The New England Patriots proved they can win ugly Sunday. “Win” actually might not be a strong enough word, and ugly probably is too harsh. The Patriots showed in their 35-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins they can dominate unattractively.
New England trounced the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium despite allowing a touchdown off a turnover on an errant snap. The team never decisively put the game away, and a lesser defense could have let the Dolphins back into the game. But the Patriots, despite early-season struggles, have a top-end defense. They rank 11th in the NFL in points allowed per game, and that’s after ranking 32nd through Week 3.
Here are this week’s top takeaways:
— Tom Brady had his least accurate passing performance since Week 6 but still managed to improve his passer rating on the season. He went 18 of 28 for 227 passing yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Among his incompletions, one was dropped and one was batted at the line.
— Brady was 3 of 3 for 98 yards on throws of 20 yards or more. He’s tied for second in the NFL in deep passing accuracy, according to Pro Football Focus.
— Wide receiver Brandin Cooks had the Patriots’ lone drop on the afternoon. Cooks caught two of Brady’s three deep passes for 59 yards. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett caught the other for 39 yards.
RT LaAdrian Waddle: two QB hits, one hurry allowed
LG Joe Thuney: one QB hit, one hurry
RT Cameron Fleming: one sack
RG Shaq Mason: one QB hit
LT Nate Solder: one hurry
C Ted Karras: one hurry
— Fleming came in for Waddle and promptly let up a sack, which is exactly what happened in Week 11 against the Oakland Raiders. Waddle was spotted in a walking boot after the game. New England has to hope Waddle or Marcus Cannon can return before next week.
— Waddle was penalized for a false start. Karras had an errant snap to Brady that the Dolphins returned for a touchdown.
— Dion Lewis, who had 15 carries for 112 yards, forced seven missed tackles on the ground. Rex Burkhead, who tallied 50 yards on 13 carries, forced three missed tackles.
— In one of the most surprising storylines of the season, James White has seen Lewis and Burkhead significantly cut into his snaps. White totaled 13 rushing yards on three carries and added just one catch for two yards.
DE Trey Flowers: two sacks, two hurries
LB Elandon Roberts: two sacks, one hurry
LB Kyle Van Noy: one sack, two hurries
SS Patrick Chung: one QB hit, one hurry
DT Adam Butler: two hurries
DE Eric Lee: one sack
CB Jonathan Jones: one sack
DT Alan Branch: one hurry
— The Patriots had by far their best pass-rushing performance of the season. Don’t expect the Patriots to get after Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor nearly as much next week.
— Lee, who signed with the Patriots off the Bills’ practice squad Tuesday, also bull-rushed Dolphins right tackle Sam Young into Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, leading to one of Flowers’ sacks.
— Flowers and Van Noy suffered injuries Sunday. New England needs them back by next weekend. Flowers hasn’t exactly piled up sacks this season, but he lead the team with six this year.
SS Patrick Chung: 7 catches on 7 targets, 59 yards
CB Jonathan Jones: 5-7, 46 yards
LB Marquis Flowers: 2-2, 29 yards
FS Devin McCourty: 1-1, 28 yards
CB Malcolm Butler: 2-6, 22 yards, DPI, two PBUs
LB Elandon Roberts: 2-2, 17 yards, TD
LB David Harris: 2-2, 14 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 1-3, 5 yards, INT
LB Kyle Van Noy: 1-2, 0 yards
FS Duron Harmon: INT
— Jones drew a tough assignment against Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry. He responded well and, of late, is one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league.
— Gilmore had his best game of the season, allowing just five yards. One of his other targets was intercepted by Duron Harmon.
— Butler was solid outside of his defensive pass interference penalty on a Dolphins flea flicker.
DE Eric Lee: two stops
LB Trevor Reilly: two stops
CB Jonathan Jones: two stops
S Patrick Chung: one stop
LB Kyle Van Noy: one stop
DE Deatrich Wise: one stop
DE Trey Flowers: one stop
DT Malcom Brown: one stop
— Lee showed up in the pass and run game despite limited snaps. He was on the field for just 20 passing plays and four running plays.
— Reilly left the game early with a head injury but made an impact as a run defender when he was on the field.
Stats via Pro Football Focus Elite
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images