A little less encouraging game than last week. But I suppose it would be easy to look at the ugly nature of yesterday’s win and forget a few things. First, it was a win. A division win at that, so even more important. Second, Miami knows the Patriots very well and always plays them tough. Most division games end up being tough, sometimes regardless of the quality of the opponent. So, while its true a look back at this game on film reveals it was probably the worst game the Patriots have played this season, overall, it was still a win and that in and of itself is a positive. Lets look at it positionally.
QUARTERBACK: Tom Brady has usually struggled against Miami and yesterday was no exception. He again made some good throws, but also some very poor ones. The good news is he didn’t turn the ball over and has mostly avoided that this year, despite not being on top of his game. One does wonder what’s wrong. I’m sure the theories will be flowing on talk radio for the next two weeks with a bye coming up. Lets stick with that old formula that the most likely answer is the simplest. In other words, its merely a matter of adjusting to new receivers and changes in the passing game that goes with new personnel. It will come around and its not like its been a total implosion. Again, turnovers have been avoided. So, the passing game has merely been mistake free, in general, but far from explosive. Hopefully some element of explosiveness will appear in time.
RUNNING BACK: Corey Dillon was running well, until sitting down in the third quarter seemingly with another injury. Laurence Maroney had his second off game in three weeks and Kevin Faulk didn’t do much on offense. On the up side, Heath Evans had a nice day including showing up surprisingly in the passing game and scoring his first NFL touchdown.
WIDE RECEIVER: Troy Brown had a nice game and made a couple very difficult catches in traffic. He also added a touchdown. No one else did much and this was an exceedingly weak game for this crew, save for Brown.
TIGHT END: A decent day for Ben Watson and David Thomas. Watson made a couple big catches and Thomas made one key one in which he took a vicious hit and held on. He also did a nice job blocking in extended time with Daniel Graham sitting out due to injury.
OFFENSIVE LINE: An uneven performance for the line. They created little room running, save for some good blocking in the middle of the line by Dan Koppen and Stephen Neal early in the game. And, although they only gave up one sack, their pass blocking wasn’t quite as good as its been other games. Definitely a down game for them.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A good game all around. Ty Warren continued his Pro Bowl level play. Richard Seymour had a nice game, as did Vince Wilfork clogging up the middle. Jarvis Green showed up again and had another decent game. A solid performance.
LINEBACKER: A pretty good day here too. Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi were solid in the middle and Mike Vrabel was active. Another down day for Roosevelt Colvin and one wonders why he seems to have disappeared so much this season after a really strong year last year. He’s been alarmingly quiet, save the opener versus Buffalo.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A solid day. Asante Samuel continued his solid year with two interceptions, the first for the secondary this year. Rodney Harrison was very active in run support and Ellis Hobbs gritted it out, playing decently despite a broken wrist. Chad Scott had another fine day and has been one of the more consistent players in the secondary this season. Not a bad day overall.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A nice day for Mike Wright blocking a field goal and tackling the Miami punter Donnie Jones after he mishandled a snap. Decent punting again from Josh Miller. But it was disappointing to see Kevin Faulk fumble again. He has unique talents, but I suppose it comes with knowing he’ll lose three or four fumbles on you over the course of the season and one or two of them could come back to really hurt you, as it did last year. Fortunately, his fumble against Miami did not cost the Patriots.
Next week is the bye and then another division game against Buffalo. The Patriots will need to play significantly better following the bye than they did this week on the road in Buffalo. Until then.