At the end of week 14 last season, the most unbelievable upset in recent New England Patriots history came in the form of the “Miami Miracle,” as running back Kenyan Drake took a ridiculous run in for the score as time expired. This week, being week 2 of the 2019 NFL season, ageless quarterback Tom Brady delivered the Miami massacre, with help from the leagues’ top-ranked defense. In an all-around blowout against the Miami Dolphins, new Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who served as the Patriots defensive play-caller last season, received the full wrath of his former boss. Bill Belichick, a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Fame head coach, was questioned about his choice to keep his starters on the field in the fourth quarter while already up 37-0.
“If you don’t let them score, you can’t lose” the seemingly emotionless Belichick quickly answered. Not one to ever be caught up in the moment or mistaking a single victory as some significance, something that other head coaches do so often, Belichick has a chip on his shoulder following the “Miami Miracle.”
But now, in a new season, with such turmoil from the front office to the depth chart, Miami stood no chance against the defending league champions. New England’s defense didn’t miss a step without key 2018 defensive starter Trey Flowers, who joined the Detroit Lions in the past offseason. The Patriots smothered the Dolphins’ offense with both long-time journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and second-year quarterback Josh Rosen taking turns unsuccessfully commanding Miami’s offense through the game. In their last seven contests, the Patriots’ defense has allowed a total of 10 first-half points. In this year’s first two games they have allowed only three first-half points, far and away the best in the NFL, as the next closest team is the Green Bay Packers defensive unit allowing 19 on the season. They are also only letting up 246 yards per game, which is 30 yards better than the next closest team, the Baltimore Ravens. Going into the season, this defensive unit, on paper, had the potential to be the best group New England has fielded since the star-studded 2004 Super Bowl Champion squad, but these two first games have been unfathomable.
The Patriots’ front seven has shown a suffocating pass rush, racking up eight sacks in two games, which puts them in a three-way tie for second-most in the NFL. After picking off Miami four times — that puts that group at five for the season, good for first in the NFL — two of the interceptions were returned for touchdowns by linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Glancing back over to the other side of the ball, and it is once again hard to find a hole on the roster.
After dropping 33 points on a talented Pittsburgh Steelers defense, New England acquired arguably the best wide receiver in Pittsburgh Steelers history, Antonio Brown. The Patriots wasted no time incorporating the dynamic receiver in the offense; Brown caught three balls on just as many targets in the first half. Brown’s most impressive catch of the day came on his first touchdown as a Patriot, easily catching a 20-yard back-shoulder fade from Brady. Subsequently, as allegations have come forth about Brown regarding his involvement in misconduct with his trainer this past week, the Patriots have released him, as is the policy of Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.
If there was a downside to this blowout, it was losing starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn to an injury. It is unclear how much time Wynn is expected to miss, but it is worth noting that this is now the third injury to an already shaky offensive line, which collectively was one of the best in the league during last year’s playoff run. New England lost starting center David Andrews for the season because of a blood clot before week one, and right tackle Marcus Cannon suffered a lower-body injury in the second half against the Steelers in the season opener. The Patriots added more depth to their offensive line prior to the season opener, but this team cannot afford to lose any more of their offensive linemen if they hope to keep Brady upright and the running game going strong as cold, winter football looms on the horizon.
Another downside would be the performance of kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The placekicker looked like a hot mess this preseason, with the past few seasons showing similar phases of inaccuracy. Belichick must have confidence in his long term placekicker, as he did not bring in another kicker to at least try and challenge Gostkowski during the offseason. Gostkowski has historically had tough performances in Miami so the hope is that this game is just an example of history repeating itself and he can shake it off before the Patriots need him to save them late in a game.
New England’s next test will be hosting a Jets’ team that lost both their starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, and backup quarterback, Trevor Siemian, for extended periods of time. Third-string quarterback Luke Falk will be asked to spark some life into an abysmal offense, which has barely outscored their own defense 12 points to seven. Given the ease of schedule in New England’s next six games; New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, the Jets again and the Cleveland Browns, it isn’t unrealistic to think Brady and company will march into Baltimore undefeated at 8-0 come the midseason mark. Time will tell as Brady continues to dissect defenses and play with intensity at age 42, but he may be attempting to completely fill both his hands with rings before he rides off into the sunset.