FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It’s not quite time to panic in New England. But the Patriots' latest setback put them in a position they haven’t been in under Bill Belichick in more than 20 years.
Their 24-17 loss to Miami dropped them to 0-2, their first such start since 2001 — Belichick’s second season in New England. The Patriots haven't started 0-3 since Belichick's first season, when they started 0-4.
Many of the same issues that contributed to the Patriots’ season-opening loss — turnovers and issues on an offensive line that continues to be disrupted by injuries — were present again Sunday.
In both losses, it has added up to early deficits, something that Belichick said can’t continue be a trend if they are going to win games.
"That’s really the worst thing that can happen,” he said. “Defensively, we’ve had a couple of drives that didn’t result in a lot of points, but then those turnovers put us on a short field, so we had to battle through those. It’s just complementary team football, taking care of the ball and defensively being able to convert on third down to get off the field.”
Through two games, the Patriots have already turned the ball over four times, leading to 14 points.
Veteran center David Andrews said there’s plenty of confidence in the locker room to figure things out.
“I don’t think the belief is the problem,” he said. “I think you look at that the last two weeks, we didn’t lay down and quit. But belief only takes you so far. You’ve got to do it at some point, right? It’s more about execution than belief.”
Special teamer Brenden Schooler had one of the biggest plays of the night with his team trailing 17-3 late in the third quarter. With the Dolphins setting up for a 49-yard field goal attempt by Jason Sanders, Schooler initially lined up halfway between the the Patriots’ sideline and his teammates on the line of scrimmage.
He got a running start and timed his rush perfectly just as the ball was snapped. His momentum allowed him to easily get around the Dolphins’ edge protection and dive in nearly untouched for a block that was recovered by teammate Kyle Dugger.
“It’s a testament to our coaching staff because when they drew it up and told us what we were doing I thought to myself, ’I trust them, but I haven’t evert seen anything like this before,’” he said.
Raiders coach and former Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels said the play is sure to raise eyebrows around the league.
“If it works, then it tends to be stolen,” McDaniels said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Capitalizing on opponents’ errors has also been an issue for the Patriots.
New England’s ensuing offensive series after Schooler’s block quickly moved to the Miami 22 before a pass by Jones intended for DeVante Parker was intercepted by Xavien Howard.
It was one of three times in the final two quarters New England failed to capitalize on a miscue by Miami.
The Patriots went three-and-out following Tua Tagovailoa's interception in the fourth quarter. Then, following a missed 55-yard field goal attempt by Sanders with just over two minutes remaining, the Patriots failed to convert on fourth down, allowing Miami to run out the clock.
Rookie CB Christian Gonzalez. A week after registering his first career sack, he added his first interception in the fourth quarter when he adjusted to an underthrown ball by Tagovailoa and thwarted what would have been a long completion to Tyreek Hill.
Offensive line. For the second straight week, the Patriots were down a starter up front, this time playing without left tackle Trent Brown (concussion).
They did get back left guard Cole Strange, who sat out the opener with a knee issue. But even with Miami missing one of its top rushers in linebacker Jaelan Phillips, issues were apparent on that side of New England’s line early.
Brown’s replacement Vederian Lowe and Strange allowed penetration on a sack that stunted what was a promising New England game-opening drive.
The Dolphins finished with four sacks and hit Jones eight times.
CB Marcus Jones left after injuring his shoulder while tackling Jaylen Waddle early in the second quarter and did not return. Any missed time will leave a hole both in the secondary and on special teams, where he serves as punt and kick returner.
1992 – It’s the last time a Belichick-coached team trailed by double-digits in each of its first two games. Belichick was with the Browns that season. It had never happened during his Patriots tenure until Sunday night.
The Patriots hit the road for the first time this season when they visit the New York Jets, who they've beaten 14 straight times.
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson contributed.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL
Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press