The New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins with a comfortable 21-11 win at Gillette Stadium on Sunday and there was a collective sigh of relief from fans everywhere.
After one of the most tumultuous off-seasons in recent memory, all eyes were on the reigning AFC East champions to see how they would fare against their fiercest division rivals.
And given there was little-to-no pre-season, the new-look New England Patriots showed incredible promise. But they will need to be altogether a stronger, more synchronized unit if they are to head to Seattle and get the W.
New England Patriots Week 2: Three Improvements They Must Make Ahead of Seattle Seahawks Matchup
Cam Newton and the Passing Game
On Sunday, Cam Newton looked good. He looked better than good. He brought a whole new dimension to the Patriots’ offense.
Newton had 15 carries for 75 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. He had the most rushing yards of any franchise quarterback since Steve Grogan in 1977.
And the 45 rushing attempts by six different players meant their play-action game was an effective weapon, producing 217 yards.
But although 155 yards is by no means a miserable statistic, if Cam can strengthen his connection with the receiving corps, he could become a lethal dual-threat that keeps opposing defenses guessing.
And they will need that in Seattle who will be more prepared for Cam on the move and have a talented linebacker corps including K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner.
The passing game will be in higher demand this week and he may be expected to do more than hit his receivers on shallow crosses and slants.
Although Julian Edelman looked like his usual self, N’Keal Harry‘s performance left a lot to be desired and the tight ends were an afterthought.
The Patriots will need to strengthen and diversify their passing game at CenturyLink Field.
The New England Patriots Passing Defense
As one of the most formidable units in the league, the New England Patriots secondary wasted little time getting a start on their interceptions tally for the year with three on Sunday.
That said, Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore had an up and down day with an early interception but two very costly pass interference penalties later on, something talented wideout D.K. Metcalf could capitalize on in this week’s matchup.
The Patriots will also have to contain a relentless Russell Wilson whose mobility makes him, at times, impossible to stop.
The New England Patriots without Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, and Danny Shelton and so the defensive side of the ball has a completely different look and feel than last season.
They did OK in the opener with Derek Rivers recording the team’s sole sack and Chase Winovich settling into his more senior role after the off-season departures.
But Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is not as talented as Wilson, was still able to put up 191 yards through the air and 18 yards on the ground and faced only mild pressure.
The defensive unit as a whole held Miami to only 11 points but they will need to be elite if they are going to stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
The New England Patriots Kicking Game
This is where New England has a big problem. With a new-look outfit and an offense that is being reshaped around a new quarterback for the first time in 20 years, the Patriots can simply not afford to leave points on the field.
While Nick Folk was able to convert each of the touchdown’s extra points, he missed a 45-yard field goal that would have put the Patriots seven points clear in what, at that stage, was a tightly contested match-up.
What’s more – he didn’t just miss. It was an ugly miss that showed little promise of a trusted kicker who can clinch games under pressure.
He was initially dropped back to the practice squad but has since been signed to the 53-man squad so it looks like he will be kicking for New England in Seattle.
The Patriots have relied on two veteran kickers for the duration of their dynasty – Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski, who departed at the end of last season.
So it’s fair to say there are big shoes to fill and Folk will be expected to build on his performance if he is to stay as their number one kicker.
Perhaps it was opening day nerves, but the New England Patriots will need to solidify the kicking position to give them the added security on Sunday.
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