Patriots cornerback Christian Gonzalez tackles Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle during New England’s 24-17 loss on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. Greg M. Cooper/Associated Press

The Patriots are hurting at the cornerback position.

On Sunday night, the team finished without three of their top four players with Jonathan Jones (ankle) ruled out, Jack Jones (hamstring) on injured reserve and Marcus Jones suffering an in-game shoulder injury. That left the Patriots defense undermanned against Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

As the game went on, you couldn’t tell. A big reason is that Patriots rookie Christian Gonzalez played like a legitimate No. 1 cornerback.

A week after shadowing A.J. Brown, Gonzalez had the difficult task of covering the fastest receiver in the NFL. The first-round pick stepped up and looked the part. Gonzalez allowed two receptions on five targets for 21 yards to go with an interception on Sunday night.

When Tua Tagovailoa targeted Hill  with Gonzalez in coverage, the quarterback was just 1 for 4 for 6 yards. The only other reception Gonzalez allowed on Sunday was a 15-yard catch to Jaylen Waddle.

“Gonzo learns every day,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”


“Smart kid, really pays attention and tries to do what you ask him to do. It was an outstanding interception that he had. It was sort of a little bit similar to the play that came up in Miami last year where Tyreek went up and kind of took the ball away from us. It was a little bit different play but the same idea and then this is one where Gonzo went up and took the ball away from Hill. Really good play not only to break up but made a good catch and hauled it in.

“There were other coverage plays that he had. Obviously, he’s going up against some of the best receivers in the league the last two weeks. Those experiences will pay off for him down the road.”

Gonzalez intercepted Tagovailoa at 10:04 of the fourth quarter when he jumped in front of Hill on a deep pass. It was first interception of his NFL career and added to an already productive rookie season. In two games, Gonzalez has an interception, a sack, and two pass breakups.

Considering he’s covered Hill, Waddle, Brown, and DeVonta Smith, it appears as though the Patriots found a gem in the first round. The rookie could have his hands full over the next two weeks with Garrett Wilson up next followed by CeeDee Lamb in Dallas.

“No one wants to start 0-2 but now it’s a new week,” Gonzalez said. “So, we will come in tomorrow and just learn from our mistakes and just keep pushing. It is a long season and we just have to get to work.”

BELICHICK DIDN’T HAVE an update on the second-year pro Marcus Jones’ status on Monday morning.


“No, not yet,” Belichick said on “The Greg Hill Show.”

“We’ll see how these guys are when they come in today.”

The Patriots were also without Jonathan Jones, who suffered an ankle injury in practice last week, and Jack Jones, who’s on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade filled in alongside Gonzalez, who has yet to miss a defensive snap in his first two NFL games.

Right guard Mike Onwenu returned from an ankle injury Sunday night that kept him out for Week 1 and most of the summer. He was replaced by rookie Atonio Mafi late in the game, and Belichick is awaiting word on how Onwenu came away from the game. The Patriots also saw left guard Cole Strange return after missing Week 1 and all of the preseason with a knee injury.

THE PATRIOTS were in desperate need of a spark late in the third quarter, as the offense continued to sputter and they trailed by two touchdowns.

Then, as the Dolphins prepared to attempt a 49-yard field goal, Matthew Slater – New England’s longtime special teams ace – spoke a game-changing play into existence as his unit jogged on to the field.


“He’s like, ‘You’re going to go block this,’” Patriots special teamer Brenden Schooler said.

The unit had practiced a specific field goal block design all week, and Schooler was the man for the job. The second-year player explained that the Patriots’ special teams coaching staff – Joe Judge, Cam Achord and Joe Houston – had pinpointed a weak spot in Miami’s field goal operation.

Schooler pounced on his opportunity. He literally came out of nowhere, lining up toward the left sideline and timing the snap perfectly with a running start as he got into the backfield and untouched and dove to successfully block Jason Sanders’ attempt.

The Patriots recovered the football at Miami’s 49, and it ignited new life into them.

“That was a crazy moment,” Patriots special teamer Chris Board said. “Really electric. Definitely needed at the moment. It gave us a chance to kind of come back.”

Schooler felt confident about the play after continued reps during the week.

“Just had the right opportunity, counted up my steps properly and just timed it up well, and everybody else on the field did their job well so I can go out there and execute mine,” Schooler said. “Trying to make a play for the team, get us a little spark going. It was a testament to those guys to dialing up a great block.”

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