Patriots defense, not Antonio Brown, was biggest story in Sunday’s win over Dolphins

Ryan Hannable
September 15, 2019 - 10:23 pm
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It is hard to imagine a more anticipated debut for a player in a Patriots uniform than Antonio Brown on Sunday against the Dolphins.

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Less than a week after the team officially signed the star wide receiver, he was on the field in Miami. It also was five days after he was accused of sexual assault and rape in a civil lawsuit.

Brown finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown, but even with that performance and hype with everything surrounding him, the biggest story of the day was the play of the Patriots defense.

New England shut out the Dolphins, 43-0, in what was an absolute beatdown.

While shutting out the Dolphins isn’t a huge deal given the state of their franchise, it’s the way that they did it and how much potential the unit appears to have which makes it the story.

“Those guys are really good,” running back James White said. “We compete against them each and every day. They challenge us. They make us better, we make them better. They played good in back-to-back weeks and hopefully they keep it going. They are very talented.”

Overall, the Patriots held the Dolphins to 184 yards of total offense, an average of 3 yards per play, but a lot of that came in garbage time late in the game. At the end of the third quarter, Miami had run just one play in Patriots territory, and that resulted in a 5-yard sack.

The shutout was the 10th in the Bill Belichick era and the team has not allowed a touchdown in three straight games dating back to Super Bowl LIII. It’s the first time in team history it has gone three straight games without allowing a touchdown.

While shutting out the opposition is always a good thing, the unit was also able to contribute to the scoring by having two interceptions returned for touchdowns — one by Stephon Gilmore early in the fourth quarter and then another one by Jamie Collins off a deflection on the next possession.

It was the 10th time in franchise history the team had two interceptions returned for a touchdowns, and first since Nov. 18, 2018 against the Colts. 

“They were spectacular as always,” Tom Brady said. “They’ve been playing great, playing great all preseason. Two interception returns for touchdowns. That was pretty insane. Then the last play to end it was a great play. So it takes some pressure off the offense. They’re doing an incredible job.”

And all that didn’t even mention the fact the unit recorded seven sacks of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.

It simply was a dominating performance and leads to the question of just how good can the unit be? 

Historically, the defense gets better as the year goes on, so if it gets any better than it is now that means the rest of the NFL could be in a lot of trouble. 

In past years there have been new players added to the mix and it has taken some time to get everyone on the same page and the communication down, but that isn’t the case this year. Almost the entire unit that held the Rams to only three points in the Super Bowl is back with the additions of Jamie Collins, Michael Bennett and Chase Winovich.

The defense has the ability to get after the quarterback, and then has a secondary that can contain really any wide receiver in the NFL. In Week 1 against the Steelers, Donte Moncrief had 7 yards on 10 targets and then Sunday in Miami, DeVante Parker finished without a catch on seven targets.

Even with all their success in the first two games, the players have remained level-headed, but are certainly aware of their potential.

“The sky is definitely the limit, but we just have to continue to put the work in, each and every week, each and every day,” safety Duron Harmon said. “Like I said, how good we’re going to be is going to depend on us and right now, everything is looking up.”

Up indeed, as in potentially one of the best defenses Belichick has ever coached. 

And with an offense as powerful as what has been shown, this not only has the potential to be a special defense, but a special team, too.

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