 3, the Patriots clearly can not overhaul their offensive roster in a significant technique to grow to be extra explosive. Belichick forged his die within the offseason. That time has handed.

What Belichick can management now, what he can repair, is teaching his ball carriers to tighten their grip. He can proceed to plan sensible defensive schemes and mine edges on particular groups. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien’s workers should develop their ragtag offensive line and sharpen their utilization of Douglas and different playmakers (aspect observe: Mac Jones is 1-of-7 on deep balls to Kendrick Bourne).

Foxboro, MA - February 17: New England Patriots' Mac Jones and Bill O'brien walk off the field after the loss at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Foxboro, MA – Sept. 17: New England Patriots’ Mac Jones and Bill O’brien stroll off the sector after the loss at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

Because these had been the opposite points that dogged the Patriots Sunday: an impotent run recreation and Matt Patricia-esque passing plan that overdosed on screens and would possibly as nicely have flipped the chook to any suggestion of play-action.

How nicely the Patriots’ coaches problem-solve within the coming days will set the course for the subsequent few weeks, and maybe the rest of their season. Thankfully for them, the Jets supply a perfect get-right alternative this weekend. The Pats haven’t misplaced at New York since 2015 and gained three of their final 4 conferences with Gotham’s goons just by screwing up much less (the opposite was a 54-13 Patriots blowout in October 2021).

As slight street favorites, the Pats ought to make it 4 out of 5 Sunday. But offensively, they’ll play that recreation on the identical tightrope they’ve walked the previous two weeks.

Because that is the roster Belichick has constructed. The absence of a dependable go-to goal and lack of a secure offensive line have lowered their win likelihood as a lot as the rest.

By now, that a lot is out of the Patriots’ management. The relaxation is as much as them.

Here’s all the things else the movie revealed about Sunday’s loss:

Mac Jones

31-of-42 for 231 yards, TD, INT

Foxboro, MA - February 17: New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws during the first quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Foxboro, MA – Sept. 17: New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws throughout the first quarter of the sport in opposition to the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

Accurate throw proportion: 75.6% at 5.5 yards per try

Under strain: 10-of-14 for 87 yards, 4 sacks, 18-yard scramble

Against the blitz: 7-of-9 for 74 yards, sack

Behind the road: 8-of-9 for 31 yards

0-9 yards downfield: 17-of-17 for 130 yards

10-19 yards downfield: 6-of-10 for 70 yards, TD, INT

20+ yards downfield: 0-of-5

Notes: For a second straight week, Jones carried out nicely within the face of strain, as stark and inspiring a change as we’ve seen from him since final season. He was significantly efficient in opposition to the blitz, which Miami ramped up within the fourth quarter. Jones was additionally darn close to good inside 10 yards of the road of scrimmage, simply as you’d anticipate from the pocket-bound dart thrower.

Now, the unhealthy: Jones’ third-quarter interception was gross. He underthrew a sideline bounce ball for DeVante Parker that as an alternative discovered Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard at Miami’s 3-yard line The decide took factors off the board at a crucial juncture. Later, whereas Jones drove the Patriots down for one landing, he but once more failed to finish a fourth-quarter comeback.

One space to look at: Jones’ anticipation. As Tagovailoa repeatedly ripped throws earlier than and through his supposed receivers’ breaks, Jones usually waited to see Parker and Co. spring open first, then fired. That split-second will be, and is commonly, the distinction between passing success within the NFL. Jones’ incompletion to Parker with 1:53 left within the first half, damaged up by Dolphins security DeShon Elliott, provided a transparent instance the place Jones triggered a half-beat late, one thing reporters have witnessed since coaching camp.

A side-by-side comparability of that cross and Tagovailoa’s 22-yard rope to Dolphins receiver River Cracraft 4 snaps later throughout a 2-minute drill provided an ideal illustration of one of many understated variations between the ex-college teammates.

Critical areas

  • Explosive play charge: Patriots 2.8%, Dolphins 6.5%
  • Success charge: Patriots 53%, Dolphins 53%
  • Red-zone effectivity: Patriots 2-2, Dolphins 2-3
  • Third downs: Patriots 7-15, Dolphins 4-10
  • Defensive strain charge: Patriots 15.1%, Dolphins 38.3%


Game plan

  • Personnel breakdown: 62.5% snaps in 12 personnel, 25% of snaps in 11 personnel, 5.5% snaps in 13 personnel, 5.5% in 21 personnel, 1% in 22 personnel.***
  • Personnel manufacturing: 4.2 yards/play in 12 personnel, 3.1 yards/play in 11 personnel, 4.0 yards/play in 13 personnel, 4.5 yards/play in 21 personnel, 7.0 yards/play in 22 personnel.
  • First-down down play-calls: 65.5% cross (5.8 yards per play), 34.5% run (3.8 yards per play)
  • Play-action charge: 12.8%

Player stats

Foxboro, MA - February 17: New England Patriots' Rhamondre Stevenson celebrates his touchdown with Hunter Henry during the fourth quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Foxboro, MA – Sept. 17: New England Patriots’ Rhamondre Stevenson celebrates his landing with Hunter Henry throughout the fourth quarter of the sport at Gillette Stadium. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
  • Broken tackles: RB Rhamondre Stevenson 4, WR Devante Parker, QB Mac Jones
  • Pressures allowed: OT Calvin Anderson 5 (sack, 3 QB hits, 1 hurry), OT Vederian Lowe 4 (sack, 3 hurries), OG Atonio Mafi 1 (sack), C David Andrews 1 (QB hit), QB Mac Jones (1 hurry), RB Ezekiel Elliott 1 (hurry), Team 6 (sack, 5 hurries)
  • Run stuffs allowed: OG Cole Strange, Andrews, Team
  • Penalties: Strange (holding)
  • Drops: WR Kendrick Bourne


  • After watching the Chargers pound Miami’s defensive entrance for greater than six yards per carry in Week 1, the Patriots’ opening recreation plan was to bully the Dolphins but once more.
  • Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien opened in 13 personnel and referred to as runs on 5 of the Pats’ preliminary seven first-down performs. The hassle was, Miami held its floor.
  • The Pats did not knock the Dolphins off the ball, particularly as left guard Cole Strange knocked off vital rust throughout the opening drive. On that sequence alone, Strange was liable for a run stuff, 0-yard display achieve and (almost certainly) a sack.
  • The Patriots misplaced Douglas’ fumble on their subsequent possession and the operating recreation stalled, besides in short-yardage. The offense began 5-of-5 with one yard or much less to the road to realize. Miami hit again within the third quarter, possible recognizing a growing inform when the Pats dropped underneath heart.
  • O’Brien referred to as runs on the Patriots’ first 10 under-center snaps, together with two the place Mac Jones ripped a direct throw to DeVante Parker to take free yards in opposition to off-coverage. On these performs, the 9 different gamers on offense carried out run assignments.
  • Miami made its first stand on the Pats’ opening drive of the second half, stopping Rhamondre Stevenson chilly on second-and-1, then dropping him for a lack of three yards on the subsequent play. Both runs got here from underneath heart, the place O’Brien dialed up a play-action throw on the very subsequent possession to transform third-and-1.

  • Around this time, the Patriots dedicated to operating 12 personnel via Stevenson, Parker, Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki for the remainder of the sport. Ezekiel Elliott and JuJu Smith-Schuster had been the one different ability gamers to see snaps on the ultimate three drives, taking the sector solely when Stevenson and/or Bourne wanted a breather.
  • That determination by the teaching workers says greater than any mixture of phrases may in a press convention. During a 2-minute in a pivotal recreation, the Patriots demonstrated they imagine Stevenson, Parker, Bourne, Henry and Gesicki give them the most effective likelihood to execute.
  • The solely query is whether or not Douglas would have changed Gesicki had he not already been benched for fumbling within the first quarter. Douglas changed Smith-Schuster within the slot on two passing downs earlier than the fumble.
  • Smith-Schuster ought to have a gripe together with his utilization Sunday, which included three display targets that gained a complete of minus-1 yard. His 5.6 yards per catch common trailed all Patriots pass-catchers besides Stevenson.
  • Overall, the Pats’ display recreation once more proved to be a internet adverse. They averaged 2.5 yards on display passes, down from 3.3 yards in opposition to the Eagles.
  • Screens apart, the Pats’ passing plan appeared to comply with two pointers: decide on Dolphins nook Eli Apple and get the ball out of Jones’ palms ASAP.
  • Apple allowed seven catches on 10 targets, per Pro Football Focus, and dedicated three penalties. The Patriots generated 5 first downs on passes thrown in his path.
  • Meanwhile, Jones’ common snap-to-throw time completed at 2.34 seconds, the third-fastest mark for Week 2, per PFF. He tried simply 5 passes that coverged 20 yards within the air in comparison with 9 he threw at targets behind the road of scrimmage.
  • Jones’ wild downfield misses reminded of final season’s default reply to the blitz: chuck it deep. O’Brien has offered Jones with extra blitz solutions, however the downfield passing recreation has been non-existent. Through two weeks, Jones has one completion with 20-plus air yards.

  • Despite additionally being empowered in empty formations, the place he can see the sector, dissect defenses and play matchup ball, Jones is averaging 5.2 yards per dropback in these units. The Pats have run extra empty backfields than some other workforce within the league, per ESPN.
  • When the Patriots went empty Sunday, Miami attacked their protections by blitzing a linebacker via the B hole (between the guard and deal with) on the brief (AKA “boundary”) aspect of the sector.
  • Jones took his first sack in opposition to this strain, then beat an identical strain within the second quarter. It’s potential the Dolphins had a beat on the Pats’ safety, figuring out they’d slide 4 linemen in a single path and go away an offensive deal with remoted on the alternative aspect, thus widening the B hole to potential strain.

  • Up entrance, the Patriots can ill-afford to overlook beginning left deal with Trent Brown for for much longer. He is their lone starting-caliber deal with, and Jones handled 9 (!) pressures off the sides versus Miami.
  • Right guard Mike Onwenu sat for the previous couple of drives in favor of fifth-round rookie Atonio Mafi. He performed 46 snaps in a deliberate rotation for his season debut. Onwenu is coming off offseason ankle surgical procedure.


Game plan

  • Personnel breakdown: 67.2% three-safety nickel bundle, 32.8% dime. 5% three-corner nickel bundle.****
  • Coverage snaps breakdown: 70.6% zone, 29.4% man
  • Blitz charge: 18.2%
  • Blitz efficacy: 7.2 yards allowed per dropback

Player stats

  • Interceptions: CB Christian Gonzalez
  • Pass deflections: S Kyle Dugger, DB Myles Bryant
  • Pressures: OLB Matt Judon 2 (sack, QB hit), OLB Josh Uche 1 (hurry), DL Deatrich Wise (1 hurry), Team (1 hurry)
  • Run stuffs: Team 2
  • Missed tackles: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley 2, LB Jahlani Tavai 2, DL Christian Barmore, DL Davon Godchaux, S Jabrill Peppers, Bryant
  • Penalties: S Marte Mapu (pointless roughness), LB Chris Board (unlawful formation on kickoff), Bryant (impartial zone infraction), Peppers (holding on punt return).


  • The Patriots opened in a downright weird alignment, dropping three deep safeties 12-15 yards off the road of scrimmage and clustered close to the has hmarks. The Pats additionally opened in a 5-1 entrance, a standard tactic in opposition to offenses like Miami that desire an outdoor zone scheme.

  • The motivation behind the weird recreation plan was no totally different than some other Miami opponent’s: stopping Tyreek Hill.
  • Hill smoked the Chargers for 215 yards in Week 1, doing most of his injury down the sideline and over the deep center. The Patriots’ deep safeties discouraged Tagovailoa from throwing between the numbers — his best space of the sector as a passer — and stopped Hill from operating these routes.
  • The defensive construction, although, opened up the flats, because the Patriots’ cornerbacks performed off protection to guard in opposition to explosive performs. This allowed Miami to repeatedly assault the seams and edges on two straight scoring drives that opened an early 10-0 lead.
  • The Pats helped them attain the top zone by setting an inconsistent edge, the place the Dolphins attacked subpar run defenders in Josh Uche and Christian Gonzalez. Linebacker Jahlani Tavai later misplaced the sting on Raheem Mostert’s 8-yard landing within the second quarter.

  • The Patriots responded by ditching most of their preliminary plan and creeping a seventh defender towards the field. They maintained their regular weight loss plan of deep protection, although save for a number of ineffective blitzes in opposition to Tagovailoa.
  • Tagovailoa went 4-of-6 for 43 yards in opposition to Patriots blitzes, together with three first-down conversions. The Patriots flipped from further rushers to getting inventive with their 4-man “simulated pressures,” within the second half, although these had little impact.
  • The Patriots’ solely sack arrived early within the third quarter, when Dugger knocked Hill off target and Deatrich Wise leapt up in Tagovailoa’s passing lane forcing him to carry the ball till Judon arrived. Judon was the one Patriot with a number of pressures.
  • Shortly earlier than halftime, Miami coach Mike McDaniel out-witted Belichick by appropriately anticipating the Pats would play a switching protection close to the aim line.
  • From a 2-receiver stack with Hill, the Dolphins motioned tight finish Durham Smythe out broad proper on first-and-goal on the Patriots’ 2-yard line. By motioning Smythe outdoors, Miami pressured Gonzalez to maneuver off of Hill to cowl the tight finish, and go away security Kyle Dugger alone with the All-Pro receiver.
  • Hill ran a fast out versus Dugger, and Tagovailoa hit him for a 17-3 lead heading into halftime.
  • In the second half, the Patriots had first-round rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez shadow Hill in crucial conditions. Miraculously, not solely did he snare the interception the Pats believed Tagovailoa would lastly pressure out of impatience, Gonzalez held Hill and not using a catch.
  • Once they misplaced cornerback Marcus Jones to a shoulder harm, the Pats performed nearly completely zone protection from three-safety nickel personnel and dime packages. Reserve nook Shaun Wade, the subsequent nook out there off the bench, performed simply 14 snaps.


CB Christian Gonzalez

This rookie could possibly be particular. He took a shadow task of Hill and held him and not using a catch in crucial conditions. Gonzalez additionally added a spectacular interception on a uncommon snap at security.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson

The Pats’ star again transformed every time he had satisfactory blocking, added a number of catches and a late landing. Feed Stevenson.