In the locker room on Monday, several New England Patriots' players were asked about whether their 33-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins looked as bad on film as it felt in the moment.
It looked bad at first, but it could have been worse.
Fortunately for the Patriots, there are 16 games in an NFL season and not just one. There are some areas of Sunday's performance that can be corrected, but the game was a lot closer than it could have been if the Dolphins had held onto the ball and capitalized on opportunities that were staring them square in the face.
Each week, we'll go through the game film to look back on some of the major storylines coming out of each game, and track some stats along the way. The players have already reviewed the game and turned the page to their Week 2 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, but with the all-22 film being made available via NFL Game Rewind on Tuesdays, let's take one last opportunity to look back at Week 1 before turning the page for good.
We spent the summer tracking the one-on-one pass-rush drills, so why not carry it over into the regular season? Let's take a look at how the Patriots' offensive and defensive linemen did in pass-rushing situations.
Defense (31 total pass snaps):
Chandler Jones: 29 pass-rush attempts; 0 hurries
Dont'a Hightower: 20 pass-rush attempts; 1 hurry; 3 hits
Vince Wilfork: 19 pass-rush attempts; 1 hurry
Sealver Siliga: 16 pass-rush attempts; 0 hurries
Joe Vellano: 12 pass-rush attempts; 1 hurry
Dominique Easley: 13 pass-rush attempts; 0 hurries
Rob Ninkovich: 12 pass-rush attempts; 2 hurries
Jerod Mayo: 2 pass-rush attempts; 1 hurry; 1 sack
Patrick Chung: 2 pass-rush attempts; 0 hurries
Tavon Wilson: 2 pass-rush attempts; 0 hurries
In total, the Patriots got pressure 10 times (six hurries, three hits, one sack), with three additional hits coming back on penalties (two by Chandler Jones, one by Dont'a Hightower. The Patriots sent four or fewer rushers on 26 of Tannehill's 32 dropbacks, and five or more rushers on the other six. Five of the six five-man rushes came in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots got their only sack of the game on a five-man pressure, with Jerod Mayo coming through the B-gap to take down Tannehill on a delayed rush. Mayo timed his rush perfectly to get through the line at just the right time, with Chandler Jones occupying the guard and Rob Ninkovich rushing the edge to get the offensive tackle out wide.
The Patriots got pressure five times out of their seven five-man rushes, and logged the sack, with one of those pressures resulting in a penalty on Jones for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Tannehill.
The most impressive rush of the day may have been on Dont'a Hightower's hit of Tannehill with 7:27 remaining in the second quarter. Not only did Hightower get a nice burst off the snap, but he put on a heck of a spin move that floored Dolphins tight end Charles Clay.
Hightower rushed frequently on Sunday, sometimes lining up with his hand in the dirt as a defensive lineman. This is all a dramatic change from his role in past years, where he has been almost exclusively used in a two-point stance off the line of scrimmage, where he has been exposed for a lack of high-end athleticism in space.
Offense (60 total pass snaps):
LT Nate Solder: 60 snaps; 1 hit; 2 sacks
LG Marcus Cannon: 60 snaps; 3 hits
C/RG Dan Connolly: 60 snaps; 1 hurry; 1 hit
RT Sebastian Vollmer: 60 snaps; 2 hurries; 1 hit; 1 sack
RG Jordan Devey: 46 snaps; 5 hurries; 1 hit
C Ryan Wendell: 14 snaps; 1 hurry
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 9 snaps; 1 sack
RB Shane Vereen: 5 snaps; no hurries
FB James Develin: 4 snaps; no hurries
TE Rob Gronkowski: 1 snap; no hurries
Tom Brady was pressured a total of 21 times. He was hurried ten times, hit seven times, and sacked four times.
There were times where Brady was sacked too quickly after the snap. His four sacks came in 2.2, 2.87, 2.78 and 2.75 seconds, respectively.
The Patriots tried to set up a play-action pass on this play with 9:14 left in the third quarter, but made the unfortunate decision to have Michael Hoomanawanui try to block Cameron Wake one-on-one. Wake beat Hoomanawanui with his elite first-step quickness, and got to Brady in 2.2 seconds.
At times, the pressure collapsed on Brady so quickly, it was hard to attribute blame.
On this sack by Dolphins defensive end/outside linebacker Chris McCain with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter, not only did left tackle Nate Solder miss McCain, but right guard Jordan Devey also gave up pressure to defensive tackle Jared Odrick.
Devey and Cannon seemed to have the roughest days in pass protection. Each man had trouble with Odrick at separate points. The Dolphins defensive line is exceptional at getting after the quarterback, and these two are not going to run into many more talented interior pass-rushers this season than they saw in Week 1.
Pass Defense Could Have Been Worse
Tannehill went 18-of-32 passing (56.3 percent) for 178 yards (5.6 yards per attempt), two touchdowns, an interception and a 79.9 passer rating. With a little better accuracy on a few throws, and a little more help from his teammates on a few others, Tannehill's numbers could have been even better.
The Dolphins receivers dropped three passes, and there were at least three throws by Tannehill that missed the mark on an open receiver.
The one missed opportunity that immediately comes to mind is the near-touchdown pass with 4:00 remaining in the second quarter. Cornerback Darrelle Revis lined up on wide receiver Mike Wallace in off coverage — he spent most of his day in zone, giving Wallace cushion for a free release off the line of scrimmage.
Wallace released into his route, running straight upfield before breaking toward the sideline. By the time Revis reacted to the first move, Wallace was already getting ready to make his second move by running straight toward the end zone.
Give Tannehill credit for getting this ball over 40 yards downfield while running away from defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, but if this ball should have been delivered another yard or two to the inside to give Wallace some room to make the catch away from the sideline, as opposed to directly in the back corner of the end zone, it would have been an easy score.
Wallace was tracking the ball all the way down the sideline, and had beaten Revis pretty handily at that point; a change of location on the pass wouldn't have hurt.
Wallace is getting paid well enough that he should be able to make those kinds of catches, but this was one time where both the quarterback and receiver could take some blame.
How about this overthrow of Charles Clay in the corner of the end zone? Receivers don't get much more open than Clay got against Devin McCourty, but Tannehill led his receiver way too far out in front, resulting in the incompletion.
With more accuracy on those, and a couple other throws, this game could have been 53-20 instead of 33-20.
Run Defense Couldn't Have Been Worse
The Dolphins were trying not to give away their game plan on offense during the preseason, but it didn't take long after the game for head coach Joe Philbin to tip his hand.
"We knew going into the game that we wanted to run a lot of inside zone," he said.
The inside zone works off the concept of getting the defensive linemen moving laterally, with the running back hitting the first hole he sees between the tackles. The Dolphins offensive line was able to move the Patriots front seven out of the way to create holes for the backs.
It really didn't matter whether the Patriots were in a three-man front, four-man front, 3-4, 4-3, nickel or base. The Dolphins had success running the ball regardless of the defensive alignment.
The Patriots were in a four-man line on this nine-yard run by Knowshon Moreno with 13:34 remaining in the third quarter. Moreno took the ball through the B-gap between defensive tackle Joe Vellano and defensive end Chandler Jones. Jones was kicked outside by left tackle Branden Albert; Vellano did everything right by getting low pad level and keeping his eyes on the running back, but he could not shed the block from center Samson Satele, which allowed the guard to get out to the second level and block Mayo.
The veteran linebacker got off the block just in time to make the stop before Moreno picked up he first down, but the Dolphins' solid blocks up front allowed Moreno to get past the first wave of defenders.
It wasn't just the defensive line that was caught out of position.
On this 15-yard run by Moreno in the second quarter, the Dolphins offensive line started off moving to the left, getting the Patriots defensive line moving laterally to match them. Moreno ran the ball through the B-gap between Vince Wilfork and Joe Vellano (who had been taken out of the play by a cut-block) after cutting back. Mayo was waiting for the play to develop, but instead got blocked out of the play by the guard, allowing Moreno an easy path through the second level.
Both Mayo and Jamie Collins need to have more of an attacking mentality, in that they need to be heading toward the play rather than letting the play come to them and, ultimately, taking on a block from an offensive lineman at the second level.
There was also a problem with missed tackles. The Patriots whiffed on Dolphins running backs nine times, and allowed an additional 94 rushing yards after contact. Alfonzo Dennard had three missed tackles, while Patrick Chung and Collins each had two, and Vince Wilfork and Chandler Jones each had one.
The defensive line has taken its share of criticism this week, but as we can see, their problems defending the run were not all about the problems up front. There are other issues plaguing the Patriots defense right now, and a lot of people have to improve if this defense is going to live up to the gigantic hype.