Patriots

Here's what Bill Belichick might still want to correct after Dolphins blowout

Here's what Bill Belichick might still want to correct after Dolphins blowout

FOXBORO -- For an 18-point win, Bill Belichick's opening statement following his team's game with the Dolphins was loaded with qualifiers. 

"Well, I thought our team did a lot of good things out there today, but at the same time we left a lot of plays out on the field. We had some lapses in our play that we need to eliminate, but it was good to see the production we had in the running game, finish drives in the red area, had a couple of big plays in the kicking game . . . 

"Defensively, hit the passer, turned the ball over. We gave up 10 points on defense, so usually that’s pretty good in this league. We lost the ball on offense, could’ve tackled better, could’ve defended a couple of plays in the passing game better defensively."

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The message: For all the good that was there to be found in a 35-17 victory over a division opponent, there was plenty to clean up. 

It's often said by Patriots players that film sessions after wins are just as brutal as those following losses. Highlights are hard to find on Belichick's projection screen. Lowlights, on the other hand, are on a loop. 

Here are a few of the areas Belichick might be focusing in on this week as his team gets ready for Buffalo: 

PROTECTING TOM BRADY

Since Week 5, the Patriots offensive line had kept Tom Brady largely very clean. Even without Marcus Cannon -- arguably their best lineman -- for Weeks 10 and 11, the Patriots handled all-world rushers Von Miller and Khalil Mack. But against the Dolphins, Dante Scarnecchia's group had its hands full. Brady was sacked just once, but he was hit seven times, four of which came courtesy of Cameron Wake, who works off of the right edge and went against Cannon's replacement LaAdrian Waddle for much of the game. When Waddle left with an ankle injury, it was Cameron Fleming who was tasked with stopping the 35-year-old star. Brady took enough hits early on that he seemed to be wary of another when he forced a throw to Danny Amendola resulting in a rare interception -- just his third of the season. And it wasn't just protection issues that hurt the Patriots. Backup center Ted Karras had a snap go awry when he mistakenly thought Brady called for the shotgun toss. Instead, the ball floated past Brady, was recovered by the Dolphins, and promptly returned for a touchdown. Brady later dropped a good snap and was sacked. So even he was . . . off. Some of the continuity on the line has been impacted by injury and illness, but regardless of the available personnel, this is a group that will have its share of mistakes to remedy before heading to Buffalo.

CLEANING UP THE PENALTIES

After being called for just three penalties total in their Week 10 and 11 wins, the Patriots were flagged seven times for 70 yards against the Dolphins. Waddle, Nate Solder and Rob Gronkowski were all called for false starts. Brandin Cooks was penalized twice -- once for pass interference, once for a block in the back -- on the same play. The biggest faux-pas in terms of yardage came when Malcolm Butler was caught peeking into the backfield on a flea-flicker and then interfered with the intended receiver as he tried to recover. You can count on that being an area they'll work to clean up this week. 

SPECIAL TEAMS LAPSES

Danny Amendola's miscues in the return game are few and far between, but the Patriots almost lost possession when he tried to field a kick that he initially signaled to his teammates should be avoided. His muff was recovered by Jonathan Jones and the Patriots went on to score a touchdown on the drive. But had the Dolphins recovered, they could have changed momentum with a score. Ryan Allen got into the ugliness act when one of his punts bounced into the end zone for a touchback in the third quarter. The Patriots seemed to be within range of a long Stephen Gostkowski field goal -- at the Dolphins 34-yard line -- when they decided instead to punt. After accepting a delay of game penalty purposefully, Allen kicked from the 39-yard line and couldn't pin one down near the goal line. Instead, his kick resulted in a 19-yard net and a seemingly unhappy Joe Judge. 

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Five quick thoughts: Dolphins bring the heat to Brady, Patriots

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Five quick thoughts: Dolphins bring the heat to Brady, Patriots

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Dolphins on Monday night . . . 

1) Might Tom Brady's slow start be attributable to what happened two weeks ago at Gillette Stadium? The Patriots quarterback was hit eight times that day, and he seemed jumpy from the start Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots went three-and-out on their first two drives of the game, and they gained two yards total in the first quarter. Brady was pressured when Lawrence Timmons came in unblocked on the second Patriots play of the game, but he underthrew Brandin Cooks for an interception when he had plenty of time in the pocket. (Brady was picked again by Howard on a slightly underthrown pass to Cooks early in the third quarter. Again, he had plenty of time.) He also missed James White on a relatively easy throw when he really wasn't pressured. Perhaps he sensed Ndamukong Suh coming, but he had time to get off a good throw without being contacted. That kind of misfire could be due in part to what happened when Suh and his teammates were all over Brady in Foxboro late last month. 

2) The Patriots might've regretted not getting Dion Lewis more involved early on. The hottest Patriots back went without a touch from scrimmage in the first quarter. When the team took over possession early in the second, Lewis saw the football on the first two plays of the series and picked up 18 yards. His one-handed catch -- on a tremendous throw from Brady as he was being hit by Kiko Alonso -- later in the second quarter went for 20 yards and helped set up the Patriots for their lone touchdown of the half. 

3) Can't blame the Dolphins for their approach in the passing game through the first two quarters: Find mismatches and take advantage. They were able to do just that by targeting Elandon Roberts in coverage on rookie running back Kenyan Drake. That matchup produced a 13-yard gain in the first quarter. In the second, Drake beat Roberts down the sideline for a 47-yard gain. Roberts also seemed to be the closest defender in coverage on Anthony Fasano when the Dolphins tight end reeled in a 17-yard gain during the same second-quarter drive. Five plays after the long Drake completion, the Dolphins scored on a quick-hitting throw to Jarvis Landry to take a 13-7 lead. 

4) The Dolphins utilized another smart tactic throughout the game, deploying bunch and stack formations for the Patriots to try to cover. Jarvis Landry's third-quarter touchdown came with the Dolphins going to a bunch formation near the goal line. With the Patriots in a true zone, and without a defender "buying" Landry off the snap, he found a soft spot and sat down in it for six. The Patriots had done a fine job of defending bunch sets through the first month of the season -- though they weren't tested nearly as often as expected -- but Monday night seemed to be a step back in that regard. 

5) Late in the third quarter, Patriots safety Duron Harmon laid into his defensive teammates on the sidelines with Matt Patricia standing by. Harmon has been dubbed "The Voice" by teammates this season for his increased role as one of the go-to players to shoulder media responsibilities. He was outspoken when the defense struggled in September, and he clearly wasn't afraid to let his opinions known as the Patriots were plagued by broken coverages and missed tackles in Miami.