Foxborough, MA - The Patriots find themselves 0-2 for the first time since 2001 after an ultimately close but decisive 24-17 loss in which they never led and never brought the game level after Miami first opened up the scoring. As they head into an early must-win game against the Jets, here are the biggest takeaways for the Patriots from Sunday Night's loss.
The Patriots Need To Start Better
Five - that's how many times the Patriots led at halftime in the last 21 games. Of the other 16, they've won four and came within a score five times. Simply put, too often, the Patriots are putting themselves in self-inflicted precarious situations that they've had to dig out of. And more often than not, they're falling short - sometimes just short. In their last six games, they've now had four where they were down by double digits (Cincy and Vegas from last year, and their first two this year), and came within a play or two of winning - but didn't.
Close enough simply isn't good enough anymore for these Patriots. Playing reserved, conservative football to start games has resulted in early mistakes, leading to promising possessions ending, and allowing openings for their opponents. The Patriots need to start playing Patriot football from the very first snap moving forward this season and start establishing themselves early in the game.
Turnovers have also been an issue in each of the last two games - two early turnovers against Philly and the early fumble against Miami - while the team was driving - resulted in large, early deficits for the Patriots, something they HAVE to avoid moving forward.
Aggression On Offense Is A Must
The Patriots didn't have a single play above 20 yards all night against Miami, and against Philadelphia, they had only two. It's not that they weren't able to move the ball - they actually had 23 first downs in the game, one more than Miami. However over time, Miami was able to start looking out for the short game, and without any established threat of explosive plays, New England's offensive became predictable.
Miami, on the other hand, scattered a very strong New England defense with their aggression. Dinking and dunking can certainly work on occasion, but to complete their offense, the playcalling will have to be a lot bolder than it was on Sunday night. Against the NFL's best teams, the short/quick game simply isn't enough.
New England's Secondary Depth Could Be An Issue
While the Patriots were admirable overall on defense, there were definitely issues, and while one of them was certainly dealing with Miami's inside zone running, secondary depth was a major one. The Patriots went with a strategy focusing on limiting Miami's explosive pass game, focusing on Tyreek Hill, but it was an approach that required strong play throughout the secondary group.
With Jonathan and Jack Jones dealing with injuries, and Marcus Jones getting injured early in the game, the Patriots were left relying, in large part, on rookie Christian Gonzalez, and more experienced but struggled CBs Shaun Wade and Myles Bryant. While those injuries will heal soon, the Patriots may want to consider trading for a veteran corner at the deadline, as their current lineup relies a lot on first and second-year guys. Lots of teams with deep and talented receiving cores will be facing New England, and they'll need to be ready.
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