The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins started off the season with a bang with arguably the game of the day on Sunday. The Miami Dolphins were able to hang on to win 17-16 in the end. A big defensive stop down by the goal-line was the game-changer in this matchup. Both teams have a lot of positives to take away from this game. Their AFC East rival, Buffalo Bills had an underwhelming performance on Sunday. The vast majority of the media wrote this division off and prematurely crowned the Bills to win the division. Of course, it is only the first week but I think this division race going to be closer than people think.
The Miami Dolphins simply beat the Patriots at their own game on Sunday. The Dolphins won the turnover battle, and also gave up fewer penalty yards. The Patriots had eight penalties that resulted in more than 80 total yards lost. That does not happen to a Bill Belichick Patriots team. Coach Belichick has always put an emphasis on winning the turnover battle and not making mental errors. Many of the Patriots’ penalties would fall under the category of mental errors. There were multiple illegal-man-downfield calls, false-starts, and holding calls that put Mac Jones in many 3rd and long situations.
The turnovers were a huge factor in this loss. Rhamondre Stevenson had a really tough day yesterday and coughed up a fumble in the 1st quarter. Damien Harris also fumbled on the Dolphins’ 11 yard-line on the Patriots’ final possession which ultimately cost them the game.
As I mentioned, both teams can take away a lot of positives from this game. The Dolphins flexed their muscles on defense and did a good job of keeping New England out of the end zone. They fly around the field and have playmakers at all three levels. Tua Tagovailoa did not have a dazzling game but did do enough to put the Dolphins in a position to win the game. Outside of one really bad pass on the run that led to an interception, he had a pretty solid performance overall. Tua finished the game 16/27 passing for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
One standout performance that did occur on the offensive side of the ball was Jaylen Waddle. Waddle had four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. Not a dominant stat line, but it is evident that he is dynamic and takes a lot of pressure off of Devante Parker. It also doesn’t hurt that Waddle and Tua were teammates at the University of Alabama a few years ago.
New England Patriots
The Patriots should feel very good about Mac Jones at quarterback. Mac Jones led all rookie quarterbacks in passer rating (102.6) and threw some really pretty passes. For example, he hit James White over the shoulder on a wheel route and placed it perfectly so the defender could not reach out over the smaller-stature running back.
He places the ball very well and is quickly learning how to move in the pocket. He knows how to avoid the pass rush while keeping his eyes downfield. Of course, that did not come without an official “welcome to the NFL” moment. The Dolphins were sure to give him that moment early in the 1st quarter.
Jones bounced back from the hit and after a slow start on the first two drives, you could see him start to get more comfortable. The Dolphins’ defense is no joke, and Jones put them in a position to win late in that game. If not for Damien Harris’s fumble, Mac Jones is the talk of the NFL this week for leading a comeback victory against that defense. The Patriots definitely looked shaky on defense at points but came up with a huge turnover to give the offense a chance to win the game. Miami was able to establish the running game, but I expect a big bounce-back game from New England’s front seven. They recorded two sacks against Tua but they are talented enough to be more of a presence than that. They did stand tall on third down and held the Dolphins’ offense to 4/11 on third down.
The Patriots had more time of possession, more first downs, more passing yards, more rushing yards, and allowed fewer sacks but could not finish the job because of the two things that Belichick preaches; penalties and turnovers. It’s a great win for Miami, especially because they were able to steal that game in Foxboro and get a one-game head start on the rest of the AFC east that all collectively went winless. The Dolphins look to turn their good start into a win-streak next week against the Buffalo Bills and the Patriots look to turn things around against the New York Jets. The AFC East has historically been one of the least competitive divisions in football, but it is one worth keeping an eye on this season.
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