All Week 1 story come with the disclaimer that they are speculative at best. In the NFL, anything is possible. A year ago at this time, the Green Bay Packers were blown out by the New Orleans Saints, and the Buffalo Bills were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but both teams turned things around by the season’s end.
To get this out of the way, it must be mentioned that the New England Patriots’ offense looked as horrible as everyone feared it might look against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon, just as there were several days during the spring and training camp when the group was rumored to have been a hot mess.
There was no magic potion ingested on opening day or Sunday that magically banished all of those issues forever. There was a lot of difficulty for the Patriots. QB Mac Jones didn’t talk to the press after the team reported he’d been injured in the back, even though X-rays came back negative.
The issues are starting out at a young age. Similarly, on Sunday, they did it. After the Patriots gained 53 yards on their first seven plays, Jones threw a jump ball intended for DeVante Parker in the right third of the end zone, but Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard deflected the pass, and Patriots teammate Jevon Holland picked it off.
The missed defensive pass interference call on the play masked the inherent risk of Parker going one-on-one with Howard. The Patriots had three plays that lost yards on their second possession.
Here’s Mac Jones leaving the X-Ray room at Hard Rock Stadium…
He is clearly injuredpic.twitter.com/hLKoUHwx5E
— PGS NEST (@NestPgs) September 11, 2022
Ty Montgomery lost 2 yards on the ground, and Rhamondre Stevenson was sacked for a loss of 3 yards on a fast screen. On the first down from the Dolphins’ 40, there was a total lack of coverage, and Emmanuel Ogbah was able to sack Jones unimpeded for a loss of 7 yards.
Jones was strip-sacked on second down from the New England 15 to effectively end the third drive. From the defensive right, safety Brandon Jones blitzed and sacked the Patriots’ quarterback, causing the ball to be jarred loose. It took Melvin Ingram only two steps to reach the end zone after he picked it up after it bounced once.
This culminated in 24 yards of offense for New England in the second quarter and 108 for the game overall by halftime. At halftime, Miami had a 17-0 lead. For the Patriots, the biggest question of the offseason was who will lead the offense. With the departure of longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Raiders, Bill Belichick is without an official offensive coordinator.
Matt Patricia, who has spent the majority of his career as a defensive coach, is now the offensive line coach and “senior football consultant” for the Patriots, while Joe Judge, a career special teams coach who was sacked in January as Giants head coach, is back with New England in the same role.
Jones had Patricia, Judge, running backs coach Vinnie Sunseri, and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer in his ear as he was on the sideline when Patricia called the plays. That doesn’t sound like the best plan.
Even worse for the Patriots was the fact that the Dolphins didn’t appear to be much of a threat either. In spite of weeks of assurances from Tyreek Hill and rookie head coach Mike McDaniel that third-year QB Tua Tagovailoa is on the verge of greatness, Tagovailoa threw some interceptions.
The defense kept it close enough that the offense decided to go for it on fourth-and-from midfield with under 10 minutes remaining. On that play, Jones had ample time to get the ball to Hunter Henry, and the tight end dropped the pass he lofted to him despite managing traffic downfield.
McDaniel was the first coach in Miami Hurricanes history to win his first game in that role, and he did it. In doing so, he joined an exclusive club, becoming the first head coach in Dolphins history (since Nick Saban in 2005) to win his debut game.
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