The Patriots and Dolphins met in the first divisional match-up for both teams today at Gillette Stadium. New England was winning at one point 21 to zero, but that was before starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a shoulder injury right before halftime. Rookie Jacoby Brissett came in and finished the game at quarterback with Garoppolo being ruled out for the rest of the game. With that and a somewhat 180 degree turn for the Patriots defense in the second half, New England escapes with a 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots started off hot, scoring touchdowns on each of the first three possessions. Garoppolo found Danny Amendola in the end zone twice, while Martellus Bennett also had his first touchdown reception as a Patriot. Then Garoppolo was taken to the ground, right on his throwing shoulder by Kiko Alonso and looked to be in a lot of pain. He was seen grimacing in pain as the training staff was examining him on the field and would not return once he was taken out of the game. Garoppolo would be brought right back to the locker room, where he was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game.
MassLive.com’s Kevin Duffy reported that Garoppolo’s x-rays came back negative for any broken bones, so there is a perhaps a silver lining. Garoppolo finished with 18 completions on 27 attempts for 234 yards and three touchdowns. From there, Brissett came in and played for the rest of the game at quarterback. He would finish six of nine passing attempts for 92 yards. It’s clear that the Patriots were playing conservatively with Brissett under center as they ran the ball 38 times in the game (LeGarrette Blount had 29 of them). Blount had a solid day, finishing with 123 yards and a touchdown while keeping the offense moving in the second half despite losing Garoppolo.
In the receiving game, Bennett led the way with 114 yards on five receptions and a touchdown as he made several good runs after the catch. Julian Edelman led the team with seven receptions and had 76 yards in the game as well. Danny Amendola had his first career multiple touchdown game, finishing with four receptions for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Hogan started off hot but did not do much when Garoppolo went down, finishing with four receptions for 59 yards. Malcolm Mitchell, James White and D.J. Foster combined for four receptions for 27 yards to fill out the rest of the box score.
The Patriots will play the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football, so it’ll be interesting to see if Garoppolo can be ready for the game if he is dealing with no broken bones in his throwing shoulder. If not, expect the team to put Brissett back in action while possibly signing a free agent quarterback to function as the team’s back-up in case. With arguably a tougher match-up against Houston less than a week away, Garoppolo’s status will most likely be the key story-line going into this week three match-up.
As for the offensive line, Nate Solder returned to his normal starting spot of left tackle after missing week one. Overall, against a Dolphins defense that gave the Seahawks trouble last weekend, the Patriots offensive line did well for the second straight week. They only gave up two sacks all game along with helping Blount to almost 125 yards rushing as well. Jonathan Cooper was inactive again this week while he works his way back from plantar fasciitis. So if he does return, he will most likely compete with Shaq Mason for reps at right guard. Overall, the defense was hot out of the gate but kept the Patriots in the game despite a near collapse by their defense in the second half.
The Patriots defense held the Dolphins to only three points in the first half, but gave up three touchdowns in the second in a near collapse. In the end, they gave up 459 yards of total offense (389 yards through the air from Ryan Tannehill). The defense also accumulated a surprising zero sacks for the entire game against the Dolphins, despite Miami giving up five sacks last weekend against the Seahawks. They did force four turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions) however, so that is a good sign to see for the strong defense that Patriots have.
Tannehill threw his two touchdowns in the second half after finishing the first half with only an interception to his name. He finished with two touchdowns and two interceptions on nearly 400 yards passing. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker both finished with at least eight receptions and 100 yards receiving. They both gave the Patriots secondary issues today as they were both heavily involved in the comeback attempt in the second half. Jordan Cameron and Kenny Stills both finished with a receiving touchdown as Tannehill looked to get everyone involved in the offense.
For their run game, the Patriots kept the Dolphins to only 75 yards rushing on 16 rushing attempts (4.69 yards per attempt) as the Dolphins focused on the passing game in the second half considering they were trailing. Arian Foster left the game about half-way through with a groin injury and did not return. He finished with nine yards rushing on three attempts and no receptions, so he clearly had a very off day against a Patriots defense that gave up over 130 yards from scrimmage to David Johnson in week one. So in that aspect, the Patriots did well. They were able to force fumbles from Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry, so the turnover battle (Miami had four turnovers, New England had one) went to the Patriots.
One last point is the time of possession, as the Patriots controlled the clock for almost 37 minutes in the game. This was especially effective in the second half when the Patriots ran the ball a good amount. The Patriots also controlled the possession clock last week against the Cardinals with 34 minutes on offense as well. It seems to be a trend for the Patriots as they try to control the clock and run it out when they are ahead, so that’ll be something to watch for on Thursday against the Texans as well.
Overall, the Patriots come out with the win and the 2-0 start, but may have lost Garoppolo in the process for an extended period of time depending on the severity of his shoulder injury. If he is forced to miss Thursday’s game against the Texans, Brissett will be back under center. The team looked to play conservatively on offense when Brissett was in the game today, so it’ll be interesting to see if Josh McDaniels and the Patriots offense game-plan that way against the Texans. Along with that, Rob Gronkowski sat again today with his hamstring ailment. With the short week, it’s possible both him and Garoppolo are on the sideline again.