The New England Patriots (10-4) lost in heart breaking fashion to the Miami Dolphins (8-6) on Sunday 24-20. While the Patriots mounted one of their patented last-second drives to win the game, their magic ran out at exactly the wrong time and the Pats came up empty. Let’s see how each position unit graded out for the Patriots.
Ok, I have no doubt that some of you are reading this and thinking this grade is a little high for someone who completed just 61% of their passes and only threw for two touchdowns. But come on. Tom Brady did everything he could, given what he had. He made damn good lemonade using rotten lemons. Ok that’s probably a bit harsh, but you know your receiving corps is in trouble when Austin Collie is the tallest guy you have out there, and Tom still threw for 364 yards! The two touchdowns could have easily been four, but two costly drops (the Boyce drop on the first drive and the Amendola drop on the last drive) hurt the cause. Has Tom ever had less weapons than he did against the Dolphins?
Running Backs: B-
The backs had a solid (not great) game. Both LaGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley averaged 4.7 yards per carry, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Shane Vereen was probably the biggest disappointment in the game. After hauling in 12 passes for over 150 yards against the Browns, Vereen was held to three catches for eight yards. In his defense, it appeared that the Dolphins were going to let the vertically challenged guys at receiver beat them and not Vereen.
Wide Receivers: B
This was a hard one for me to grade. Yes, there were some absolutely killer drops. However, when giving out these grades don’t I have to consider how well these guys played when compared to how well they are capable of playing? I think I do. Danny Amendola easily played his best game as a Patriot hauling in 10 passes for 131 yards. That drop at the end is going to haunt my dreams for a while, but you have to give the guy some credit.
Julian Edelman continued his lights-out play with yet another 100+ yard game and he added a touchdown. Josh Boyce saw some significant time and had a few nice plays, catching four passes for 42 yards. And welcome back Michael Hoomanawanui! The one-handed touchdown grab he made will certainly find itself on every 2013 season highlight video on youtube.
Offensive Line: C+
Yes, the official box score will show that Brady was only sacked once, and that the team averaged over 4 yards a carry, but I think the stats are a little misleading on this one. There were several throws that were effected by pressure, and this happened throughout the game. The Dolphins defense has given up an average of 117 yards rushing per game this season, yet the Patriots only rushed for 96. I don’t think the offensive line had a “bad” day, but it was much closer to average than good.
Defensive Line: B
I always have trouble with grading defensive units. If a team rushes for a lot of yards, is that equally on the defensive line and linebackers? Mostly defensive line, or mostly linebackers? Anywho, I thought the defensive line had a pretty decent day. Guys from this unit (Chandler Jones, Sealver Siliga, and Joe Vellano) all got to the quarterback. The Dolphins only rushed for 89 yards, which is actually a little under their season average.
Dont’a Hightower’s refusal to turn his head when covering Marcus Thigpen was enough to make my head explode. Other than that, the fact that Hightower was the only linebacker to register more than two tackles isn’t impressive, at all. The defense needs to step up, starting with these guys.
The secondary was abused often on Sunday. Ryan Tannehill threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns against this secondary. Alfonzo Dennard was beat by his man time and time again. Overall there were way too many missed tackles from this unit for my liking. This is another unit that really needs to turn it on. They have a chance to redeem themselves next week against a Baltimore offense that ranks in the bottom fourth of the league in passing.
Special Teams: C-
Ryan Allen was lights out, averaging nearly 50 yards per punt. I’ll take that every game. Gostkowski missed a 48 yard field goal, but his biggest blunder was the kick off that went out of bounds to set up Miami’s game winning drive. That is completely unacceptable.
We all knew the loss of Gronkowski was going to hurt. However, it was encouraging to see some of the guys on offense step up. When Thompkins and Dobson return, the offense should be able to put up points with the best of them. However, the defense needs to improve if this team wants to make another playoff run. Next week will be a good test.