Byron Maxwell had nowhere to hide Sunday.
Not from social media. Not from his friends. And not from himself.
The Dolphins cornerback didn’t even try. He simply chuckled at two plays that launched a thousand tweets and moved on.
Defenders rarely want to go viral. And they never want to go viral twice in one game.
But that was Maxwell’s reality in the Dolphins’ loss to the Patriots.
Between Martellus Bennett’s lethal stiff-arm and LeGarrette Blount’s sky-walking, Maxwell knew he was in for some abuse this week. His friends didn’t disappoint.
His favorite jibe? When one of his buddies called the Bennett play — during which New England’s tight end sent Maxwell sprawling with a shove to the forehead — the Hand of God.
“They were just on me,” Maxwell said with a smile. “I’d get pictures. They wouldn’t be boys if they didn’t do that. They got me. It’s going to be in the archives for the rest of my life. You’ve just got to live with it.”
But beyond the insults, a lesson: “I should’ve went low on [Bennett].”
He tried against Blount, who in the fourth quarter took a sweep around the left end and found Maxwell waiting for him.
Blount weighs roughly 250 pounds. Maxwell less than 200. Survival instincts kicked in, and Maxwell went for the running back’s legs.
Blount jumped clear over him, clipping Maxwell’s helmet with his cleat but keeping his balance to continue his forward motion.
“I knew he was a jumper, but what do you do in that situation?” Maxwell said rhetorically. “Do you take him up high or do you go low? If you take him up high on that guy, you know what I’m saying … .”
Adam Gase, the Dolphins’ coach, said the only thing Maxwell could have done was jump on Blount’s back and wait for the cavalry.
“Tackling, to me, I’ve got to tackle a little better, obviously,” Maxwell acknowledged. “Pass defense was good. But I have to tackle better.”
Especially if the Browns, with rookie quarterback Cody Kessler, follow the Patriots’ script. New England had success with both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett throwing before Miami’s pass rush could even get up the field.
Watching the limited tape the Dolphins have on Kessler, Maxwell expects much of the same in the Dolphins’ home opener Sunday.
The only real way to defend against that approach is to manhandle receivers at the line of scrimmage and tackle immediately. The Dolphins didn’t do much of either Sunday in New England.
One play during the game’s first drive stands out in particular. The Patriots faced third-and-9 near midfield and Maxwell played off Julian Edelman down the right sideline. Garoppolo took advantage of the space, finding Edelman short of the sticks. Maxwell didn’t step up in time to make the tackle, and the Patriots had a first down. Three plays later he was in the end zone.
“He has seen a lot of cut splits where they’re cutting the splits so he can’t press the receiver,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “It has been quick glances. It has been play action over routes. So, it has been tough for him to chase those routes. He has got to do it, because he is a press corner, so that’s what’s going to happen on game day. He has got to get better at chasing over routes.”
Joseph added that he could help Maxwell with the coverages he calls. But Maxwell said that it’s on him to finish the play.
“We’ve got to tackle, we’ve got to run to the ball,” Maxwell said. “Effort. Just play with more energy, I think. We know we got to finish. The past two games, it’s been on our backs. [They] get the ball back last week and the week before that and we’re supposed stop them. As a defender, as football players, you want it in your hands. You want it in your control. The defense, we have to finish better.”
▪ Mike Pouncey (hip) is hounding Gase to let him play after missing the first two games of the season, but he appears to be another week away. Pouncey and running back Arian Foster (groin) did not practice again Thursday.
Linebacker Jelani Jenkins worked in a limited capacity after missing Wednesday with a knee injury. Jason Jones was limited in his participation after appearing to roll an ankle during practice Thursday.