Sep. 12—There was a lot at stake and even more to digest in the opener from the New England Patriots' perspective in Miami.
A south Florida 'Curse.' A division game. A fresh start. A game without official "coordinators." A defensive guy calling the offensive plays. A tough early schedule. And, most of all, a chance to overcome the Tua Tagvoiloa three-game streak.
But it was bad. All of it. Basically from start to finish.
The Patriots were oddly non-competitive in the 20-7 loss in Fort Lauderdale to the Dolphins, never within striking distance (see eight points).
This was a total team effort.
It was as much bad as it was uninteresting.
Of all the games played yesterday, only the Ravens crushing of the Jets, 24-9, was probably more uninteresting.
Sure, if there wasn't a flag thrown on the first quarter interception in the end zone, when Devante Parker's jersey was grabbed for what appeared about three seconds, maybe it changes the game. But, hell ... that's football.
Then there was the other Mac Jones miscue, when he was sacked on a blindside blitz and the fumble easily returned for a touchdown.
And despite a few decent plays, there was no spark that led to anything on Sunday afternoon.
The Patriots basically blew a big opportunity to change the course of the summer, which has been as negative as it's ever been around here since Drew Bledsoe was a backup.
All of the controversy — Belichick without Tom Brady, the offensive coaches, the bad summer preseason, Mac Jones lackluster play — could've been put away.
Instead, it's still the elephant in the room. Lingering.
The problem is the light at the end of the tunnel. Where is that light?
Pittsburgh? The Steelers just played their butts off in beating the defending AFC champs, the Bengals, in Cincinnati, in overtime, and winning in Pittsburgh is almost as tough as south Florida.
Baltimore? They're a good team with a freak at quarterback.
Green Bay at Lambeau Field?
The Patriots are going to have to create their own light. But get this: If the "L's" pile up, the negativity will ratchet up, too.
And the blame will go where it always goes in the NFL, to the head coach and quarterback ... Belichick and Jones.
Negativity isn't so easy to overcome even if the Lions, Browns, Bears and Jets are on the schedule the month after the current crop of behemoths.
This is Belichick's team. Jones is his "franchise" quarterback.
Both of them were shells of themselves on Sunday.
In fact, it was interesting watching another new nerd coach, Mike McDaniel, going head to head against the legend.
Unlike so many other coaches before him, McDaniel did not coach the game as if he was about to kiss Belichick's ring.
In fact, McDaniel's fourth down call near the end of the first half — a short slant to Jaylen Waddle on fourth-and-7 at the Pats 42 with 24 seconds remaining, surprising the Pats defense — was awe-inspiring.
It put the Dolphins ahead 17-0 and they basically teased the Patriots, who played better in the second half, the rest of the way.
The Patriots have, because of the schedule, aren't really allowed to lose four straight games to open the season.
What we've been hearing for the summer, about how disappointing this team has looked, will only grow exponentially.
Heck, then the Brady talk will come back in its loudest and angriest form, which is something Jones will not want to hear.
The Patriots lost an opportunity to right the ship. Instead, the ship went even further off-course.
Thick skin ... and ear plugs ... had better prevail over at One Patriot Place.
And finding ways to beat the Steelers next Sunday afternoon became even more important than winning a football game in a tough city.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.