But it always comes down to matchups and philosophy for the Patriots’ passing game. Lloyd may still have a big game or two, but it’s easy to see why he wasn’t a big part against the Dolphins.
On to the positional ratings against the Dolphins:
Quarterback (3 out of 5):
Brady was probably groaning watching the tape because now he has another defense to grind against, along with the Jets and Ravens. Coyle did a nice job blending blitzes (10.6 percent) and some zone exchanges with linemen dropping into coverage. It was a carbon copy of Rex Ryan’s approach, and Brady had his struggles.
But he wasn’t bad. He just had to grind it out. Brady’s best play by far was a terrific audible on the touchdown to Welker. Brady saw the safeties come forward, indicating all-out blitz. Then Danny Woodhead picked off Jared Odrick, Donald Thomas pancaked Dansby, and Lloyd, Ryan Wendell, and Nate Solder finished the blocks in front of Welker. Tremendous.
Great play by Brady on the second play of the game to find Welker as he was being knocked down. Not a terrible decision by Brady to go to Hernandez on the interception — good things usually happen throwing to Hernandez one-on-one — but safety Reshad Jones, an emerging player, just made a terrific play. However, both Edelman (best option) and Stevan Ridley on a checkdown were wide open.
Running backs (4 out of 5):
Ridley has had bigger games, but this might have been his best individual effort because he had to work for everything against a stingy Miami front and with some sloppy run blocking by the line. His 2-yard touchdown run to open the game should have been stuffed, but Ridley broke a tackle. He ran really hard, and some of his second efforts were reminiscent of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Woodhead’s screen in the first quarter was set up perfectly, but Thomas, Wendell, and Dan Connolly all missed their blocks.
Receivers (2.5 out of 5):
Welker, Hernandez, and Edelman each had a standout catch, but there were drops by Welker (10th on the season) and Hernandez (third). There was some really shoddy blocking out of this group, especially from Hernandez (quarterback hurry, 1.5 run stuffs, and three other poor blocks). Daniel Fells wasn’t much better and had a holding penalty. The Patriots are really feeling the loss of Gronkowski blocking on the edges. It seems they’ve cut down on their outside zone runs as a result and are staying mostly inside.
Offensive line (3 out of 5):
Outside of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, this group actually did a solid job. But Vollmer had his worst game of the season with one full sack, two half-sacks, three hurries, and a knockdown allowed (in addition to a holding penalty) against stud end Cameron Wake. The good news is that four of Vollmer’s pressures came on the first series, and he settled down a bit. It was reminiscent of Matt Light’s early struggles against the Eagles last year, after which Light caught fire. Wendell did terrific work holding the point of attack against much larger players in the run game, and Solder also did well on the ground. Outside of the sack he allowed, Thomas continued to show well. Don’t look now, but Solder was open on a tackle-eligible goal line play.
Defensive line (4.5 out of 5):
Tremendous work by all but the bit players in this group, led by Vince Wilfork (hurry, knockdown, two stuffed runs, fumble recovery), Kyle Love (1.5 hurries, stuff), and Trevor Scott (two sacks, forced fumble, 1.5 hurries, stuff). Don’t know where Love has been the past two games, but I’m sure the Patriots are glad to have him back in the groove. He was stout and played very smart, snuffing out a screen and drawing a hold. Scott played surprisingly solid all-around, and tougher against the run than his reputation. On Scott’s second sack in the fourth quarter, the coverage of Jerod Mayo underneath Bess and Kyle Arrington under Hartline allowed the sack to get home in 4.89 seconds. Rob Ninkovich got sucked in by the play-action the Dolphins ran on the read option touchdown by Ryan Tannehill. Looked like the first Broncos game last season.
Linebackers (5 out of 5):
Saw only one minor error in this group (a slow run fit by Dont’a Hightower), but otherwise it was exceptional work. Mayo had his finest game this season even before his well-executed sack as the Dolphins tried to cut the deficit to 3. Terrific back-to-back plays by Mayo in the third quarter to help stuff Reggie Bush to just 1 yard on each carry. Mayo perfectly crashed the blocking scheme to make the running back hesitate. Key pressure from Mayo on Tannehill on third down with three minutes left in the third quarter. Hartline had beaten Aqib Talib again, but the pressure made Tannehill throw an errant pass out of bounds. Brandon Spikes played very mature in this game, which bodes well, as do his two pass breakups.Continued...