Patriots

All signs from the Patriots’ offense are just discouraging after opening loss to Dolphins

The performance was one big, annoying flashback to Camp Disjointed.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Bill Belichick walked off the Dolphins' home turf as a loser, the Patriots dropping their fourth straight against Miami.


Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to standouts, stats, and story lines from the Patriots’ most recent game . . .

One game and one dull loss into the season, hearing Bill Belichick and Patriots offensive players talk about “encouraging” signs has become tiresome.

But they have to remind us, I guess, because the discouraging signs have become way more abundant and obvious.

The Patriots had two fleetingly impressive stretches of offensive football in Sunday’s season-opening 20-7 road loss to the Dolphins, the fourth straight time they’ve lost to their AFC East foe.

Their first possession of the season, right up until the eight-play drive ended with a Mac Jones interception in the end zone.

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And their first possession of the second half, when Ty Montgomery rolled into the end zone for the first touchdown of the season, cutting the Dolphins’ lead to 17-7. That’s about as suspenseful as the game got.

Otherwise, the performance was one big, annoying flashback to Camp Disjointed. The offensive line remains their biggest issue. The playbook is supposed to be streamlined, but the linemen often look like they’ve been studying different editions.

Most egregiously, Trent Brown, their most talented lineman, missed an assignment that led to a Brandon Jones strip-sack and Melvin Ingram recovery for a touchdown that put the Dolphins up, 10-0, midway through the second quarter.

The running game, which should be a strength, totaled 78 yards. Jones completed 21 of 30 for 213 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. On a couple of fourth-down situations, he threw the ball into coverage, and rarely were there plays to be made downfield.

The defense, while submitting a solid performance overall, made its share of mistakes. Carl Davis took a fourth-down encroachment penalty after a timeout while lined up with the football in his sights. Jaylen Waddle busted loose for a 42-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-7 play just before halftime, an inexcusable outcome.

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The Patriots weren’t lousy, just too often laborious and lethargic. There was nothing encouraging about it other than that it ended.

Some further thoughts, upon immediate review …

Three players who were worth watching

(Players suggested in Unconventional Preview: Rhamondre Stevenson, Tyreek Hill, Jalen Mills.)

Kyle Dugger: The Patriots’ third-year safety was the prime culprit on Waddle’s touchdown, but he had the kind of game overall that makes one believe he could be All-Pro someday. He was a Yards After The Catch Denier early in the game, making a couple of jarring tackles on Tyreek Hill, who is arguably the most dangerous open-field player in the league. With just less than 10 minutes left in the first half, Dugger walloped Hill to thwart an end-around that looked to be developing into a big gainer. On the next play, he tore into the backfield and blasted running back Chase Edmonds for a 7-yard loss. He has a chance to be a special player, and soon.

Tyreek Hill: The longtime co-star to Patrick Mahomes in so many Chiefs highlights through the years finished with fine numbers in his Dolphins debut, catching eight passes for 94 yards. But given how determined Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins seemed to be in trying to get him the ball in space, the Patriots did quality work keeping Hill out of the end zone and under control. Players like Hill always cast their shadow over a game; it feels like he’s always on the verge of making a game-changing play, and to watch him was one more reminder that the Patriots sure could use someone like that. But his biggest gainer was a 26-yard catch out of the two-minute warning in the first half in which he outwrestled rookie Jack Jones for the ball.

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Ty Montgomery: Well, he did score the Patriots’ lone touchdown, right? I have to admit, it was somewhat alarming to see Montgomery get touches on running plays that should either go to Rhamondre Stevenson or Damien Harris. It’s fair to worry whether Montgomery is going to be some inexplicable crutch for Matt Patricia like Brandon Bolden was for Josh McDaniels at times. But hey, the touchdown, on a bit of an underthrow by Jones, was a nifty play.

Grievance of the game

We’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s going on with Kendrick Bourne. He didn’t play until the fourth quarter, comes in and makes a 41-yard catch, the Patriots’ longest play of the day, and then goes right back to the bench. It’s so bizarre. He was the Patriots’ most reliable and exciting receiver in the second half last season, and while he spent training camp residing in the Doug Gabriel wing of Belichick’s doghouse, the injury to Tyquan Thornton should have reopened his opportunity, at least if he has been at all accountable for whatever Belichick is mad about. Burying Bourne is detrimental to what’s best for the Patriots.

Three notes scribbled in the margins

(Predicted final score: Dolphins 21, Patriots 20)

(Final score: Dolphins 20, Patriots 7)

Tagovailoa, somehow now 4-0 against the Patriots, must be exasperating to play against. He always seems to be on the verge of disaster, but always seems to escape — or luck out — just before the volcano erupts. Case in point: With 8 minutes and 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Miami leading, 17-7, he made an atrocious throw that Devin McCourty almost certainly would have intercepted had Myles Bryant not tried to make a play himself and dropped the football. Tagovailoa also nearly fumbled with less than seven minutes remaining, but was ruled down by contact. The Patriots have struggled across multiple seasons now to make the most of Tagovailoa’s curious decisions … Here’s a factoid you might not believe. Only four current network play-by-play broadcasters have called a Super Bowl on television: Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Jim Nantz, and … Greg Gumbel, who joined Phil Simms in the booth for the Ravens’ win over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Gumbel, who now is on CBS’s No. 4 team with Adam Archuleta, remains a good-natured presence, but the duo’s broadcast Sunday was subpar, from not identifying who made tackles to Archuleta’s uncanny knack for predicting the exact opposite of what happened … As frustrating as this loss was, it was not the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is if Mac Jones is injured badly enough that we have to watch Brian Hoyer throw passes that count this season.

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