Patriots: Defense shows glimpses of what could be, but it wasn’t good enough in opening loss to Miami

All preseason long, we’ve seen what type of chaos this defense could create.

We saw it again at times on Sunday, but when the unit needed a stop the most in a 17-16 loss to the Dolphins, Miami was able to do whatever they wanted. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche were as advertised, making big boy plays that made your jaw drop. On the flip side of that, the secondary struggled severely without Stephon Gilmore on the field to shadow Devante Parker.

There were glimpses of how dominant they could be, but this new version of the defense with a bunch of new faces just isn’t quite there yet.

“We’ll look at it on film. We didn’t do enough to win the game and to affect the game,” said Judon. “We’re going to look at it on film and see what we can do better and what we can improve on.”

Judon’s first “holy crap” moment as a Patriot on Sunday came when he absolutely rocked Tua Tagovailoa on a play that turned into a Jonathan Jones tip drill interception. At the time, it gave the Pats the ball at midfield with a chance to go in and score a game-winning touchdown. Instead, Damien Harris fumbled at the Miami 9-yard line and then the Dolphins were able to run the final 3:31.

“That was just a good hands play by [Jonathan] Jones,” Judon added. “That’s what defense it. It’s just a bunch of guys doing their job. Plays like that, he was ready. Somebody else had pressure on Tua [Tagovailoa], first, and then I came in with the hit. The ball got tipped around a little bit and Jones came up with it. He was just ready for the opportunity and he was prepared. He caught the ball with two feet in.”

“They ran over routes, he [Tua Tagovailoa] just panicked under pressure and threw the ball up,” said Jones. “I was able to come down with the ball. Set us up pretty good, we were not able to capitalize on it.”

It was certainly the biggest play of the game and showed the big-play capability this unit has in crunch time. New England also won the time of possession battle (36:43 NE, 23:17 MIA) and held the Dolphins to just 259 total yards of offense, but when Miami had to have it on the ground or in the air they were able to get it done.

“There are corrections to be made, adjustments to be made,” Uche said. “When we watch the film, we will see that and correct that…I would just say it is kind of self-inflicted wounds. Like I said, we are going to watch the film, make corrections, and move on.”

The secondary is the biggest concern without Gilmore (Parker had 81 yards) and no one could cover a slant to save their life. JC Jackson was short and sweet on the matter during his postgame presser.

“I have a lot to improve and I am moving onto next week,” he said abruptly.

This season is going to be about steady improvement in the back end and continued dominance up front. If the unit can find a balance between both when it matters most in those “got to have it moments” they should be fine, but in their first test on Sunday they showed they’re not quite ready to be elite just yet.

“I mean we have got each other’s backs regardless of what happens,” added Uche. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, what happens, we have got reach other’s backs because we are brothers first and foremost. We are optimistic. We know we have another game. There are a lot more games to be played so we are onto the next one.”