Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sloppy Patriots punked by Moreno, Dolphins defense 33-20

Knowshon Moreno and the Dolphins' offensive line had their way with New England's defenders

The New England Patriots were certain that their run defense would be better this season than last.

After all, they were close to the bottom of the league in yards per carry and total yardage surrendered in 2013, so it wasn't going to be difficult to show improvement - unfortunately, they just picked up right where they left off.

Knowshon Moreno rushed for 134 yards on just 24 carries to lead a Miami rushing attack that averaged a hefty 5.5 yards per carry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill hooked up on scoring strikes to Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller as the Dolphins scored 23 unanswered points to erase a 10 point halftime deficit, hammering the flat Patriots 33-20 at SunLife Stadium in Miami on Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots' offense could not take advantage of a Miami defense that was missing all three of their starting linebackers throughout most of the game, as head coach Joe Philbin countered his losses on the second level by sending his reserve linebackers on stunts to overwhelm the Patriots' offensive line and open up lanes for his manic pass rushing defensive linemen...
A frustrated Brady could do nothing in the second half

...sacking New England quarterback Tom Brady four times and pummeling him mercilessly from the edges as the Dolphins dominated the Patriots in the trenches on both sides of the ball to hand the defending AFC East Champions their first opening day loss since being blown out by Buffalo to kick off the 2003 season.

Lamar Miller ran for 59 yards on 11 carries to compliment Moreno's effort, while Tannehill caught on fire after halftime to make up for a sluggish first half, eventually completing 18 of 32 passing attempts for 178 yards and the two touchdowns against one interception as the Dolphins achieved balance with the superb play calling of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

Brady completed just 29 of 56 attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown, but his accuracy waned against the relentless Miami pass rush, consistently overthrowing his receivers.

Brady missed Thursday's practice this past week due to a reported calf injury, but most of his issues came from the Dolphins' pressure and the fact that the Patriots could not establish their running game despite the advantage they possessed against the supposedly overmatched Dolphins' reserve linebackers.

Shane Vereen carried seven times for 35 yards to lead New England on the ground, but Stevan Ridley's 21 yards on eight carries prompted offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to abandon the running game in favor of Brady's arm, the result being an 89 yard rushing total on a paltry 20 carries...

...and while the 4.4 yard per carry average isn't bad, the fact that receiver Julian Edelman gained 21 of those yards on just two carries on end-around calls inflated the average. 

Things started badly for the Patriots right off the bat, Miami blocking a Ryan Allen punt deep in New England territory that the Dolphins converted into a quick 7-0 lead, Tannehill hitting Miller on a four yard out just over three minutes into the game.

Brady came back to lead four consecutive scoring drives, Vereen capping off a 13 play, 80 yard drive to tie the score, than after a Stephen Gostkowski field goal gave the Patriots the lead at 10-7, Brady hit Gronkowski from six yards out for a 10 point cushion midway through the second quarter before the teams traded field goals to make the halftime score 20-10.

New England would not come close to scoring again.

Tannehill and Wallace took advantage of a Brady fumble, capping a four play, 34 yard drive with an 11 yard scoring toss and catch, that was sandwiched between two Caleb Sturgis field goals to give the Dolphins the lead late in the third quarter - then the Dolphins' pass rush and the running of Moreno helped hold off any hope the Patriots had of a comeback bid...

...including a soul-stealing 12 play, 85 yard drive that ground six minutes off the clock as Miami closed out New England by shoving the ball down their collective throat with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, Morneo scoring from four yards out to give the Dolphins a 30-20 lead.

The Patriots were hurt by committing untimely penalties, including two roughing the passer penalties on outside linebacker Chandler Jones, while tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was called for a critical holding penalty that erased a 22 yard run by Stevan Ridley that would have put the Patriots in position for points midway through the final period.

The loss has to be particularly discouraging for the offensive and defensive lines, given that the offensive line was working against the aforementioned depleated Miami linebacking corps in the running game, and the fact that the defensive line couldn't generate any productive pass rush nor could they stop the run against a Dolphins' offensive line that was breaking in five new starters.

Most assuredly, it is back to the drawing board for the bewildered Patriots as they attempt to shore up sloppy tackling and and poor execution on both sides of the ball - and it's not going to get any easier for them as they travel to Minnesota for a matchup with the Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson next Sunday.

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