Patriots at Dolphins thumbs up, thumbs down: AB and a dominant D


Less than a week after arriving in New England, not only did Antonio Brown make his Patriots debut Sunday afternoon in the heat of Miami but he was a productive force for the offense from the second snap of the game.

Tom Brady and Co. marched 60 yards in 10 plays to a 1-yard Sony Michel touchdown on New England’s opening drive, Brown the only player targeted through the air, hauling in three catches for 36 yards while also drawing a defensive holding call to set up the rushing score.

New England built a 13-0 lead by halftime thanks to a Brady-to-Brown 20-yard touchdown and pulled away thanks to a pair of second-half, pick-6 interceptions on the way to the 43-0 shutout victory.

Bill Belichick’s team improved to 2-0 on the young season heading into next Sunday’s meeting with the Sam Darnold-less Jets at Gillette Stadium.

Here are some of the many personnel highs and limited lows from the workmanlike beatdown of the Dolphins in Miami.

Thumbs up

Stephon Gilmore/team defense – New England’s offense will get a lot of attention thanks to Brown’s arrival, but the team’s defense has been downright dominant over the first two weeks. The Patriots held Miami to a mere two first downs and 1-for-6 on third down while shutting out the Dolphins in the first half. The front stuffed the run and pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick. The coverage remained tight. Only one of Miami’s first eight drives lasted more than three plays. Stephon Gilmore had a pretty pass deflection for a Devin McCourty interception, the cornerback continuing to play at an elite level and adding a pick-6 interception of his own in the fourth quarter. The defense allowed a mere 38 yards to Miami in the first three quarters, fewest by any Bill Belichick-coached defense in his career. Two weeks and just three points allowed is pretty damn impressive, against any competition.
Antonio Brown – After reportedly staying late at the facility in Foxborough all week working hard with Troy Brown to get up to speed in New England, the Patriots new wide receiver was productive from his first rep on the second snap of the game in Miami. Despite all the issues surrounding his arrival in New England and pending NFL investigation into a civil lawsuit for sexual assault, Brown did his job on the field. It wasn’t perfect, as there were times he and Brady weren’t quite on the same page, but the former All-Pro finished with four catches on eight targets for 56 yards and the one touchdown.
Jamie Collins – The veteran linebacker is known as a versatile athlete and defender. That was on full display against Miami. On the second snap of the game he dropped Jakeem Grant for a 4-yard loss on an end around. In coverage in the fourth quarter he took advantage of a Kalen Ballage bobble for a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown. The linebacker then closed out the game with a second interception off a deflected pass as time expired. Collins finished the afternoon with four tackles and a half sack to go along with the two interceptions. Collins’ return to New England is off to a nice start for a defense that’s playing at an elite level.

Thumbs down

Offensive line health – Marcus Cannon worked out but couldn’t go in Miami due to the shoulder injury suffered in the opener, pushing newly-signed veteran Marshall Newhouse into the starting lineup at right tackle. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn had to go to the medical tent and then the locker room in the first quarter after limping off following the opening drive with a foot injury, forcing Korey Cunningham to coming off the bench and Newhouse to move to the left side. David Andrews is already on IR for the season with blood clots in his lungs. The Patriots depth and talent on the offensive line is being tested and stretched very thin to open the season.
Stephen Gostkowski – After missing three kicks during the preseason – while getting used to a new holder in rookie punter Jake Bailey – Gostkowski missed his first kick of the regular season by pushing a 48-yard attempt in the second quarter wide to the right. He followed that up by hooking his second PAT of the game to the left for a miss in the second quarter and then pushing a second PAT wide right in the fourth quarter. Gostkowski has missed nine PATs in his career, two coming on Sunday in Miami. It was a bad day in the heat for veteran kicker and his new-look PAT/FG operation. Gostkowski is also now just 20-of-27 on career field goal attempts in Miami.
Josh Gordon/Pick plays – Brady’s passing game was efficient throwing to everyone – including early on to the newcomer Brown – except Gordon. Brady’s only two incompletions in the first half targeted Gordon, although he did draw a holding call. Gordon finished with just two catches on five targets for 19 yards. Gordon also picked up an offensive pass interference call on a pick play to wipe out a Phillip Dorsett catch in the red zone. Ryan Izzo picked up another OPI on a pick play that freed Julian Edelman for an easy catch. As scary as it is for opposing defenses, there is room for growth and more precise execution in the New England passing game.