Some final thoughts on New England?s 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins as the Patriots turn their focus to their penultimate game of the 2020 season next Monday against the Buffalo Bills:
— A closer look at Cam Newton’s third-down incompletion to N’Keal Harry illustrated how, even 15 weeks into the season, the quarterback and his second-year wideout still are not on the same page.
The CBS game broadcast never showed a quality replay of the pass, which appeared to be off-target but still hit Harry — who’s at his best in contested-catch situations — in the hands.
The All-22 coaches film, however, revealed Harry had stopped his route at 10 yards, seemingly angling for a back-shoulder throw as he battled for separation with cornerback Byron Jones.
A sideline comeback might have worked in that scenario, but Newton wasn’t expecting it. He threw the ball to where Harry would have been had he kept running, and the young receiver couldn’t adjust.
Harry caught one pass on the Patriots’ next possession but was not targeted after halftime. He finished with one catch on two targets for 12 yards, halting the momentum he’d built over the previous two games.
— The Patriots held Tua Tagovailoa to 145 passing yards (5.6 per attempt), but the rookie quarterback burned them with his legs on two key second-half plays.
The first was a zone read on third-and-1 from the 6. Chase Winovich and Josh Uche both crashed down hard on running back Matt Breida, leaving Tagovailoa a wide-open lane to the right side. It’s not clear which defender should have been responsible for the QB.
Uche recovered in time to keep Tagovailoa out of the end zone, but Salvon Ahmed punched in a 1-yard touchdown one play later to put Miami ahead 7-6.
The Dolphins trailed 9-7 early in the fourth quarter when they again faced a third down inside the Patriots’ 10-yard line — this one a third-and-goal from the 3.
A corner blitz by J.C. Jackson prevented Tagovailoa from hitting an open Patrick Laird in the end zone. But as Jackson, who’d rushed the passer just three times in his NFL career, bore down on the QB, he jumped.
Tagovailoa sidestepped Jackson, spotted the large gap that had formed between defensive linemen Adam Butler and Byron Cowart and shot through it. Outside linebacker Shilique Calhoun had a chance to tackle Tagovaolia at the 3 but whiffed, resulting in a 3-yard touchdown.
Miami tacked on a two-point conversion and never trailed again.
New England’s run defense against primary ball-carriers Ahmed and Breida was a much larger issue — Miami rushed for 250 yards, the most by any Patriots opponent since 2013 — but stops on either of these two plays could have altered the outcome.
— Wide receivers who have more receiving yards than Jakobi Meyers since he broke into the Patriots’ lineup in Week 7:
Meyers is 13th in receiving yards (609) and 15th in receptions (48) over the last nine weeks. Extrapolate those values over 16 games, and that’s an 85-catch, 1,082-yard season. Only Julian Edelman (twice), Wes Welker (five times), Randy Moss (once) and Troy Brown (once) have matched both of those totals in a single season during the Bill Belichick era.
Meyers, who lost a fumble but caught seven passes for 111 yards against the Dolphins, also ranks 10th among qualified wideouts in yards per route run this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Patriots need to add a legitimate No. 1 receiver this offseason. A high-quality No. 2 wouldn’t hurt, either. But Meyers has proven he belongs and should continue to play an important role in 2021.
— We wrote last week about the Patriots’ miserable production on screen passes. They were no better in that area on Sunday.
New England’s first two drives culminated in failed third-down screens: one to receiver Damiere Byrd that lost 2 yards and one to Meyers that Newton aborted.
Not fooled in the slightest, pass rushers Jerome Baker and Shaq Lawson quickly began backpedaling toward Meyers on the second. Newton had no choice but to spike at the ball, and the Patriots punted.
Those were the only screen passes the Patriots ran in the game. Their last 10 screens have gained a total of 1 yard:
? Complete to James White, loss of 5 on first and-10
? Incomplete to White on third-and-11
? Complete to Meyers, no gain on second-and-5
? Incomplete to White on third-and-5
? Interception on second-and-9
? Complete to White, gain of 2 on first-and-10
? Complete to Byrd, gain of 6 on second-and-16
? Incomplete to Sony Michel on second-and-4
? Complete to Byrd, loss of 2 on third-and-11
? Incomplete to Meyers on third-and-9
New England did fake a wide receiver screen to Harry to spring Meyers for a 35-yard reception, his longest of the season.