It was another below-average offensive performance by the New England Patriots in their 23-21 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. And while the stats and the game log will back that up, there were signs of improvement for a struggling Patriots offense.
There was a clear game plan for starters: the Patriots wanted to push the ball down the field when the Dolphins showed man coverage (especially man blitzes) and also showed the patience to dink and dunk when the Dolphins showed zone coverage.
With tight end Jonnu Smith out for this game, the Patriots lined up in 11-personnel 82 per cent of the time. The Patriots ran 52 snaps on offense throughout the first 55 minutes of the game. They ran 11 personnel 47 times throughout that stretch, a 90 per cent clip.
The offense did not have nearly the amount of route spacing issues that were visibly present in the last couple of games, although there were two instances where there was poor spacing by some of the receivers. That is an improvement, though, and it led to more plays being available to be made. Unfortunately, quarterback Mac Jones did miss a handful of them. That said, let’s get into some of the individual performances in this game.
On the two touchdown drives by the Patriots offense, Mac Jones had four plus plays and zero negative plays. On the seven drives in between those two scoring drives, I had Jones for one plus play and five negative plays.
All in all, Jones played a mediocre game but committed no turnovers and, more importantly, never put the ball in harm’s way. He had some excellent throws in this game, particularly the throw to tight end Hunter Henry on a sail route early in the second quarter. With a defender in his jaw, Jones delivered a beautiful ball to Henry on third down. He also threw the ball with good anticipation, as exemplified by the touchdown throw to wideout Tyquan Thornton in the first quarter.
Jones did leave some to be desired, which will be discussed in the film room in preparation for the week 18 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. There were plays to be had, such as the opening play of the second drive. The Dolphins showed a one-high safety look until late pre-snap when they shifted into a cover-two look if Jones had recognized that sooner, he could have looked at wideout Kendrick Bourne down the left sideline, who was open in the cover-two holes.
Against an opponent like the Dolphins on Sunday, this performance was more than enough. However, a handful of missed plays would be magnified had the Patriots faced a more explosive offense, like the one they will face in the regular season finale.
The offensive line had a solid day in pass protection. The ball was out quick most of the time so their job was not too difficult, but there were a couple downfield pass plays where I thought the offensive line did a solid job in keeping Jones up for as long as possible.
The running game was non-existent however. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson had an 18-yard run in the second quarter, although that was mostly an excellent play by the second-year back. Damien Harris’ long run of the day went for 11 yards, but that was also mostly an individual effort by Harris.
The talent is there on the offensive line to produce better results than what was produced on Sunday. They will need to perform to their talent level and run block more efficiently to succeed on offense.
Overall, the game plan and play calling on offense was not the problem on Sunday. However, there were situational moments where some of the plays called on offense were puzzling.
The Patriots had a third and one on the Miami 33-yard line early in the second quarter. Matt Patricia dials up a fake end-around, play-action pass where the two boundary receivers are running deep crossers. In this situation, it makes more sense to bring in a jumbo formation and run the ball down the middle.
Had it been third and one on their side of the field, I would not mind the play-action shot because the defense is keying in on a run play or a short pass. On the Miami 33-yard line in a tie game? I would have liked to see a run because it is unlikely you would have suffered a big negative play, leaving you the option to kick the field goal or go for it on fourth and short.
Instead, former Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts shoots up the A-gap, and Stevenson is unable to block him in time Jones gets sacked for a twelve-yard loss and the Patriots are forced to punt.
There were a couple more play calls that I was not a fan of, but this was not the game to complain about Patricia’s game plan or the play-calling.
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