Sunday was a tale of two halves.
The first half was the Jimmy Garappolo show. Jimmy proved that his performance in Arizona was not a fluke. He was 18/27 for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and he didn’t even finish the first half. For most quarterbacks that is good enough for an entire game.
The most telling part about Garappolo’s performance was the plays that were being called. This wasn’t the game plan you typically see for a quarterback making his second career start. This was a Tom Brady all out aerial assault game plan. We’ve seen it so many times from the Patriots in the past, when a team’s strength is their defensive front the Patriots will spread it out and throw nonstop. They wouldn’t even pretend they wanted to run the ball, and the reason it worked so well was that Brady was so unbelievably good that the other team couldn’t stop it.
It was obvious that Jimmy grasps this offense, and that the coaches have full confidence in him. He was making all of the necessary checks at the line of scrimmage, he is able to understand where the coverage is going and make the correct reads based off of that, and the blitz has not phased him at all.
One of the things Tm Brady does best is manipulate the safeties with his eyes. The Martellus Bennett touchdown was an absolute clinic on how to do this. Garappolo motioned Edelman in tight on the left side which showed him it was zone coverage. At the snap Garappolo’s eyes went right to Edelman, this drew the safety to the left side and Jimmy held him there just long enough before looking right and hitting Bennett wide open up the right seam. It is subtle things like this which make all of the difference in the world when it comes to being a successful quarterback in the NFL.
If you want to see him to it follow this link.
The other thing that Tom Brady does better than anyone else in the NFL is beat the blitz. When you blitz Tom Brady he kills you because he is able to decipher where the pressure is coming from, and then get the ball out quickly to where the defense is weak. My biggest criticism of Garappolo during the preseason was that he couldn’t figure out the blitz. Against the Dolphins he was 7/10 for 105 yards and a touchdown with no sacks. The second Amendola touchdown was text book execution against the blitz. Jimmy felt the free rusher coming off the left edge, quickly rolled a few steps to his right and hit Amendola on a slant for the touchdown. Against the blitz you have to know where to step to or you have to get the ball out quick, on this play jimmy did both.
The Patriots were in total control during the first half not only with Garappolo and the offense, but on defense as well. Here is a list of the Dolphins drives in the first half punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, interception, field goal. Ryan Tannehill looked like Ryan Tannehill, and the Dolphins couldn’t run the ball if their life depended on it. Everything was going according to plan until Jimmy Garappolo’s shoulder was jammed into the turf, after taking a hit from Kiko Alonso.
When Garappolo went down everything changed, and honestly I don’t really know why. Up 24-3 at halftime, that game should be over, as long as you don’t turn the ball over and are able to get one more score. Of course that line of thinking assumes that the defense plays average. Not only could they not keep up the performance they had in the first half, but they were awful. All of the sudden they couldn’t cover or tackle. Justin Coleman got turned around by Kenny Stills for a 24 yard touchdown, and if he looked great against Arizona, he looked that bad against Miami.
It wasn’t just Coleman though, Malcolm Butler looked like the ankle injury he’s been nursing has more of an impact than we may have expected it to have. He lacked the burst that makes him so good at breaking on routes late to break up the pass. Jamie Collins also looked lost at times, which is possibly a result of him getting dinged up when he and Patrick Chung collided on the Jordan Cameron touchdown.
The offense did just enough in the second half to win, and honestly that’s all you could really ask for. With Jacoby Brissett coming in at quarterback the playbook was significantly reduced. Everything was either a run, screen, or play action with quick developing routes.
Considering the circumstances Brissett handled himself well. He was able to take what was given to him, and there were a few plays where he made the correct decision to tuck the ball and run for the first down. The only negative for him was the fumble. He has to feel the pressure there and tuck the ball before getting hit.
The star on offense in the second half was LaGarrette Blount. He hit the hole hard, and even showed off his hurdling ability when he leaped over Byron Maxwell on his way to his long run of 26 yards. The final Patriots drive, was the LaGarrette Blount show. The drive took just over five minutes off the clock leaving Miami with one minute to tie the game.
As good as Blount was, the key to his success was, and always will be the play of the offensive line in front of him. When Blount is able to get into the second level with a full head of steam he is nearly unstoppable, but when he has nowhere to run he lacks the elusiveness necessary to make something out of nothing. Last year Blount looked awful, and that had a lot to do with the fact that the offensive line play last season was garbage. The return of Nate Solder makes a huge difference. Solder is a road grader, and every time the Patriots needed to run the ball they ran it behind him. As long as Solder remains healthy, the run game should be just fine.
The Dolphins moved the ball easily on the final drive before Duron Harmon ended the game with an interception in the end zone. The pick was caused by Chris Long, who was all over the field on Sunday, and was the lone bright spot for the defense. The play of the defense in the second half is concerning because there is so much talent there, and the expectations are so high. This will be something to monitor as the season progresses.
When your quarterback goes down in the first half against a division rival, you’ll take a win however you can get it. The Patriots managed to hold on and that’s all that matters.