6 immediate thoughts from Patriots' 24-17 loss to Dolphins


6 Rings Postgame Show: Another comeback falls short

The Patriots fell into an 0-2 hole on Sunday night after losing 24-17 to the division rival Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

Following a week of moral victories after last week’s loss to the Eagles, the coming days in Foxborough will likely be about why the club can’t get over the hump despite constant flashes of brilliance.

With Jets week now on the horizon, here are six immediate thoughts from Sunday night's contest:

6 - Patriots D does their best to contain Dolphins' high flying O, but it isn’t enough.

Throughout the majority of Sunday night’s defeat, New England used five defensive backs in an attempt to slow down Miami’s vaunted offense that put up 36 points against the Chargers a week ago.

After an injury to Jonathan Jones in practice this week and another to his replacement Marcus Jones on Sunday, the Patriots had to piece it together tonight on that side of the football and despite a valiant effort, they fell short.

New England held Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to a combined nine catches for 126 yards, which isn’t bad considering their big play ability. What they did do, however, is allow Raheem Mostert to rush for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries while averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. This was the difference in the game.

5 - The Patriots have themselves some specialists.

New England’s punter and kicker are both rookies, yet they already look like they belong after just two NFL games.

Chad Ryland, the Patriots’ kicker and a 2023 fourth-round pick, hit his first career field goal attempt of his career on a 49-yard boot with just under two minutes in the first half. The former Maryland Terp made it look easy.

The clubs punter Bryce Baringer, who already put his big boot on full display this preseason, punted three times on Sunday night and averaged 45 yards per with a long of 58. Pretty good for just a measly rookie.

After letting both Jake Bailey and Nick Folk walk away for greener pastures prior to the season, the future in Foxborough looks bright thanks to these two young specialists.

4 - JuJu Smith-Schuster is healthy enough to play, but only after a benching.

On the Patriots’ second offensive possession, wide receiver Demario Douglas fumbled on a third-down conversion and gave the ball back to the Dolphins. The rookie was seen immediately after the play holding football tight to his chest on the sideline - a likely homage to the fact that he’s taking ball security seriously. The gesture didn’t matter, however, as Bill Belichick kept the pass catcher on the bench (aside from punt returns) for the remainder of the contest.

This thrust JuJu Smith-Schuster, one of New England’s top free agent acquisition, into a heavy role as their primary slot receiver. The idea that he isn’t healthy seemed to once again circulate this week but after what we saw on Sunday, he was clearly good enough to play following the benching of the rookie.

3 - Bill O’Brien overthinks his personnel this time.

Building off of the Douglas benching, while Bill O’Brien’s mixing of personnel groupings, tight/spread formations, and RPOs are what make his offense so enticing and difficult to defense, it can sometimes get in the way of the task at hand. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday night.

Douglas is a short, shifty wide receiver who can make defenders miss on a dime and gain plenty of run after catch, but when the Patriots replaced him with Smith-Schuster, a “big-slot” possession receiver who isn’t necessarily known for his quickness, they didn’t switch up their play calls whatsoever.

Time and time again Billl O’Brien ran bubble screens, RPOs, and designed orbit motions Smith-Schuster’s way to no avail. O’Brien has to do better at changing his play design with his personnel.

2 - Tua Tagovailoa is good.

The Dolphins 2020 first-round pick has had quite the up-and-down start to his career after dealing with coaching changes, injuries, and the like - but on Sunday night (at least for me) he turned the tide. Outside of a bone-headed decision on his lone turnover of the night, the lefty showed incredible accuracy and ability to run Mike McDaniel’s offense. Tagovailoa went 21 of 20 against New England for 249 yards and a touchdown.

Sure, it’s not necessarily the tallest task when you have the speed of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on your side, but as of right now, the only thing getting in the way of Tagovaiola being a consistent top 5-7 quarterback in this league is his health.

Like it or not, the lefty now has a career 5-0 record against Bill Belichick and the Patriots in his young career.

1 - Statistically, it’ll be tough sledding for the Patriots after an 0-2 start.

270 football teams have started a season 0-2 since the 1990 season. Only 31 (11.5%) have qualified for the postseason.

The Patriots are 0-2 to start their 2023 campaign, and with matchups against the Jets, Cowboys, and Bills coming up over the course of the next month. They play the Dolphins yet again on Oct. 29 and at that point, it might be for their playoff lives.

It’s certainly not impossible, as the Cincinnati Bengals crawled out of an 0-2 hole just a season ago towards a berth in the AFC title game, but New England has a long way to go before they get to where they want to be.

Make sure to follow Mike on Twitter @mikekadlick, and follow @WEEI for the latest up-to-date Patriots and Boston sports news!

Featured Image Photo Credit: David Butler II, USA Today