Picked-up pieces from third-quarter review of the New England Patriots' season-opening loss to the Dolphins:
1. One injury that flew a bit under the radar was to backup center Ryan Wendell, who had Dolphins linebacker Jonathan Freeny land on the back of his legs on the play in which quarterback Tom Brady was strip-sacked by Cameron Wake. Wendell got up slowly, limped off, and didn't play again. This could affect plans to rotate personnel on Sunday in Minnesota. I'd expect Wendell to show up on Wednesday's injury report.
2. First-year right guard Jordan Devey had a very difficult quarter, the type of 15-minute stretch that makes one wonder if he will be able to hold on to the job next Sunday. He was bull-rushed by tackle Randy Starks on first-and-10 (6:55 remaining) to allow a pressure on an incomplete pass to Brandon LaFell, was slow to pick up a looping Wake on third-and-8 to allow another pressure on an incomplete pass, missed a backside block in failing to cut down defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on a Stevan Ridley run for minus-2 yards (Mitchell made the tackle), and then allowed an easy inside pressure to Jared Odrick on a second-and-20 play in which Brady was sacked by linebacker Chris McCain, who had beaten left tackle Nate Solder.
3. With protection like that, Brady didn't have much of a chance. This isn't to spare Brady accountability on some missed throws, but I don't think too many signal-callers would be able to succeed given the play of the linemen in front of him. It wasn't very competitive in the third quarter.
4. After a performance like this, the Patriots have long had comfort that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was at the controls, and would most likely sort things out. It's only one game, and let's keep that important context in mind, but now the spotlight shines a bit brighter on first-year line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. How are players responding to his coaching? Are they getting better under his watch?
5. Offensive linemen weren't the only issue when it came to blocking. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui also had a very difficult quarter. The combination of him being a shade slow at the snap, and Wake having such an impressive/explosive get-off, led to Wake's strip-sack of Brady (one of the turning-point plays of the game). Brady had a play-action fake to Ridley, with fullback James Develin coming underneath Brady from right to left to further sell the action from a blocking perspective, which left Hoomanawanui on Wake one-on-one. At first, the feeling here was that Ridley perhaps could have helped block Wake, but Wake got there so fast, it wasn't a realistic expectation. Could Brady have protected the ball better? Perhaps. But given how quickly Wake arrived on the scene, I think it's one of those plays where it's more about crediting the defender than anything else. Hoomanawanui then had the obvious holding penalty on a first-and-10 run to the right side by Ridley later in the quarter. Between him and Devey, it was a third quarter to forget.
6. Haven't seen such poor run fits from the Patriots' front six (sub) and seven (base) in some time. Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins were over-running plays. Defensive linemen were getting pushed aside and re-positioned. Thus, gaps that should have been accounted for were instead wide-open running lanes. It was almost as if the players in the front six and seven weren't trusting their teammates to be in their assigned areas, and each individual was trying to do a bit too much. Kept waiting for some type of adjustment from the sideline, maybe a simplification of things to settle things down, but it was hard to tell if it ever came. That's why it felt like the Dolphins coaching staff was just a step ahead of Belichick & Co., in part by quickening the pace and continuing to call those inside zone runs.
7. Not seeing the elusiveness that was expected when the Patriots signed receiver Danny Amendola last year as a free-agent. On his 2-yard catch-and-run on a receiver screen (6:49 remaining), you're just looking for him to make someone miss or at the least show a little more explosion. Not sure if it's that he's playing tentative, or afraid to cut it loose, but he just doesn't seem to be back to the dynamic player we saw in the 2013 season-opener at the Bills.
8. This might be too nit-picky (you be the judge and let me know), but a few times in the game, it caught the eye that it was referee Walt Anderson reaching his hand down to help quarterback Brady up off the turf, not Brady's big guys up front. CBS analyst Trent Green made the point in the first quarter and it showed up again in the third as Brady was consistently battered. Maybe it's a stretch, but that's where I think the Patriots probably miss Logan Mankins the most. He was sort of like a hockey team's version of the enforcer, the Shawn Thornton, if you will. He took each hit to Brady personally and made sure Brady knew that every time.
9. Yikes. What unfolded in the third quarter is not what coaches and players would call "Patriots football". That was about as ugly as it gets.