Once again the New England Patriots fell short of victory in Week 2. This time it was 24-17 loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. Despite starting the season 0-2, there were still things to feel good about from last night’s game. Needless to say, there’s also many areas for improvement if the Patriots hope to turn around their 2023 season. A look back on the highs and lows from Week 2…
WEEK 2 HIGHS
Hunter Henry – It is only two weeks into the season, but Hunter Henry is off to a terrific start. He leads all AFC tight ends in receptions (11) receiving yards (108) and touchdowns (2). While it would be nice to see him receive even more targets (13 to date) his production has still been exceptional. This is especially true is comparison to a year ago when the Patriots stopped looking to him for help. The reliable target has already equaled his touchdown total from 2022.
DeVante Parker – After missing Week 1, Parker played against his former franchise and contributed nicely. His totals were modest (five receptions, 57 yards) but it is clear Mac Jones has faith in Parker. It was nice to see him run a wider variety of routes than a year ago. In 2022 he appeared glued to the sideline at times. Look for the Patriots to continue to try and find Parker in open space more in 2023; Jones’ lone interception was a sideline target to Parker.
Christian Gonzalez – The New England Patriots rookie cornerback is a keeper. Not only did he record his first NFL interception on a Tua Tagovailoa attempt in the fourth quarter, his entire game was solid. Last week Gonzalez allowed nine receptions for 102 yards as the primary man in coverage. This week those numbers improved to three receptions for 32 yards. This is extra impressive considering he was lined up against the likes of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Chad Ryland – Nothing spectacular about the placekicker’s performance, but he did finally attempt a field goal, and he made it. There was speculation as to whether Bill Belichick didn’t opt to “take the points” in Week 1 because he didn’t want to put too much pressure on the rookie. After two games Ryland is 1-for-1 on field goal attempts and 4-for-4 on extra points. If he stays solid, he should be around New England a long time
Brenden Schooler – The special teams ace had the play of the game with his blocked field goal toward the end of the third quarter. Schooler’s block gave the Patriots, and the Gillette crowd, newfound life (albeit briefly). The second year pro has become Matthew Slater’s protege in New England, and last night he emulated his big play potential.
Containing Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – Of the Patriots keys to success laid out prior to the game, this is the one they achieved best. A week ago Hill and Waddle combined for 15 receptions, 293 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Chargers. This week the Patriots “held” the dynamic duo to nine receptions, 126 yards receiving a two-yard touchdown reception. Without Jonathan Jones or Jack Jones available at cornerback, this was an impressive performance from the Patriots coaches and defensive backs.
While it would be nice to simply celebrate the positives of last night’s game, it is difficult to do so following another New England Patriots loss. On the other side of the spectrum from Sunday Night Football…
WEEK 2 LOWS
Slow Start – Starting strong was a key point of emphasis heading into this game, and the Patriots failed to do so once again. A week after falling behind the Philadelphia Eagles 16-0, New England found themselves trailing the Miami Dolphins 10-0 to start the game. By halftime the Dolphins lead had increased to 17-3, with them receiving in the second half. The Patriots showed no quit, but once again fell short by a single score. The team is no longer good enough to win by playing catchup, and haven’t been since the Tom Brady Era in Foxboro. If they continue to spot large leads to opponents, they will continue to have trouble winning football games.
Turnovers – Once again the Patriots turned the ball over twice, and again they were costly. Last week giving away the ball led to 13 points for the Eagles. Last night the Demario Douglas fumble was quickly converted into a Dolphins touchdown on their next drive. While New England managed to get possession back after Mac Jones threw an interception, it did take away points from the Patriots, who were deep in Dolphins territory at the time.
Calvin Anderson – It feels cruel to single out Anderson among the Patriots offensive linemen, but his mistakes stood out the most. Along with David Andrews and Mac Jones, Anderson is one of only three New England Patriots to play every offensive snap so far this season. However, the production was not there from Anderson last night. He allowed four QB pressures, most on the team. Still plenty to clean up all along the offensive line.
Run Defense – Bill Belichick clearly made taking away the Dolphins dangerous receivers priority number one. On that front, the Patriots were largely successful. However, the run stuffers in the trenches failed to do their part by slowing down the Miami rushing attack. Raheem Mostert arguably Player of the Game, rushing 18 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns. New England dared Miami to beat them on the ground, and the Dolphins did just that. Christian Barmore (after an excellent Week 1) and Daniel Ekuale received the Patriots lowest grades for the game from PFF.
Ezekiel Elliott – He played in 30% of New England’s offensive snaps, but Elliott had very little notable impact on the game against Miami. He carried five times for 13 yards and was not targeted in the passing game. In defense of his lack of production, Elliott is counted on to help pass block, and received very little open field on his carries. An increase in performance from the offensive line should free him up to be more useful as both a runner and receiver.
Demario Douglas – Benched on offense following his fumble, Douglas did manage to catch both of his targets for 19 yards. Unfortunately, with the New England Patriots margin for error razor thin at the moment, the turnover was terrible and the rookie was not given another chance to redeem himself.