The Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots game could have ended either way. However, it was the Dolphins who left New England victorious. Still, there are questions that need to be answered on both sides.
Observations from the Dolphins vs. Patriots
What were the biggest takeaways from the Dolphins at Patriots divisional battle?
Battle of the former Alabama quarterbacks
Mac Jones looks more prepared for the NFL than Tua Tagovailoa.
Mac Jones has showed a lot of poise today in his first NFL start.pic.twitter.com/5IV15RQmWH
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 12, 2021
One quarterback was calm and collected under pressure. The other threw a ball up for grabs in the worst possible moment.
Tagovailoa’s reckless throw to the sidelines while under major pressure from Matthew Judon midway through the fourth quarter resulted in a Jonathan Jones interception — nearly costing Miami the game. Their defense bailed them out on the ensuing drive, helping preserve a 17-16 victory.
Jones’ ability to hang in the pocket, take a hit, and deliver the ball downfield was the difference Sunday. The Dolphins constantly came crashing through the A-gap, only to see Jones sidestep pressure — or simply take the hit — and pick up the first down.
Jones finished his NFL debut 29-of-39 for 281 yards and never looked overwhelmed.
Mac Jones with his first TD pass as a pro.
The PFN staff has him winning OROY :trophy:
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 12, 2021
The same cannot be said for Tagovailoa, who while largely solid, made a couple of ill-advised throws. And yet, the Dolphins made the plays when they needed to and escaped with just their second win in Foxborough since 2008. Tagovailoa finished 16-of-27 for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
Jacoby Brissett made plays when called upon
When Jacoby Brissett joined the Dolphins on a one-year, $5 million contract, he did so with the belief he’d have a decent chance to see the field in Miami.
He did in Week 1, but not because of injury or inefficiency by Tua Tagovailoa.
Rather, it was as a short-yardage back, taking the direct snap.
Brissett used his 6-foot-4, 231-pound frame on a QB keeper on 3rd and 1 late in the first half. He picked up the first down and was poised to remain on the field for the ensuing first down. But the Dolphins couldn’t get lined up and were totally confused, resulting in a false start by OG Jesse Davis.
Brissett later served as the Dolphins’ closer, picking up a tough 3rd and 1 just outside the two-minute warning to salt away the game.
Brissett’s usage echoed how Frank Reich deployed him in Indianapolis, where he occasionally spelled Philip Rivers in certain situations. He entered the game with 583 yards and 12 touchdowns on 159 rushes in his career.
He wasn’t the Dolphins’ only runner out of a direct snap. Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown both had turns as Miami’s Wildcat QB.
Damien Harris proving worthy of RB1 role in New England
Running back Damien Harris started the game a lot better than he finished it.
On the Patriots’ first offensive play of 2021, Harris gashed the Dolphins for 35 yards up the gut.
It was just the start of a long day for a Dolphins run defense that ranked 19th in yards allowed per carry in 2020 (4.5).
Harris went for 100 yards off 23 carries on the day, staking claim to RB1 on a Patriots offense loaded with backs. But he fumbled late with the Patriots driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown or field goal, helping the Dolphins escape.
The thought going into the game was that New England would spread out the carries, but Rhamondre Stevenson quickly found his way into Bill Belichick’s doghouse by fumbling on his first career touch. The Patriots fumbled 4 times on the day, losing 2.
Two Dolphins players highlighted for different reasons
While a Miami defender showed a lack of common sense in the rule book, an offensive lineman had an impressive streak ended.
Liam Eichenberg held his own in NFL debut
Liam Eichenberg’s “Welcome to the NFL” moment came with 25 seconds left in the first half.
The second-round pick out of Notre Dame, Eichenberg started at left tackle with Austin Jackson just returning from the COVID-19 list. And while he largely held his own Sunday, Eichenberg did allow his first sack in three years.
His streak was broken in ridiculous fashion. With the Dolphins driving late in the first quarter, linebacker Josh Uche came hard directly through Eichenberg and into Tagovailoa.
Elandon Roberts’ penalty that should not have been called
The NFL needs to protect its quarterbacks. However, the league also needs to use common sense.
They forgot about the latter while worrying about the former by throwing a four-point flag on Elandon Roberts in the second quarter.
Roberts blitzed through the A-gap on 3rd and 1 from the Dolphins 17, completely blowing up Stevenson’s weak attempt at pass protection. Even though the collision knocked Roberts off balance, he got to Jones for the drive-ending sack.
Yet, officials determined he went low, flagged him 15 yards for roughing the passer, and set up New England’s first touchdown of the season.
Roughing the passer? Not sure what Elandon was supposed to do. Penalty leads to a NE touchdown. pic.twitter.com/bkWO78OGah
— Mike Cugno (@MikeCugnoCBS4) September 12, 2021
Roberts’ agent, David Canter, spoke for all of Dolphins nation when he ripped the officiating on Twitter.
“Another atrocious call on Elandon Roberts for going low on a sack. Player is being blocked and momentum shifts downward. He can’t just levitate his body away from gravity, and to make it worse, Jones actually leaves his feet when the sack occurs. Game changing bad officiating.”