The New England Patriots “hung tough” in this game and even brought it to within one score in the fourth quarter, but they aren’t in the same league as these Miami Dolphins. Even if this is the least talented team the Patriots have had in a while, the reality is that several of Bill Belichick’s championship-level Patriots teams were light on star power. You can get away with that when you’re a master of defensive game plans and you have a Hall of Fame quarterback under center.
Mac Jones isn’t Tom Brady though and we saw Tua Tagovailoa have his most successful day passing against a Bill Belichick defense in his young career. We also saw the Miami defense get a major boost from the return of Jalen Ramsey. While the Dolphins trailed for a small portion of this game, it never felt like they were in danger of losing. Let’s look at some key areas that elevated Miami past New England in this one.
A big day for Tua and Hill.
It doesn’t really matter what personnel they have, the Patriots always field a tough defense. That’s because they’re well-coached and always have a game plan in place to take away whatever it is that you do best. Tua had a rough interception early in this contest on a 3rd & long where he tried targeting a deep in-breaking route. The Patriots were prepared and picked it off.
Tua had another nice day and his best performance against a Belichick defense, in my opinion. Had some mistakes, but made big plays at the biggest moments. He's playing the position at an extremely high level. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/T6xIeSVq9m— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 31, 2023
After that though, Tua had himself a nice day. Both Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill went over 100 yards receiving and Tua is the first QB this season to break 300 yards passing against the New England Patriots. The level of improvement that we’ve seen from Tua this season isn’t talked about enough. His MVP season rolls on and he’ll have a great opportunity to cement his status ahead of Patrick Mahomes this week in Germany.
Welcome back, Mr. Ramsey!
After seeing him in action this week, you could make the argument that Ramsey is as impactful to this defense as Hill is to the offense. Ramsey was targeted three times and allowed one reception for 24 yards to go along with his interception. His QB rating allowed was a measly 23.6. This defense looks completely different with Ramsey on the field and we have to imagine that they’ll continue to improve this year.
I think Ramsey is in a deep 1/4 and this is some form of a cover 6 look with two deep quarters to the wide side of the field (I could be wrong). I think Mac has a window where he could maybe fit this in, but leads his man too far. Ramsey watching him all the way... beautiful. pic.twitter.com/9hABVSTHuW— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 31, 2023
The interception is just all instincts and the ability to read the offense. Ramsey has his eyes on Mac this entire play and is breaking on the ball as soon as he separates his hands. The most wild part about this is that they were missing Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland in this game. Once they’re back, I’m not sure where opposing offenses will target this secondary.
Where do both teams go from here?
This Patriots team feels like they are in desperate need of a reset, but there are a couple of problems with that. First, I don’t think Bill Belichick is going to want to finish his coaching career with a 4-13 campaign. He’s a good enough defensive coach to squeak out another 5-6 wins, which will hurt them come draft season. The other problem is they don’t have a lot of attractive pieces to ship off for draft capital. If the Dolphins hadn’t shipped off Laremy Tunsil, they never could have pulled off this rebuild. It feels like this Patriots team will be stuck in purgatory for some time.
The Dolphins on the other hand seem to be trending in the right direction. The narrative that they can’t beat good teams will stick with them until they do, but they’re winning the games they should win and positioning themselves for a postseason birth. The team appears to be getting healthy just in time for the bye week and will be in a position to make a second-half surge.
It is always strange to watch the Dolphins and Patriots play knowing that they owned the division (and NFL) for such a long time. Their roster is in complete disrepair and if we’re being honest here, it needs to be blown all the way up. The problem that they’re going to run into is finding a way to either get Belichick to agree to that or part ways with the historically successful coach. I’m sure the Patriots are going to pull off a handful of wins down the stretch, but that window closed the second Tom Brady left.
The Miami Dolphins showed how wide the gap is between these two teams in this contest. Obviously, the entire roster is more talented, but one of the more glaring gaps (regardless of what New England media likes to say) is in their quarterbacks. Tua has grown with each season in the NFL as Mac’s best performances are all the way back in his rookie season. The Dolphins will now turn their sights to a massive AFC showdown with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Germany with the opportunity to shift the narrative around their impressive 2023 season.