3 Up, 3 Down: Patriots Comfortably Beat Miami Dolphins at Homeby Jordan Leandre September 15, 2020 0 comments
It took roughly eight months, but Patriots fans finally got to rinse out the sour taste of how the previous regime ended.
There wasn’t the familiar No. 12 under center, calling the shots for the New England Patriots. This time, a new character––donning No. 1––was at the helm. Former league MVP Cam Newton made his Patriots debut on Sunday, following a year where he played just two games, and an offseason where he appeared to become an afterthought for teams searching to address their quarterback situation.
He played well, and the offseason responded by looking incredibly fluid throughout.
And that’s the beauty of Opening Day. Every team is 0-0, and it gives players a chance to endear themselves to the team’s faithful early on. For the Patriots, who were the three players whose stock increased the most in their 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 1?
1. Cam Newton – QB – 15-for-19, 155 yards passing, 15 carries for 75 yards rushing, two total touchdowns (79.7 QBR)
Entering play on Sunday, nobody knew what kind of player Cam Newton was anymore. Was his 2018 run of accuracy a facade? Did he still have the legs to create plays when receivers couldn’t separate? Could he lead a depleted receiving corps to victory like he did when he won league MVP in 2015?
For one week, those answers appear to be yeses. Newton, though only accumulating 155 yards through the air, completed 78.9 percent of his passes, and two of his four incompletions were on throwaways. As for his feet? He broke Matt Cassel‘s single-game franchise rushing record for a quarterback when he ran for 75 yards.
He also added two scores with his legs. While he didn’t set the world on fire through the air, Newton made plays and extended drives by any means necessary. Patriots fans should be optimistic about Newton’s immediate future in Foxborough.
CAM NEWTON’S FIRST TD AS A PATRIOT 🚨
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 13, 2020
2. Adrian Phillips – S – Interception, one pass defended, eight solo tackles (one for loss)
The Patriots lost a lot of veteran leadership on their defense this offseason. Duron Harmon was traded to Detroit. Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung both opted out. Though Phillips is a better safety than both Harmon and Chung, he needed to have a good showing in Week 1.
And he didn’t disappoint.
In the second quarter, Phillips picked off a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. He made a beautiful read and baited the veteran quarterback into a turnover.
Adrian Phillips picks off Fitzpatrick pic.twitter.com/NSWAKQKeWT
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) September 13, 2020
Overall, a good first impression was made by the 2018 Pro-Bowler out of Texas.
3. J.J. Taylor – RB – four carries for 28 yards
Taylor barely saw the field in his NFL debut (just nine snaps), but you felt his presence when he was out there. The 22-year-old averaged seven yards-per-carry on his four rushes, and two of those resulted in a first down.
Taylor was an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, who was promoted from the Practice Squad due to Damien Harris‘ injury. If he can continue to build off of his Week 1 performance, the 5-foot-6 running back could become a vital piece to this New England ground attack.
However, it wasn’t all smiles and laughs for the Patriots in Week 1, as even in victory some players left a lot to be desired. Here are the three players whose stock took a hit in Week 1.
1. The tight ends – one reception, 25 yards
Perhaps it was all scheme-related, and the Patriots knew they were just going to run it down Miami’s throat. But regardless, that recipe isn’t going to work against the high-octane offenses of Seattle, Kansas City, or Baltimore. They simply need to get more out of that position, especially after how weak it was in 2019.
2. Damiere Byrd – WR – 55 snaps, zero targets
Perhaps he was used as a glorified decoy, and maybe it was foolish of me to read into his past experience alongside Cam Newton, but I thought Byrd was going to be utilized more on offense.
Byrd is a burner, possessing explosive speed and can take the top off the defense. However, outside of a couple of blocks down the field, there wasn’t much to be impressed with Byrd’s game––despite him tying the lead for receivers in snaps.
The New England receiving corps isn’t talented enough at the top to get by without contributions from their third, fourth, and perhaps even fifth receivers. Especially not against the higher-powered offenses in the AFC. Byrd needs to improve in the coming weeks or he could be one of the next wideouts waived by Bill Belichick.
3. Nick Folk – K – 0-for-1 on field goals
Folk was serviceable in 2019 in place of the injured Stephen Gostkowski but shanked a field goal at the end of the first half on Sunday. As a result, the team reverted the veteran back to the Practice Squad, leaving no kicker on the active roster at this point.
With an offense as questionable as New England’s, they need to get points where they can.
Only time will tell what the Patriots do about their kicking situation moving forward, as Folk and fifth-round pick Justin Rohrwasser are now on the practice squad.
Honorable Mention for both: N’Keal Harry – WR – five receptions (six targets), 39 yards, one fumble lost
Now you’re probably wondering: Where is N’Keal Harry? He had that costly fumble in the back of the end zone. His stock had to have dropped.
Well, in reality, his stock didn’t, and shouldn’t, have changed for anybody. Here’s why.
For starters, the former Arizona State Sun Devil was playing in just his ninth regular-season game and, at times, looked impressive. Including this reception where he fought for the extra yard or two and picked up the first down.
Wish we got more of these types of plays from Harry pic.twitter.com/QFvL4PIAkU
— Ahsoka fan (@TheBG_11) September 14, 2020
However, he also had that costly fumble where the ball went through the back of the end zone. The Patriots not only missed out on a potential touchdown, but Miami also went down the field and scored––cutting the deficit to three after a successful two-point conversion. Harry also had a play where he got planted by safety Jomal Perry, despite owning the physical advantage.
#Patriots film: N’Keal Harry is 6-3 and 225 pounds. Jomal Perry is 5-10, 189.
This is not how this play should’ve ended going full speed. pic.twitter.com/5QjlrdKBBd
— Andrew Callahan (@_AndrewCallahan) September 14, 2020
That being said, the second-year receiver accounted for a third of Cam Newton’s completions and a quarter of his passing yards on the day. In a game where the team didn’t get much going through the air, there was a lot of responsibility put on Harry’s shoulders to extend drives or give the team a chance to move the chains on an ensuing play.
This was the first game where the Patriots truly let the young receiver make mistakes and not get dog-housed. Overall, I thought he played pretty well. Does he need to improve? Yes. Is he still a project? Absolutely. However, yesterday should be looked at as a testament to his growth and not an indictment on his ability. He should be looked to a lot against the Seahawks, who will hone in on Julian Edelman on Sunday night.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images