By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The New England Patriots badly needed an improvement over how they played in Detroit. Any kind of improvement would’ve been encouraging, but instead they delivered one of their more emphatic haymakers in recent memory.
With stifling defense leading the way, the Patriots dominated the Dolphins in all phases en route to a 38-7 beatdown. The Dolphins may still be in first place at 3-1, but it certainly won’t feel like it after Sunday.
Here are some quick hits to think about in the immediate aftermath of a big, decisive win for the Patriots.
— Defense more than gets back on track. It’s pretty clear that the Dolphins weren’t ready for this game offensively. Winning in Foxboro is always tough, but Miami had nothing. Couldn’t move the ball in any fashion. The most striking aspect of the Patriots’ defensive performance is their disruption up front. The D-line and linebackers certainly heard the messages loud and clear. It remains to be seen how they’ll perform over the balance of the season, but it’s certainly a good sign that the defense was able to bounce back in such a major way.
— Offense still not perfect, but shows plenty of improvement. The biggest difference came in the running game, with 178 yards for the team. Sony Michel finally made his presence felt with 112 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, and James White had a big day with 112 total yards and two touchdowns of his own. The passing game is still something of a work in progress, as Brady and all the pass-catchers spread the miscues around. But they consistently overcame their mistakes to find the end zone five times.
— Tom Brady’s decision-making still not at its sharpest. We’ll see how much of a difference it makes when Brady has Julian Edelman to throw to next week. But with four interceptions in as many games, and each of them falling almost entirely on Brady’s shoulders, the quarterback has not exactly made up for the Patriots’ offensive flaws. It didn’t matter today, with one of the picks coming in garbage time. But Brady is definitely going to need to get better with where he’s deciding to go with the ball. The blowout could have been an even bigger one if not for a few mistakes.
— Gronk still not at his best. It’s clear at this point that Rob Gronkowski is playing through at least a moderately painful ankle injury, which eventually knocked him out of the game. It’s obviously going to continue to be worth monitoring. I wouldn’t read too much into Gronk not returning to the game, since it was well in hand. But if the ankle injury is something he’s going to have to manage all season it’s going to be just another hurdle for the offense to overcome.
— Linebackers have a big-time bounce-back game. The Dolphins were never able to exploit the Patriots’ linebacking corps like other teams have. That’s due in part to the linebackers taking it to them instead. Kyle Van Noy had one of his most disruptive games as a Patriot with a fumble recovery, a QB hit, and four total tackles.
— At the end of the day, Patriots win on defense. The story today is the utter futility of the Dolphins offense, which was flying high heading into the game and facing a reeling, injured Patriots defense. The script couldn’t have flipped in more stunning fashion.
The most surprising takeaway from this particular game? The Patriots won without Brady at his best (two interceptions, 94.2 rating) and Gronkowski not getting too involved (four catches for 44 yards). So clearly, they have some other good players.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.