Tom Brady led a full-scale destruction of the Dolphins in a 36-7 victory in Foxborough on “Thursday Night Football.” Despite a makeshift offensive line and an effective Miami pass rush, Brady carved up the Dolphins for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
It’s hard to overstate how well Brady and the Patriots‘ offense are playing this season. He has 20 scores and one interception on the season, and that pick was a dropped pass by Julian Edelman. This didn’t even feel like one of his more dominant games and he still wound up putting 36 points on the board against a peaking defense. The return of Dion Lewis to the lineup was massive, with an early third-and-16 conversion setting the tone for the night. The ankle-breaking back caught six passes for 93 yards and a score. Rob Gronkowski finished with 113 yards and now leads the NFL with seven receiving touchdowns.
This is the best sustained period of dominance we’ve seen from the Brady-era Patriots since the 2007 season in large part because the defense is so frisky. The Dolphins, who scored 41 points in the first half last week, didn’t cross midfield before halftime this time around. The entire Dolphins team was held to 15 yards rushing after Lamar Miller racked up 300 yards over the last two weeks. When the Dolphins‘ defense forced four straight punts in the first half, Miami’s offense couldn’t take advantage. Give him enough possessions, and Brady is going to find the weak spots of a defense.
The Patriots have a way of destroying the optimism of their AFC East rivals. The Bills‘ defense was frothing at the mouth before Brady dropped 40 points on them in Week 2. They’ve scored at least 30 points in every game since.
The Dolphins came into this game riding high and believing they had turned things under Campbell. But motivational speeches only go so far, and Ryan Tannehill hasn’t shown an ability to adjust when his first option is taken away. The Patriots took away the running game and got consistent pressure on Tannehill, sacking him five times and hitting him 10 times overall. Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are as versatile and athletic a front-seven trio as there is in the entire league.
It’s an especially painful loss for the Dolphins because they fell to 0-3 in the division, and lost one of their best players. Defensive end Cameron Wake left on a cart with an Achilles injury. If Wake is out for a significant time, this defense is a lot less scary.
The Dolphins head to Buffalo in Week 9 in what practically feels like an elimination game in the AFC East. The loser will be 3-5 and in dead last in the division. Miami went into the season believing it had the talent to compete with the Patriots, but Thursday night was a reminder of how little things have changed. If anything, this Patriots team feels further ahead of the pack than usual.