Picked-up pieces from third-quarter review of the Patriots' 24-20 loss to the Dolphins:
1. For those critical of the Patriots “abandoning the run”, the pass-pass-pass sequence that preceded Stephen Gostkowski's missed 48-yard field goal is an area that could be viewed as one to support your viewpoint. The Patriots had runs of 5, 5 and 1 yard on the drive at that point, and had advanced to the Miami 30-yard line when Tom Brady was in the shotgun with an empty backfield and a 2 WR/1 TE/1 FB/1 RB package on the field. The Dolphins countered in their base D. This was the type of matchup where the Patriots exploited the Texans on Dec. 1 in the passing game, but they couldn't duplicate the success against Miami on first down (incomplete pass to Shane Vereen). On second down, the 3 WR/1 FB/1 RB package produced an incomplete pass to Vereen as Brady was once again in the shotgun. Three somewhat lackluster pass plays there naturally left some to wonder why LeGarrette Blount didn't get a chance to keep plowing ahead. It's always easy to say after the fact, but that's one sequence where offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels might look back and wish he'd called an early-down run.
2. Some sloppy tackling by cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in the game, such as on Brian Hartline's 19-yard catch-and-run (9:32 remaining) on a slant. It sure seemed as if the Patriots were relying on Dennard and Kyle Arrington to win some battles one-on-one on the outside as part of a plan to devote more resources between the numbers (e.g. Aqib Talib to the inside part of the field), and they did at times. But overall, the Dolphins won more of them (Mike Wallace 9-yard catch with 3:33 remaining), with Tannehill impressing with his ability to deliver some strikes.
3. Credit defensive end Chandler Jones for drawing the holding penalty on left guard Sam Brenner on third-and-4, which was declined as the Dolphins kicked a field goal on fourth down. Jones rushed from an inside position, with Andre Carter coming to rush at right defensive end in the dime package. That's been an effective approach for the Patriots this year, using Jones to create some disruption inside. It also gives Jones a chance to showcase some diverse skills, as he previously picked up his team-high 11.5 sack in the second quarter with a nice inside move on left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
4. Tough assignment for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to block defensive end Cameron Wake on the play Brady was sacked (5:37 remaining) for the first time. Hard to imagine that was the way the Patriots had their protection drawn up, although part of it is a result of the stress the Dolphins put on the opposition by showing blitz looks pre-snap. Just a hunch, but it seemed as if right tackle Marcus Cannon maybe wasn't seeing the same picture as the others up front, as he initially blocked down on Jared Odrick along with right guard Dan Connolly, leaving Hoomanawanui on the island with Wake.
5. Linebacker Dane Fletcher's pass interference penalty on third-and-4 from the 7-yard line looked like the right call. Specifically, it looked like his right arm (on the right shoulder) turned tight end Dion Sims enough to create the interference. There was enough contact to warrant the flag from this viewpoint, similar to the beginning of Hoomanawanui's route on his second-quarter touchdown catch (no penalty on that one). Sims also sold it well. That was a big play in the game, as the Dolphins didn't have to settle for a field goal, scoring a touchdown two plays later.