Does Tua Tagovailoa own Bill Belichick? Plus other final thoughts from Patriots-Dolphins

Patriots

Belichick and Co. have lost to the Dolphins five times in a row with Tagovailoa under center. It’s becoming a pattern.

Bill Belichick. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
  • New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) and New England Patriots linebacker Josh Uche (55) celebrate after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) was sacked in the third quarter. The New England Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins in an NFL game on Sept. 17 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

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Mac Jones sat at his locker with a towel draped over his head Sunday night after the Patriots lost in agonizing fashion for the second week in a row.

In both games, the Patriots dug themselves first-half holes so deep that even the most spirited second-half efforts weren’t enough to overcome them.

On Sunday against the Dolphins, offensive lineman Cole Strange caught a lateral from Mike Gesicki and appeared to give the Patriots a first down on the final drive. But the call on the field was overturned, and the Patriots came up just short.

New England couldn’t capitalize on an excellent blocked kick from Brenden Schooler, who lined up away from the rest of the Patriots rushers and sprinted into action on an unorthodox special teams play. Schooler also pressured Jason Sanders into missing a 55-yard attempt with 2:19 remaining.

But in the end, New England suffered a 24-17 loss and dropped to 0-2 for the first time since 2001. Here are some final thoughts on the action.

Does Tua Tagovailoa own Bill Belichick?

Beating Bill Belichick five times in a row is no easy feat, but it’s exactly what Tua Tagovailoa just did.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Tagovailoa entered the game as the first quarterback since John Elway to win his first four starts against Bill Belichick. Sunday’s victory brings Tagovailoa’s record against Belichick to a sterling 5-0.

 “I think our team is 5 and 0 against Bill Belichick,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s never a me thing. It’s never a me thing. And I don’t think we ever look at it as, ‘oh, we beat them once, we beat them twice, we beat them five times in a row.’ Every time we face coach Belichick’s team, it’s always a challenge. And we know we’re going to get their best.”

Belichick is known for taking opposing teams’ top weapons out of the game. Tyreek Hill was limited to five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. But Tagovailoa connected with Jaylen Waddle for a game-high 86 yards on four catches. He also threaded a pass to Braxton Berrios between two defenders that set up Miami’s second touchdown right before the half.

Overall, Tagovailoa went 21 for 30 for 249 yards with one touchdown and an interception. It wasn’t a spectacular performance by any means, but it was enough to win the game.

“He doesn’t do anything special,” defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. said. “He’s a very good quarterback … that’s something that we do know, but we’ll definitely work hard to change that record.”

Brendan Schooler’s block showed that the Patriots can still innovate.

The pressure that Schooler provided on his block, and Sanders’s missed field-goal attempt, helped keep the Patriots in the game during key moments.

The decision to put him in motion was a rare one, and it paid off.

It showed that while the Patriots’ offense can sometimes look stale and lack explosive plays, there is still some innovation going on in Foxborough on other sides of the ball.

“I don’t think I would have came up with that,” Schooler said. “So it’s a testament to our coaching staff because when they drew it up and told me what I was doing I was like, ‘OK, I trust you guys, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.’ It’s awesome when you get to see new, innovative stuff like that and go out there and execute it and go out there and make a play for your team.”

Christian Gonzalez’s first interception was a stellar one.

Christian Gonzalez continues to impress. Last week, he posted his first career sack. This week, he picked off Tua Tagovailoa on a deep ball intended for Tyreek Hill.

Tagovailoa’s throw ended up a little short, and Gonzalez was able to position himself in front of Hill for a leaping two-handed interception with 9:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. The interception kept New England within seven and breathed life into the Gillette Stadium crowd, but the offense was unable to capitalize.

“Huge play in the game,” Jabrill Peppers said. “It gave us a chance to stop them and put some points on the board. But, as a defense, we’ve got to do more to help our team win.”

Another week, another hard lesson for a rookie receiver

The Patriots are relying heavily on rookies to contribute this season.

Gonzalez has been the team’s most consistent cornerback so far. Kayshon Boutte had an opportunity to extend a potential game-winning drive last week.

This week, rookie receiver Demario Douglas made a catch that should have been enough for a first down. But, as he juked past one defender, another one came up from behind and poked the ball out, causing a turnover.

“I really needed this right here,” Douglas said. “I hate that it happened in the game, but it’s what I needed. I’ll be more aware for sure.”

Mac Jones didn’t have enough time to get the ball downfield.

After playing well against Philadelphia’s front seven, the Patriots offensive line struggled against Miami.

Starting guards Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu returned, but they couldn’t stop Mac Jones from being sacked four times and pressured much more.

There wasn’t enough of a push up front for an effective run game either. The Patriots ran the ball 25 times for 88 yards, for an average of 3.5 yards per carry.

The longest pass a Patriots receiver caught was for 14 yards.

“I thought it was tough, right? You got three new guys on the line,” Jones said. “Those guys came in, played really hard. It’s a tough front to go against. So sometimes it’s a part of the game plan.

“Coach [Bill] O’Brien, obviously, wanted to throw it downfield, but you got to kind of take what the defense gives or — you know, and things like that,” Jones continued. “So tough, tough day on the yard. But I definitely want to find ways to get it down the field more to help our defense.”


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