It seemed like the Patriots struggled to have any real answers for the Dolphins offense. Even when they took away something, the Dolphins found other ways to win.
That’s just what good football teams do: They find ways to win the game. Meanwhile, the Patriots “almost” won the game, again.
The Almost Patriots have become a theme these last few years, where fans are taking moral victories to make themselves feel better for the lackluster performance on the field.
There was a time when even I was optimistic, but there are some struggles the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick must admit and correct if they want a fighting chance.
Here are some leftover notes from Sunday night’s game.
Offensive line struggled, and there needs to be drastic changes
The Patriots offensive line looked brutal with Mike Onwenu, David Andrews and Cole Strange all in the lineup. They kept Calvin Anderson at right tackle and started newcomer Verderian Lowe at left tackle.
Towards the end of the game, Atonio Mafi got reps at right guard, and the team mentioned they wanted to work him in with Onwenu and Strange. But the offensive line gave Mac Jones troubles yet again, as they could not effectively run the ball or make time for any deeper passing concepts to materialize.
It’s time for drastic changes in Foxborough, and it starts with moving Onwenu to right tackle.
Onwenu played right tackle at a high level in his rookie year, and he has elite tape at guard. The Patriots have been dead set on keeping him at right guard, which is his more natural position. Although Onwenu is the team’s best guard, he is also their second-best tackle and best overall lineman on the roster.
Many have been clamoring for tackle help since March, and the Patriots have not addressed it, instead opting for patchwork solutions to stop bleeding week-to-week.
Moving Onwenu to right tackle would allow the team to plug Mafi into starting right guard full-time. Mafi is clearly well-liked in the building, as the team has been giving him meaningful snaps at both guard spots in the first two weeks, which is a sign they feel he is a capable starter in the NFL.
The rest of the line can stay the same, while Anderson takes a slight step back as the team’s backup swing tackle, fine for emergency situations or as the sixth lineman in jumbo sets.
If the Patriots wish to save their season and give Jones a chance, they’ll do what’s best for the team and plug the largest hole on the roster with the most effective option.
Head-scratching coaching decisions lead to stagnant offense
As usual, there were some questionable decisions from the coaching staff this week. The Patriots had defensive tackle Sam Roberts, wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, and edge defender Anfernee Jennings all as healthy scratches.
With the struggles in the run game, you would expect a player like Roberts and Jennings to not only be active, but have a role on early downs. Granted, the Dolphins offense is complex and hard to predict, but when the Patriots needed to stop the run, they couldn’t get the job done.
Boutte was scratched after being taken off the injury report later in the week, and wideout Jalen Reagor took his spot, only to not see a single offensive snap.
To make matters worse, wideout Demario Douglas started off with a few targets, was getting open and flashed the most promise of any receiver this week, only to be benched after his catch, run and fumble play in the first quarter.
These decisions are up there with some other questionable ones from Belichick over the years, as the Patriots were in desperate need of playmakers and speed. Yet, the two fastest players, Douglas and Reagor, didn’t even see the field.
Run defense needs revamping big time
The run defense was abysmal, and despite no changes to the defensive line, or activating some stout run defenders, the Patriots couldn’t stop much on the ground.
What’s even more puzzling is the Patriots signed Marquan McCall after cutting veteran nose tackle Carl Davis, signaling they felt they needed a run-stuffer behind Godchaux. McCall failed a physical, and the team never added another true nose behind Godchaux.
The run defense is mainly in part to the interior of the line getting easily moved, as Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers are more than capable in the second level. But the team needs to address the line moving forward.