The New England Patriots have a kryptonite and its name is Miami. New England fell to the rival Dolphins 20-7 in Week 1. It’s the second straight year the Pats have lost the season opener to the Dolphins, but this one feels a lot different than the 2021 loss in Foxboro. It’s also the fourth straight loss to Miami since Tua Tagovailoa took over as the Dolphins quarterback.
New England was never really in this game. The Dolphins defense overpowered the Patriots offensive line leaving Mac Jones struggling for a majority of the game. On paper, Mac’s stats don’t look bad: 21-30 for 213 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Those are solid numbers given the pressure he found himself under all game, but they look rather week in the pass happy offenses of today’s NFL. They are also slightly down from last year’s season opener where he went 29-39 for 281 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs in a 17-16 loss.
A major complaint from Patriots fans on social media, though, was his passes seem to lack zip. He was taking what the Dolphins defense would give him, but a lot of fans would like to see a stronger arm from the second year QB. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I know that Mac composed himself well as a rookie. He seems to be the type to learn from his mistakes, so I expect to see more of his strengths on displays as the season rolls along.
TUA AND TYREEK TERRIFIC
What can’t be lost is the success of Tua Tagovailoa against the New England Patriots. He’s made 4 starts and is now 4-0 against them. That includes 3 wins over the guy who backed him up his last year at Alabama, the aforementioned Mac Jones. Tua has something special when it comes to facing the Patriots. It’s not always there. We’ve seen him struggle a lot against other teams, but New England brings out his best.
A big reason Tua looked strong today was the presence of Tyreek Hill. The Dolphins bet the farm on Hill in the offseason. Miami gave up five draft picks to acquire Hill from Kansas City. Then, they dropped $120 million dollars on a four year extension for the wide receiver. He proved to be the number one guy in week 1 as he led the team in targets (12), receptions (8), and receiving yards (94). For Tua to continue to be successful, the relationship between he and Hill must continue to grow.
SOUTH BEACH STRUGGLES
Another factor that can’t be overlooked is how much the Patriots struggle historically in Miami. This is their third consecutive loss at Hard Rock Stadium. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach, the Patriots are 9-14 in Miami. All 9 wins came with Tom Brady under center. While the losses have come with Brady, Drew Bledsoe, Matt Cassel, Cam Newton and Mac Jones all serving as QB. There’s something about Miami that causes the Patriots to struggle there.
The obvious answer is the weather. New England is usually much cooler than Miami in early September. And, while it can certainly get humid in Massachusetts, it usually pales in comparison to the humidity in Florida. There’s a reason the Patriots flew to Florida on Tuesday of game week instead of waiting until Friday like they usually do. It was hot and humid in Miami and Belichick wanted his team ready.
While the weather may explain the September losses, several of these have come late in the season. Miami has wins in November, December and January against New England. In those cases, the weather in Miami is usually more evenly suited. Why are the Patriots struggling so much then? I don’t have an answer for those questions, but it seems Miami has a definite home field advantage over the Patriots.
NOT OVER YET
This is just one game. The Patriots went on a winning streak in the middle of the season last year that propelled them to a playoff appearance. They may have another one of those in the tank this season. Mac Jones is going to get a lo of flack but that’s par for the course when you are the QB of a team that has won six Super Bowls in the past two decades, even if Mac was a kid or in college when those were happening. The Patriots will certainly have to answer a lot of questions after losing badly to a team that had one of the worst offseasons in recent memory. But right now, it’s just one game. As Bill Belichick would say, “we’re on to Pittsburgh.”
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