Picked up pieces from the Patriots’ crushing loss to Miami …
MIDDLE DRILL: An easy-to-miss issue with the Patriots defense lied right up the middle. When the Patriots took Vince Wilfork out of there, either to spell him or move him out to end situationally, the Dolphins found a way to jam the ball right down their throats. And that’s because New England ILBs Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton had a tough day against the run.
On one second-and-10 inside the final two minutes of the first half, right guard Nate Garner — who was on the practice squad in September — pulled left and blew up Mayo, while Guyton was late to react on the play and failed to flow to the ball, leaving Leigh Bodden to make the tackle. On a first-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Mayo had trouble disengaging with backup center Joe Berger, and did make the tackle, but registered it 8 yards downfield.
The first play came with Wilfork off the field. The second came with him at left end. Another quick note here: With Jarvis Green back, Wilfork was employed at left end in spots, rather than right end (as he was to deal with Jake Long in Week 9), and asked to combat mammoth tackle (and college teammates) Vernon Carey. He did a good job, and Green actually stood up well against Long, too.
RUSHING IT: I know I’ve belabored the point on a lack of a pass rush. But what really was eye-opening in watching the game over was how hard the Patriots came after Henne — which further illustrates what kind of spot the defensive backs were put. It’s hard enough to cover without heat coming up front. Harder when that happens and you’re sending extra guys, which compromises the coverage.
The Patriots sent extra guys on 22 snaps. On none of those 22 snaps was Chad Henne hit, and it wasn’t because the ball was coming out quickly. Perhaps part of the reason why that the Patriots were having trouble covering underneath with Mayo and Guyton (particularly with tight end Anthony Fasano and receiver Davone Bess on underneath routes), and figured they were better served employing those guys in the pass rush.
Either way, when it didn’t work, the coaches kept coming — bring extra rushers 11 times in the first half and 11 times in the second half.
BUTLER DID IT: Darius Butler gave up enough plays to garner blame, and the biggest one was certainly the 13-yarder Greg Camarillo collected on a comeback on that fourth-and-6 on the game-winning drive. But he was competitive on a lot of the catches he gave up, and was close on the fourth-and-2 throw to Bess with less than 4 minutes left, which Bess dropped thanks in part to Butler’s presence.
Now, the bigger problem with Butler will come in the running game. There’s one play where you see it clearly where Ricky Williams picks up 7 yards. Normally, on an outside run, Adalius Thomas would have outside-contain responsibility. Only, on this play, he put on an inside spin move, which would tell you he was on some sort of stunt or twist, and normally, that would put run-force responsibility on the corner.
Butler got controlled by Ted Ginn on the play, allowing Williams to get the corner and turn upfield. And it wasn’t the only time. So while Butler needs to improve in coverage, he’ll also have to get better against the run.
GUARD UP: The interior of the offensive line didn’t cover itself in glory here. Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly had rough afternoons, and even Logan Mankins had his moments.
Koppen couldn’t seem to keep Randy Starks out of the backfield. And on the play before the killer Brady end-zone pick in the fourth quarter, Connolly was flattened by nose tackle Paul Soliai, paving the way for Akin Ayodele to drop Sammy Morris for a 1-yard loss. That was after Soliai drove Connolly into next week at the snap of the failed second-quarter fourth-down attempt.
Kaczur actually wasn’t so bad, but got flat-out embarrassed by rookie Cameron Wake on the play that ended with Channing Crowder’s game-ending pick. That was a three-man rush. Yet Brady went down quickly. Matt Light, on the other hand, was stellar on this afternoon, which bodes well with Sebastian Vollmer’s return on the horizon.
WAKING UP WES: Wes Welker was, in a relative sense, shut down in New Orleans, and boy did he rebound in Miami. As he usual does, Welker chewed up yards after the catch, and he was consistent.
But the Patriots also worked to get him in a matchup they seemed to like — right on 6-foot-3 rookie corner Sean Smith. Smith’s gonna be a good player, but a shifty, slot receiver like Welker is a bad matchup for most bigger corners.
Here’s an example: In the third quarter, on a second-and-3, the Patriots broke the huddle in base, “12” personnel, and flanked Moss left and Welker right, putting the slot receiver outside to isolate him on Smith. With Gibril Wilson playing over the top of Moss, it was a true one-on-one, and Welker burned Smith on about a 15-yard in-cut for a 26-yard catch-and-run.
Welker was playing at outside receiver spots more than normal, and my guess is that’s why.
AUDIBLES: It’s certainly fair to question Moss’ effort in this one, but the Dolphins did show him plenty of respect. Gibril Wilson was lining up on plenty of plays at the numbers (pretty far outside) to give Vontae Davis deep help, and that’s exactly what opened the door for Sam Aiken’s long touchdown. … Another strong effort by Laurence Maroney. Like I’ve said before: Approach, approach, approach. He’s finding a way to be patient when he needs to be, and aggressive when that’s called for, and figuring out when to be which has been the difference. … Another big effort by Vince Wilfork. Not surprising. But you might not know that Myron Pryor flashed some ability as well. … For this week, at least, lay off the tight ends. They stayed in a lot to block against a Miami offense that varied its rush pretty wildly.