Statement game? Absolutely.
One of these teams came into this game determined to prove that it is the clear and obvious favorite to win the AFC East and any conversation about the playoffs must include them because otherwise all the talk is moot. That happened.
And the other team is the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots didn’t just beat the Dolphins on Sunday, they embarrassed Miami.
New England Players that hadn’t made plays all season were suddenly stars in this game. Miami Players who spent last week being cheered for their playmaking ability were noticeably ineffective.
Albert Wilson, a dynamo the last couple of weeks, was limited to four catches for 19 yards. He was a non-factor.
Former University of Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett, who didn’t have a catch for the Patriots in five targets against Detroit, caught four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown against this game.
In other words: The Patriots coaching staff found a way to stop Miami’s playmakers while finding one of their own.
You know what that says about the Miami coaching staff? Yeah, the exact opposite.
A New England running game that came to this game as the 20th rush offense in the league, saw rookie Sony Michel gain 112 yards on 25 carries -- the first 100-yard game of his career.
This game was as it has been much of the past 17 years between the Dolphins and Patriots: One sided.
In the Patriots favor.
Nothing went right for the Dolphins.
There were whispers of them running the ball before this game began. They had an extra lineman active and used offensive tackle Sam Young as part of a six-man offensive line.
And the Patriots, 24th in the NFL against the run before the game, shut the Dolphins run game down. Kenyan Drake, for example, had three carries for three yards.
Much of last week was a celebration of the Adam Gase-Ryan Tannehill union. The coach and quarterback had been together 16 full games and had authored an 11-5 record.
That all suggested the Dolphins had a quarterback they could count on to win big games. It suggested the Dolphins had a playoff-caliber coach and quarterback duo.
Well, Tannehill regressed to mean on Sunday. He completed 11 of 20 passes for 100 yards with one interception. His QB rating was 47.9.
The thing is this loss is not Tannehill’s fault.
It is on Tannehill.
And his receivers who didn’t get open.
And the offensive line that was mostly busy being called for penalties or giving up pressures or failing in the run game.
It was on a secondary that got picked apart by Tom Brady.
(That part is really galling.)
You have to understand that what Brady did happened with a wide receiver unit that is pedestrian and unremarkable. And yet that receiver group toasted the Dolphins.
Xavien Howard, Miami’s best cornerback, had a bad day. He gave up two touchdowns and was called for multiple holding penalties.
On one of the scores Howard was picked off at the line of scrimmage. So he was way behind Corderelle Patterson on a 55-yard score. The thing that’s troubling is Howard seemed to slow down as the play developed.
Not a good look.
And, yes, of course, the Miami coaching was not good for this game. Bad.
The statement the Miami Dolphins wanted to make was that it was a new day in the AFC East. They had come into this day and to this venue undefeated and wanting to prove they were ready to unseat the New England Patriots as the class of the division.
Nothing could be further from the truth.