David Butler II/USA Today Sports

Patriots 38, Dolphins 7: 10 quick thoughts from much-needed win

Ryan Hannable
September 30, 2018 - 3:57 pm

FOXBORO — All is right in New England again.

After entering the game 1-2, losers of two straight, and facing a 3-0 Dolphins team, the Patriots responded with one of their best games in quite some time and rolled to a 38-7 win.

The running game paced the offense, finishing with a total of 175 yards, led by Sony Michel's 102. On defense, New England limited the Miami offense to just 172 total yards. The Dolphins scored their lone touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the game.

Related: Watch every Patriots game season this season with fuboTV -- click to start free trial now

1. The Patriots came to play from the start. Although they only finished with a field goal on the opening drive, the drive set the tone for the game as the unit was much more physical than it has been in past weeks. Getting off to a fast start was a main focus of the week and they got it done.

2. Defensively, the thing that stood out most was the energy and emotion the Patriots showed. Of course it’s hard to celebrate plays when down by double digits, but there was a noticeable difference from the previous couple of weeks. Players were flying to the ball and the tackling was much better as well. It’s clear the unit wanted to make a statement after their previous two showings against the Jaguars and Lions.

3. Tom Brady finished the game 23-for-35 with 274 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He made several nice throws, but it certainly wasn't a vintage Brady performance by any means. The quarterback missed on a few throws and threw two terrible interceptions, partly because he seemed uncomfortable in the pocket after taking several shots. His play will likely go up beginning this week when Julian Edelman comes back and he gets his favorite target back in the mix.

4. Josh Gordon made his Patriots debut and finished with two catches for 32 yards. While he didn’t show up much on the stat sheet, his presence was felt. On one third-down conversion, Gordon ran a go route forcing the safety to shade towards him and this left an area open for Rob Gronkowski to be targeted for the first down. His presence just opens up things for Gronkowski and other players in the offense and it will only get better with time and more experience.

5. Gronkowski finished the game with just four catches for 44 yards. The tight end ran shorter routes than in recent weeks and also was more involved in the blocking game. He chipped on a number of plays and even stayed in to block on several more. Gronkowski left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. It didn’t seem overly serious, but certainly worth keeping an eye on with the Thursday game. The Patriots were also up 31-0 when he went to the locker room, so it wasn’t like he was needed.

6. After not looking like himself to open the season, linebacker Dont’a Hightower had his best game of the season, being involved in several big defensive stops. This was a great sign. In addition, with Ja’Whaun Bentley on injured reserve, it looked like he took over the green dot and was the signal caller. The unit did see two players leave with injuries in the second half -- Adam Butler and Elandon Roberts. 

7. Third down play was a major factor in the win. The Patriots offense went 10-for-14 on third down, while Miami went just 3-for-11 on third down. This was a major issue on both sides of the ball dating back to Week 1 against the Texans and was nice to see a change.

8. In his return to Gillette Stadium, Danny Amendola finished with two catches for 21 yards. Before the game he caught up with a number of his teammates. Amendola was one of the most respected players in the locker room during his time in New England. Some of the longer embraces were with Chris Hogan and Brady.

9. Speaking of Hogan, the wide receiver finished with one reception for 25 yards and it came early in the fourth quarter. He has been very underwhelming to start the season and some of this could be because he's been the Patriots' best receiving option and he has drawn the opponents No. 1 corner. Also, he's had to line up a lot more out of the slot, which is not really his game. His production should go up when Edelman returns next week.

10. It will be a short week for the team as it prepares to host the Colts on Thursday night. Edelman is also allowed back in the building beginning Monday and he will return from his four-game suspension. The offense should look even better with his presence and also Gordon having a game under his belt.

Cordarrelle Patterson became the 70th player to catch a TD pass from Brady, which ties the NFL record with Vinny Testaverde.

Related: Watch: Josh Gordon makes first catch as member of Patriots