MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The New England Patriots annihilated the Miami Dolphins 43-0 on Sunday afternoon. So, why are we left thinking about how much better they could have played in Week 2?
The Patriots have the best wide receiver trio in the NFL, yet quarterback Tom Brady threw for *just* 264 yards against the Dolphins. Antonio Brown led the way with four catches for 56 yards and one touchdown, but wide receivers Julian Edelman (four catches, 51 yards) and Josh Gordon (two catches, 19 yards) and running back James White (three catches, 19 yards) were quiet. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who had 95 yards and two scores in Week 1, was held to three catches for 39 yards. The Patriots averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, and starter Sony Michel lost a fumble. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal and two extra points. The score might look impressive, but it was an imperfect performance.
“It’s Week 2, long way to go, so we have a lot of work to do,” head coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “We’ll just get back at it and start getting ready for the Jets.”
For once, this doesn’t seem like typical Patriots cliché coach-speak. The Patriots’ offense had some issues Sunday. The Patriots were leading *just* 13-0 at the half. They really didn’t break the game wide open until late in the third quarter when they took a three-score lead. Then the game really blew up.
It didn’t help that the Patriots went into the game without their starting right tackle and lost their starting left tackle early. Marshall Newhouse, who was signed this week, started at right tackle then moved to Brady’s blindside. Korey Cunningham, who was acquired in late August, played most of the game at right tackle. It also wasn’t ideal that the heat index was over 100 degrees for most of the game, and it felt like the Patriots were playing in a steam cloud.
The Patriots also were trying to incorporate Brown into the offense after less than a week on the team. Growing pains were expected and occurred. Brady hit Brown on his first four targets but missed him on the next four.
All of this is to say the Patriots, at least on offense, have yet to hit their ceiling. This is not yet peak Patriots. The 2019 team is still climbing toward its summit.
That’s really insanely scary for the rest of the NFL since the Patriots just beat an actual NFL team 43-0. If the Patriots get even one of their offensive tackles back, if Brown can continue learning the offense, if one of Gordon, Edelman or Dorsett get going again, if Michel starts to show his potential from last year’s playoff run, if White starts ripping off 10-catch games, if the Patriots play in a normal climate, then what happens?
The Patriots probably will not go 16-0 this season. It’s extremely unlikely a team can achieve that level of greatness twice in 12 years. It will not be a disappointment if the 2019 squad loses a game this season. But undefeated on the table. Given all the talent on offense and the current rate of success on defense, this is a team without a normal cap.