Patriots Report Card: Kyle Dugger, Jakobi Meyers among rare bright spots in Pats’ loss at Miami

Maybe the best way to describe the 2020 Patriots is not unable or unfortunate, but labored.
Everything about their play feels just a little bit harder.
Early leads seem like miniature miracles. Stopping the run starts with everyone crossing their fingers and back on their heels. The passing offense — and arguably the entire team — operates like it’s perpetually facing a stiff wind.
So facing an opponent that knew them inside and out Sunday, naturally the Pats’ do-or-die game in Miami would be difficult. But it shouldn’t have been that hard. The Patriots were gifted a goal-line interception, a missed field goal, several penalties, a called-back touchdown and a dropped Dolphins pick and couldn’t capitalize.
The wind of self-defeat beat them as much as Miami did.
According to the Miami Herald, the Dolphins knew the wind would win and opted to sit several injured starters who could have played had Sunday been an elimination game. Of course, given their postseason odds would have dropped to 7% with a loss, it was essentially an elimination game. But Miami rolled the dice anyway, and won.
Because that’s been life, even in Week 15 against a rival facing identical stakes, for the Patriots in 2020.
Here are the position-by-position grades from the Pats’ latest loss:
Quarterbacks: C
The honeymoon’s over, and Cam Newton and this offense are way past counseling.
The worst parts of the Patriots’ passing performance wasn’t even Newton’s fault necessarily. They were drops by Devin Asiasi and Damiere Byrd, a poor connection with N’Keal Harry on third down that stopped a drive and fumbled receptions by Jakobi Meyers and Dalton Keene; mistakes the offense can’t afford in its current form. Overall, Newton delivered an accurate pass on 80% of his throws and rushed for 38 yards. He was far from his worst, but nonetheless inadequate, especially considering his first-half fumble.
The Pats can’t survive those types of turnovers, and were fortunate the ball bounced off Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins while Wilkins was out of bounds before it was raced back for a touchdown. But given a second chance, Newton and Co. couldn’t score a single touchdown.
Running backs: C
Sony Michel ran hard and decisively, which is all the Patriots could ask for from him given his declining burst. Michel also caught one pass for eight yards to keep a drive going. Ultimately, they didn’t miss much with Damien Harris sidelined by an ankle injury.
James White allowed a sack, continuing a bizarrely poor year for him in blitz pickup. He caught four passes, second-most on the team. Beyond Michel and Newton, the Pats received five rushing yards from White and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor, who saw his first game action Sunday since Week 3.
Wide receivers: C-
Jakobi Meyers’ second career 100-yard game was the lifeblood of the offense. Meyers beat Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard for multiple catches and threatened Miami at all levels of the field. The only blemish on his performance was the third-quarter fumble, a major mistake the Pats didn’t pay for thanks to their lone defensive stand in the second half.
Otherwise, Harry and Byrd combined for four catches and 36 yards.
Tight ends: F
What more can you say?
Rookies Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi have fallen flat on their faces this season, even accounting for the terrible circumstances surrounding their first years in the NFL. Asiasi still doesn’t have a catch to his name, and Keene caught one of his two targets Sunday, then promptly fumbled it. Both were non-factors as run-blockers.
Offensive line: C
Rough day for David Andrews.
Before leaving in the fourth quarter with a calf injury, Andrews allowed three hurries and a QB hit around other lost snaps in pass protection when Newton unloaded the ball before pressure arrived. Rookie left tackle Justin Herron surrendered a sack, one QB hit and a hurry. Right guard Shaq Mason allowed the final sack that ended the game, though Newton was surrounded on all sides at that point.
Left guard Joe Thuney and right tackle Mike Onwenu posted clean sheets, though Onwenu experienced rare struggles when run-blocking.
Defensive line: D+
No run stuffs, little resistance, a lot of problems.
The Pats’ D-line was shockingly overmatched in the second half, when Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise couldn’t create a wall against any Miami running backs. Butler struggled worst, particularly in 1-on-1 matchups with center Ted Karras, a former Patriot. Wise finished with one hurry. Byron Cowart had a decent day.
Linebackers: D
The worst of the Pats’ run defense could be found on the edges, where Chase Winovich and Shilique Calhoun were at fault on a couple of back-breaking runs in the second half. Calhoun also missed two tackles. Rookie Josh Uche let Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa escape on a zone-read in the third quarter and missed a tackle. John Simon missed two tackles, and rookie Anfernee Jennings whiffed once.
Former practice-squad callup Tashawn Bower had one pressure and broke up a pass. Winovich’s hit on Tagovailoa caused Miami’s only turnover.
Defensive backs: B
Kyle Dugger accounted for both of the Pats’ two run-stuffs and recorded his first pass breakup as a pro. The Patriots largely covered well, as expected, even without Stephon Gilmore. The Dolphins entered kickoff without their top five wide receivers. That said, the tackling could’ve been tightened up with Dugger, Devin McCourty, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson all missing once.
Jackson’s interception was a gift, and he allowed a team-high three catches. Jones drew a holding penalty, and veteran safety Adrian Phillips picked up a sack in the first half.
Special teams: B
Nick Folk exceeded expectations long ago, and now he’s forcing the Patriots to wonder whether they should return him in 2021.
Folk hasn’t missed a field goal in three months, during which time he’s only misfired on a single extra point. The longtime veteran went 4-for-4 on Sunday, keeping the Pats in a gamein which they had otherwise been thoroughly outplayed. Punter Jake Bailey dropped one of two punts inside Miami’s 20, with the help of a spectacular play by captain Matthew Slater.
The Patriots were ineffective on returns, limited to four touchbacks on kickoffs and two punt returns by Gunner Olszewski that went for 16 yards combined.
Coaching: D+
Offensively, the Pats smartly stuck to their best plays and operated from a no-huddle. They made one personnel change over their two field goal drives in the first half, yet kept Miami off-balance enough to keep driving. The problem, of course, was in finishing any drive with a touchdown, which they failed to do for the second straight game.
Defensively, the Patriots were called for a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty to start the fourth quarter. Inexcusable. Their fundamental breakdowns, particularly with tackling, were a poor reflection of the staff. And their inability to stop the run in the second half, despite knowing all the Dolphins could do was rush, was a basic, fatal flaw.
A bad showing all around, not to mention the fact they had three extra days to prepare.
Head of the class
WR Jakobi Meyers Imagine where the Patriots’ passing attack would be without him.
K Nick Folk Imagine where the Patriots’ season would be without him.
S Kyle Dugger The rookie recorded his first career pass breakup and made a couple of run-stuffs. He was solid throughout.
Back of the pack
OLB Chase Winovich Another Sunday example of why the coaching staff doesn’t trust him against the run.
OLB Shilique Calhoun He missed two tackles and lost the edge a few more times.
DT Adam Butler Butler was routinely overmatched in the run game and missed a tackle around two pressures.

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