The relationship between New England Patriots’ fans and Miami Dolphins’ All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill isn’t exactly a mutual appreciation society. In fact, Hill believes “those fans are some of the worst in the NFL.”
Speaking after helping the Dolphins beat the Patriots 24-17 at Gillette Stadium in Week 2, Hill branded some of those rooting for the home team as “real nasty,” per Henry McKenna of Fox Sports: “Some of the things that they were saying, wasn’t, you know, I wouldn’t say in Church. So, yeah, it felt great to waive goodbye to the fans and I’ll do it again, bye!”
Hill enjoyed the last laugh after he and the Dolphins condemned the Patriots to an 0-2 start. The Pats haven’t been in this situation since 2001, so frustration from those in the stands is inevitable.
Head coach Bill Belichick should be wary about the ire from fans being turned away from opponents like Hill and toward him. Belichick has missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons and appears in danger of being left behind in the AFC East, a division now headlined by dynamic playmakers like Hill.
Tyreek Hill vs. Patriots’ Defense Was a Stalemate
Planning for Hill is always Belichick’s primary focus when his defense has to face “The Cheetah.” In truth, the latest tussle between Hill and the Patriots probably ended in a stalemate, despite the Dolphins leaving town with the ‘W.’
Hill made just 5 catches from 9 targets for 40 yards, according to Pro Football Reference. Yet, the seven-time Pro Bowler also caught a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the second quarter.
The play worked against a coverage scheme Hill and the Dolphins saw coming. He explained to NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football crew how Patriots’ safety Kyle Dugger called “in and out” coverage before the snap.
It meant Dugger had Hill inside, prompting the receiver to think, “Oh, yeah, this is a touchdown.”
This was Hill’s seventh touchdown in as many career regular season games against the Patriots, per StatMuse. He hasn’t amassed 100 receiving yards or more against the Pats since a 2018 game for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Hill is now 4-1 in his last six meetings with New England.
The score wasn’t the first time the Dolphins appeared to be one step ahead of the Patriots. Belichick, his staff and his players were out-thought at every turn, particularly when it came to having their plan to stop Hill used against them.
The basic premise of that plan was to take away the deep routes Hill loves to exploit. Playing three safeties across the last line of defense was Belichick’s answer, but as the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan noted, the Dolphins responded by featuring Hill’s fellow wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and running back Raheem Mostert.
Waddle snagged four catches for 86 yards away from Hill, while Mostert rushed for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries. Belichick designed a strategy to force the Dolphins to win with other players and that’s exactly what Miami did.
It’s a warning Belichick’s rivals are catching up to his methods.
Belichick Under Scrutiny
The Patriots’ 0-2 start could be explained away by having faced a pair of playoff-level opponents, the Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles. Losing by a combined 12 points shows the Pats are still competitive and Belichick’s players will turn things around if they can close the margin for error.
That’s one viewpoint. The other involves bemoaning Belichick’s growing run of ineptitude without Tom Brady as his quarterback.
Brady’s ascension after Drew Bledsoe was injured in ’01 sparked the beginnings of a dynasty, but Belichick hasn’t been able to win consistently without TB12. Numbers from Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith sum up the problem:
Those damning statistics include Belichick’s five seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. A run that yielded just one winning season and a sole playoff victory in 1994. Three losing seasons and four non-playoff campaigns have followed in New England without Brady.
Such a mediocre return is bound to raise questions about the true source of Belichick’s success. He’s won more Super Bowls than any other head coach in NFL history, but he’s entered this season under pressure from owner Robert Kraft, per NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran, speaking on the “Rich Eisen Show” back in July.
Kraft knows what he owes Belichick for two decades worth of dominance, but times change. The mood will also change if losses mount amid a tough schedule and angry fans turn on the coach.