The Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard pinpointed two major errors that played the biggest role in the Patriots’ season-opening loss. The second one is essentially all on Dugger.
“The second mistake is obvious: Dugger, despite recognizing the route and being in the right position initially, takes a false step, and that’s the difference between a first down and a touchdown when you are talking about an explosive athlete like Waddle,” Bedard wrote. “One false move, and he’s gone. Another completely avoidable mistake by the Patriots, but credit the Dolphins for having the personnel — and exploiting a mismatch — to make a game-changing play like that.”
The situation Bedard described is the Dolphins’ fourth-down conversion that turned into a 42-yard TD pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Jaylen Waddle. The score made the score 17-0 in favor of Miami.
Based on how the Patriots’ offense had been performing, it was clear this was a back-breaking play for New England. The Dolphins would only manage a field goal the rest of the way, but the Patriots only found the end zone once in the entire game, which came in the third quarter.
Mac Jones’ Performance Slammed
While Dugger was the target of Bedard’s critique, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones hasn’t escaped the criticism. By most accounts, Jones didn’t play well enough for the Patriots to win. Unfortunately for Jones, his offensive line didn’t do him any favors.
Jones was sacked twice, hit another three times, and was hurried a handful more times. The problem with a simplistic blanket evaluation of Jones is that the negative elements of his performance can’t be blamed on him.
The Patriots offense looks like an attack without a definitive direction. Let’s also not forget, Jones still doesn’t have great weapons in the passing game when everyone is healthy. It’s especially the case when he’s going at it without talented and speedy rookie Tyquan Thornton.
Also, Ty Montgomery wasn’t at 100 percent for the game, despite catching the only TD pass of the game. Montgomery’s season is now likely over as the team placed him on injured reserve this week.
Can Jones get better in Week 2? Definitely, but it’s not just him.
What’s Next for the Patriots?
In Week 2, the Patriots travel to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL season is a long 17 games, but the Patriots cannot afford to dig themselves a huge hole early in the season.
We saw in Week 1 that the Buffalo Bills are a legitimate Super Bowl threat and the odds-on favorites to win the AFC East again.
That’s one playoff spot that is seemingly locked up. Barring an injury to Bills QB Josh Allen, it is tough to imagine them not continuing what looks like a wildly successful season. The Patriots will likely find themselves in a battle with the Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, and Los Angeles Chargers for the AFC Wild Card berths.
Falling to 0-2 with both losses to AFC teams seems like a death sentence to New England’s playoff hopes. Luckily, the Patriots aren’t set to face a world-beating Steelers team.
Pittsburgh starts the very-flawed Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Running back Najee Harris is a stud, but he narrowly escaped serious injury in the Steelers’ overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. Perhaps most encouraging for the Patriots they won’t have to contend with edge-rusher supreme TJ Watt, whose nursing a chest injury.
Translation: it’s a winnable game for the Patriots, which makes it all the more crucial New England comes away with the win.