Well, that was interesting.
Here are three things we learned in the Patriots' Week 2 win against the Dolphins, 31-24, to move to 2-0.
1. Well, how do you feel about Jacoby Brissett?
This wasn’t exactly how the Patriots planned to begin a short week of practice in preparation for the Houston Texans on Thursday night. Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t just serviceable in his first NFL start in Foxboro, the New England backup was stellar, completing 18 of his 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. And then, the Patriots’ worst fears seemingly came true when Garoppolo went down with a shoulder injury that kept him out for the remainder of the game. Now, the Patriots, who seemed unstoppable in the first half against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, may have to rely on the rookie Brissett to last the next two games against Houston and Buffalo. Just when it seemed we were primed for some kind of fun imagining the trade scenarios that Garoppolo would bring in return. Brissett was OK in relief, throwing for 92 yards in an effort that clearly depended on the Patriots coaching staff not putting too much pressure on him. But will he have to make his first NFL start in only four days? Before Garoppolo went down, the Patriots led 24-0. After the injury, the Dolphins outscored the Patriots, 24-7. Yuck.
2. No Gronk, no Hightower, no issue?
Well, sort of. It might be hard to figure just how badly the Patriots missed tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was out for a second-straight game to stat the year with a nagging hamstring injury. But during Garoppolo’s time in the game, the quarterback had no problem finding favorite targets Danny Amendola (two touchdowns), and Martellus Bennett (one score) for his three touchdowns on the afternoon. The quarterback presented such a calmness and an accuracy in the pocket that Gronkowski’s absence wasn’t even on the forefront of anyone’s mind. The same can be said of Dont’a Hightower, who missed the game with a knee injury. But, for the most part, quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins brought such an inept offensive game plan to Gillette Stadium during the first half that he wasn’t exactly missed either. In the second half, when the Dolphins put at least a little bit of a scare into a Pats team seemed destined for a blowout victory? Well, maybe that was a different story.
3. The running game was better than expected. Again.
Dion Lewis is still out for the foreseeable future, yet the Patriots don’t seem to be missing too much in the ground game. It was a nice performance from running back LeGarrette Blount (123 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries) including some solid game-killing runs during New England’s final drive of the game. The Patriots’ offensive line seems to have resurrected itself from early-season issues that have plagued it the past couple of seasons. That’s not to call returning offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia a miracle worker — and it didn’t hurt to have Nate Solder return to the fold on Sunday — but for an aspect of the Patriots that has been a permanent question mark, it’s been an impressive unit over the first two games, no doubt aided by Garoppolo’s quick release and Brissett’s mobility as well.