Dolphins tough-guy act works against them vs. Patriots

Dolphins tough-guy act works against them vs. Patriots

FOXBORO – At the start of the third quarter, the Miami Dolphins weren’t quite dead yet. It was 21-10 and Miami – which blew a perfect end-of-half scoring opportunity with an end zone pick – had the Patriots in third-and-10 after an incompletion to Rob Gronkowski.

But there was a flag. And it was for a facemask. The 15 yards were walked off and the Patriots were at the Miami 37. Two plays later, the Patriots converted on third-and-2 and Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain kept rolling around with Danny Amendola until McCain decided a punch would end things appropriately.

It did. McCain was ejected and another 15 yards were walked off and the ball was at the Miami 12.

On the next play, Ndamukong Suh tackled Dion Lewis by the facemask. Somehow, that didn’t draw a flag, but it didn’t matter. The Patriots scored on the next play, it was 28-10 and the rest would be a formality.


“That was a terrible series for us,” said Dolphins coach Adam Gase. “That was one we really couldn’t have at that moment in the game. We really put ourselves in bad position especially losing Bobby like that. That puts a lot of guys in a bad position and then we have to start moving things around. The frustrating part when you have the facemask penalty, that’s just going back to fundamental football. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we do things like that.”

Miami – which also had an illegal contact penalty that extended a Patriots scoring drive in the first half – had 17 penalties in their last game, so the six penalties for 52 yards on Sunday was a marked improvement. That was affirmed by Gase, who found a silver lining in the postgame when he said, “We had less pre-snap penalties, so that was a positive.”

Talk about having to set a low bar for improvement. Gase’s face when he made that statement said it all. The Dolphins – who in September appeared the AFC East team most set to challenge the Patriots this season – are lightyears from where they need to be. And they remain there because they are doing the same stupid things over and over and over again.

Turnovers and penalties. Penalties and turnovers.

“Any penalties are self-inflicted wounds,” said Miami defensive end Cameron Wake. “Before the play, especially, during the play, as well. Whether it’s pass interference, jumping offside, like I did, or players miscommunicating or whatever it may be and you’ve got somebody running wide open or a back running through our defense untouched. I mean, those are the things that it’s not physical ability that causes that. There’s nobody who’s that fast. There’s nobody who’s that strong in the NFL. It’s you made a wrong step or went the wrong way or I didn’t tell you something, you didn’t tell me something (it’s mental). Jumping offside is not concentrating on your play. Guys running free, hitting the quarterback – all those things aren’t physical things. If you get beat, you get beat. This is the NFL. I mean, that happens, but to say a guy’s just running free untouched – pass, run – or hitting the quarterback, all those things, that’s you did it to yourself, not they did it to you.”

The Patriots are hard enough to beat straight up. When a team voluntarily kneecaps itself with stupidity it plays right into their hands.

Miami is wandering down the trail once blazed by Rex Ryan in New York and Buffalo. Talk a great game. Worry about the wrong things. Try and bring the fight to the Patriots. Fly home with a loss and the “we beat ourselves” lament.

The Patriots weren’t pristine on Sunday. They had seven penalties for 70 yards and handed the Dolphins a touchdown with a premature snap by Ted Karras that skittered past Tom Brady and was returned for a touchdown. But it’s testament to how sloppily Miami played to realize that that play meant they lost by just 18 instead of 25.

That result for a team that wide receiver Jarvis Landry promised would sweep New England in 2017 has to be humbling. And it kind of was.

After the game, Landry reiterated he wasn’t trying to disrespect New England. He was merely trying to speak success into reality.

“It’s a mindset thing,” he said. “As I said then and as I still say it, I respect the Patriots organization and their players but there is something for this team and for this organization to create a mindset that we’re nobody’s little brother and we are here to play.”

Meanwhile, his receiving colleague Kenny Stills – who verbally lambasted Tom Brady from the sidelines for a good chunk of the game – said that too was just competing.  

“I enjoy being out here, I love playing football, I love playing against the Patriots and every Sunday getting an opportunity to play,” Stills said. “I did everything I could to mess with him and get in his head. I talked to him after the game. He hears me. He’s laughing. We’re all just having a good time.”

Hee-hee, ha-ha. Lose by 18.

Gase must want to bang his forehead off the desk at this point. Bill Belichick rails about error-repeaters. The Dolphins have habitual offenders. Gase has tried to fumigate the locker room of bad attitudes but you can’t fix stupid, as the saying goes.

Belichick took a discreet victory lap in his postgame comments because he knew – just as he did before the Patriots played Ryan’s Bills and Jets – that there would be scrappiness.

“We saw quite a bit of that in these games last year,” said Belichick. “There were some personal fouls in that game at the end of the game in the first game here we had some after-the-play type things that occurred in this game. Look, it’s two competitive teams. All our guys are playing hard. You’ve got to be able to control your emotions, to play with poise and play with aggressiveness but do it legally and within the rules and before the whistle blows and all of those kinds of things. I thought a number of our players did a good job of trying to keep their poise, stay focused on football and not get caught up in some of the after-the-play stuff. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but we’ve got to try and do the best that we can at it. I thought that they tried to do that.”

The Dolphins are now 4-7 and their season is in tatters. In two weeks, they’ll host the Patriots on a Monday night in Miami. If Jarvis Landry wants to be half-right in his prediction, he’ll have to convince his teammates that – until they stop beating themselves – beating the Patriots is a pipe dream.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?