The New England Patriots lost their first game of the 2022-2023 NFL regular season on Sunday, falling short in a 20-7 defeat to the Miami Dolphins.
After a scoreless first half, New England’s offense did start to get rolling (literally) at the end of the third quarter with a touchdown pass from quarterback Mac Jones to wide receiver Ty Montgomery. However, those seven points were all the Patriots could muster as Miami’s defense smothered them in the overwhelming Florida heat.
Despite the fact that the offense seemed lifeless for most of the game, there were still some positive takeaways from this Week 1 performance. Here are some studs and duds from New England’s defeat.
Stud: Safety Kyle Dugger
The third-year safety out of Lenoir-Rhyne University shined on Sunday, registering five solo tackles and two tackles for a loss. Dugger came up big in multiple short-yardage situations and altogether put up a tremendous defensive performance.
All this despite the fact that he took a knee from Dolphins’ wide receiver Tyreek Hill to a sensitive area right before halftime.
Kyle Dugger looks like he might have taken Tyreek Hills knee to … his groin. He just jogged off the field. https://t.co/2IcegwHGCq
— Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis) September 11, 2022
Dugger seems to be an instrumental part of New England’s defense this season, and his play on Sunday spoke to his readiness to become a leader of this defensive unit.
Stud: Wide Receiver Jakobi Meyers
Meyers only logged four receptions for 55 yards on six targets, but he made his catches count. He had multiple catches along the sideline and seemed to be Jones’ go-to first-down target.
Meyers also had a fantastic snag over a Dolphins cornerback midway through the second quarter, pinpointing the ball well while keeping both feet inbounds.
"Jakobi Meyers what a catch!"
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 11, 2022
New England’s wide receiver room seems fairly crowded this season, but Meyers seems to currently be the No. 1 option in the slot and has a strong rapport with Jones. Hopefully, he can continue to build upon this stellar Week 1 performance.
Stud: Third-and-long Philosophical Shift
Something that was apparent throughout the game was the drastic shift in New England’s third-and-long (10 or more yards) offensive philosophy. In recent years with Josh McDaniels calling plays, the Patriots would consistently run a low-yardage play (a running back draw, a screen pass, etc.) on third-and-long with the hopes of gaining a few yards to help the special teams unit.
However, with McDaniels now in Las Vegas coaching the Raiders, and with the Patriots having new play-callers on their offense, this defensive philosophy seemed to be cast aside in favor of a more aggressive approach.
On Sunday, New England seemed much more competitive in third-and-long situations, opting to throw the ball downfield with the hopes of converting the first down and extending their drive. While the Patriots didn’t completely abandon their short-yardage play calls (a screen to wide receiver Nelson Agholor on third-and-12 comes to mind), they didn’t give up on third-and-long situations as often as they seemed to do in seasons past.
This philosophical shift should lead to more entertaining football and to the Patriots’ offense keeping the opposing defense on their heels, even if they were initially stopped on the first two downs.
Dud: Offensive Tackle Trent Brown
This was a tough game for Brown.
The 6-foot-8, 370-pound veteran has long been one of the more consistent pieces on New England’s offensive line, but, in this game, he seemed to play poorly in multiple facets.
For starters, Brown missed a blocking assignment on New England’s second-and-10 play from their own 15-yard line midway through the second quarter, allowing a Miami cornerback to run into the pocket unblocked and strip-sack Jones. The play resulted in an easy defensive touchdown for the Dolphins, as Jones never really seemed to know what had hit him.
Brown also got forced backward by Miami edge rushers on multiple times throughout the contest, highlighting his inability to gain leverage on his blocks. Brown tends to tower over most defenders, so this was a bit surprising to see from him.
New England’s offensive line seemed a bit confused at times during the preseason as the team was trying to implement a new blocking scheme. Clearly, these issues are not yet fully resolved, and it may take a few more weeks until the players get used to it.
Dud: Offensive Consistency
Despite the reports that came out during training camp indicating that this Patriots offense was going to be putrid this season, they actually seemed to prove otherwise throughout the game. A few flashy plays, such as the long catch by wide receiver Kendrick Bourne late in the game and the use of Agholor’s speed on a third-and-12 screen pass, showed that this offense does have the ability to conjure up big plays if needed.
However, these plays came few and far between during a game where the Patriots needed them.
While Miami’s defense deserves a lot of credit for suffocating New England’s offense, the Patriots didn’t help themselves much either by committing costly turnovers just as they were starting to gain some momentum. This lack of consistency is really what cost New England the game, as they could never truly establish an offensive rhythm.
The positive takeaway from this, however, is that the Patriots’ offensive struggles may not be as bad as they initially seemed. Of course, only time will tell whether New England can get situated with their new offense early enough in the season to be competitive. However, a few cleanups here and there could very well be the difference between success and failure.
Head coach Bill Belichick seemed to echo this sentiment postgame, highlighting that, had momentum been in the other direction, the game could have had a completely different result.
Bill Belichick says it was a pretty even game, but 2 plays, which led to 14 Dolphins points, skewed the score. pic.twitter.com/hxIKOy7toh
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 11, 2022