Best and Worst: Patriots vs. Dolphins

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Best and Worst: Patriots vs. Dolphins

WORST WAY TO INSPIRE FAITH IN THE FANS

Oh, Devin McCourty. Miami's first series on the game wasn't really going anywhere until McCourty got burned on third-and-9. Brian Hartline burned the Patriots defensive back by making him bite on an out-and-up along the sideline. The gain? 39 yards. The obvious issue? It was not unlike a third-and-8 play McCourty got schooled on last week in Denver. Things aren't getting better.

WORST PREGAME NEWS

Matt Light, who's been a stalwart at left tackle this season, came up lame in pregame. That meant the Patriots had to shuffle. Logan Mankins started at left tackle instead of left guard and Donald Thomas started at left guard.

WORST UPDATE TO PREGAME NEWS

On the Patriots first offensive series, a miscommunication on the left between Mankins and running back Danny Woodhead resulted in a sack on third-and-8.

WORST UPDATE TO THAT UPDATE

Mankins began hobbling. Then Nate Solder, summoned from his right tackle spot to play left tackle, yielded a sack to Jason Taylor. Meanwhile, Marcus Cannon had entered the game at right tackle. And Tom Brady had started the game 2 of 9.

WORST DEFENSE... GETS WORSE

The Patriots were slapped with TWO defensive pass interference penalties on one drive. Devin McCourty was whistled for the first, after he put his hands on Brian Hartline. Two things to note: the down was third-and-12 and Hartline would have had to use a jetpack to catch the pass. (Another) stupid play by McCourty. The second was on linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who manhandled Matt Moore on a running back throwback play. Another blatant penalty on an uncatchable ball. ANOTHER stupid play. (US Presswire)

BEST WAY TO DISTRACT PATRIOTS FANS FROM THE SCOREBOARD

Rob Gronkowski set a new franchise record on Saturday. His first 43 receiving yards put him at 1,184 for the season, and pushed him past Ben Coates (1,174) for single-season yardage amassed by a tight end. Impressive! Did you forget Miami was winning 17-0 at the time? No? I tried.

BEST WAY FOR THE PATRIOTS TO GET IN THE GAME

Hope the Dolphins keep taking themselves out of it. Matt Moore's decision to throw deep left to Will Yeatman (Will Yeatman!) on second-and-8 was dumb. New England's secondary didn't even have to worry about making a play on the ball because the throw was off. Immediately after that, Moore fumbled at the line of scrimmage and Vince Wilfork recovered for the Patriots. Presents!

BEST TESTAMENT TO HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS

If a team could be collectively bipolar, your New England Patriots could have gotten an affirmative diagnosis Saturday afternoon. After entering the half down 17-0 the Pats returned 17 unanswered. Brady and Welker started connecting after starting just 5-for-12, the running game picked up some yards, and the defense played defense. Bill Belichick surely had words during the break -- none suitable for print.

BEST CASE FOR REDEMPTION?

Remember how we started out with McCourty looking awful? And then the second half began and things got all backwards and inside out for the Patriots -- in a good way? Throw McCourty back in there, too. He got his hands on his first interception of the season on a first-and-10 bomb hurled by Matt Moore. The relief he felt to finally pick off a pass -- after having 7 in his 2010 Pro Bowl season -- was evident in his heated celebration.

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.