The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots faced off in Week 1 for the second straight year. While last year featured Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for the Dolphins and Cam Newton at quarterback for the Patriots, this year had two former Alabama quarterbacks, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and New England’s Mac Jones, taking the snaps.
It was not always a pretty game, but the Dolphins were able to put it together enough, in the end, to come away with the Week 1 victory. The Dolphins and Patriots will face each other again in the season finale in Miami.
Dolphins 17 - Patriots 16
The Dolphins won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. After a kickoff into the endzone, the Patriots turned to Damien Harris on first down for a 35-yard run. The Patriots clearly are coming out looking to take it straight at the Dolphins, with Harris given the ball again on the next play, then Jonnu Smith for a carry, and then James White for a run. Mac Jones finally dropped back to pass, with Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, and linebacker Jerome Baker all bursting through the line to force a sack and fumble - with Wilkins picking up the sack stat. The defense decided that was enough, stuffing White after a two-yard run and a four-yard reception. The Patriots punted.
On the White two-yard run late on the drive, Dolphins defensive tackle Raekwon Davis was injured, holding his right knee. It was not a pretty moment, and Davis stayed on the ground for a while. He eventually was able to get off the field under his own power, but that could be a huge loss in the middle of the Dolphins defense.
Miami came out firing on offense, with Tua Tagovailoa finding former Alabama teammate and Miami first-round pick Jaylen Waddle on a slant to open the possession, picking up 17 yards. Myles Gaskin picked up two yards on a run before Tagovailoa found Waddle again, this time for five yards. Gaskin then burst through the middle for 15 yards, then picked up another four yards. Tagovailoa found Durham Smythe on a 2nd-and-6 play, gaining nine yards before Gaskin lost a yard on a run to the right. Tagovailoa then threw a short pass to running back Salvon Ahmed who ran for 18 yards up the sideline, moving Miami into the red zone. After an eight-yard run from Gaskin, Tagovailoa rolled out to his right, recognized there was no one in front of him and strolled into the endzone. Dolphins 7-0.
Easy opening drive with the Tua walk-in TD!— The Phinsider (@thephinsider) September 12, 2021
After the kickoff, New England started with a pass from Jones to Nelson Agholor for a seven-yard gain. After a Rhamondre Stevenson run for two yards, Jones found Jakobi Meyers on a four-yard pass. Jones went back to Stevenson on 1st-and-10, appearing to pick up nine yards before Dolphins safety Eric Rowe stripped the ball and recovered the fumble.
Unfortunately, Miami was unable to do anything with the ball. After an incomplete pass, Gaskin lost a yard on second down, then Tagovailoa was sacked for a ten-yard loss on 3rd-and-11. The Dolphins punted on the three-and-out possession.
New England started the drive, again looking to get the running game started, with Harris picking up 11 yards, then four yards, then five yards, and then two yards to ease some pressure off Jones. On 1st-and-10, Jones found Smith for an eight-yard gain as the clock reached the end of the first quarter.
- The Dolphins need Davis this year, clogging up the middle of the line of scrimmage. Hopefully his injury is relatively minor.
- The Patriots clearly want to get the run going to take pressure off Jones. Miami needs to step up and force this to be a passing game.
- Miami’s offense is on a roll early. Waddle is immediately involved in the game and Tagovailoa looks in sync. This could be a great sign for the rest of the game.
The Patriots opened the second period with a run from Harris for no yards. Jones then was able to connect with Meyers for five yards before a tipped ball was nearly picked off by Rowe. Harris then picked up three more yards before the Dolphins defenders picked themselves on a wheel route, leading to a Meyers gain of 22 yards. After an incomplete pass, it appeared the Patriots scored on a 13-yard run from Harris, but a holding penalty negated the touchdown and backed up New England. After short passes to Smith for six- and seven-yards each, including Jevon Holland forcing another fumble, with the Patriots recovering, New England settled for a field goal. Dolphins 7-3.
Miami’s next drive saw a second-down 23-yard pass from Tagovailoa to DeVante Parker, but then nothing else happened. Two more pass attempts to Parker were broken up by the defense and a third-down pass attempt went straight through Waddle’s arms, leading to a punt.
New England’s drive was not any better, with a 12-yard pass from Jones to Agholor starting the possession, but nothing else happening. The Patriots punted after four plays.
The Dolphins then went three-and-out after a pass from Tagovailoa to running back Salvon Ahmed picked up six yards, then Ahmed lost a yard on a run attempt. Tagovailoa got lucky on third down as he rolled to his right and tried to throw back toward the middle of the field, a pass that was nearly picked off by Devin McCourty. Miami punted.
New England started to find some rhythm through the air as Jones found Harris for an eight-yard gain and Agholor for a 25-yard gain on either side of a four-yard Harris run. After an incomplete pass, Jones threw to Harris for nine yards. The Dolphins appeared to stop the Patriots on the next play as Elandon Roberts pulled down Jones for a sack, only to have a roughing the passer penalty called for tackling Jones by the legs. After a one-yard run from Harris, Jones found Agholor for the touchdown. Patriots 10-7.
Miami’s offense came out firing after the New England score, starting with a 36-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Waddle. After a neutral zone infraction on the Patriots, Tagovailoa took another deep shot, this time to Parker, but it fell incomplete. On 3rd-and-1, the Dolphins put in Jacoby Brissett to run a quarterback sneak, converting for the first down. After attempting to get the Patriots to jump offside, Miami was called for a false start, with Tagovailoa coming back into the game. A 10-yard catch and run from Gaskin set up a 2nd-and-5, but an incomplete pass and a sack of Tagovailoa stalled the drive for Miami, who settled for a 48-yard field goal as the half ended. Tied 10-10.
- Miami’s defense is attacking and trying to force turnovers. This looks like the team from last year in that sense. Good to see they are at least trying to keep that up from year to year.
- The Dolphins defense needs to step up and stuff Harris a few times. He is seeing just a little too much space.
- Waddle has got to make that third-down catch. Great pass from Tagovailoa on the out-route, but Waddle just let the ball eat him up. Rookie mistake that needs to be corrected.
- The commentators are not wrong - the defensive backs Jason McCourty (Dolphins) and Devin McCourty (Patriots) are both having an impact on this game early.
- Eric Rowe is playing a good game early on as well.
- That was a horrible roughing the passer penalty. I know the goal of the league is to protect the quarterback and they cannot have players aiming for the knees, but that was a clean tackle with Roberts wrapping up the legs of Jones. Just a horrible call that directly led to a lead change.
- The neutral zone infraction on Kyle Van Noy should have been allowed to be a free play. Miami had a favorable matchup, Van Noy was jumping backward, so there was no reason for the play to be stopped. Just poor.
Miami started with the ball for the second half, beginning the drive with a Gaskin run for two yards. After an incomplete pass, Tagovailoa looked deep to Parker, who lept along the sideline and toe-tapped his way to a 30-yard gain. Malcolm Brown then picked up a yard with Tagovailoa coming back for a 12-yard pass to Gaskin. The next play again featured Gaskin, this time on a 15-yard run. In a wildcat formation, Ahmed took the snap for eight yards, then stayed in the formation for another play as Brown took the snap for four yards. On 1st-and-Goal from the three-yard line, Tagovailoa found Waddle on the left, with the receiver fighting his way to the endzone. Dolphins 17-10.
New England decided to become methodical on their next possession, eating 8:01 off the clock in 14 plays. The drive started at the New England nine-yard line after a holding penalty on the kick return, with Harris picking up four yards to start the possession, then coming back for five more on second down. After a one-yard run from Harris converted the first down, the Patriots were called for an illegal formation and backed up five yards. An incomplete pass set up 2nd-and-15, with Jones able to find a wide-open Agholor on the left side of the field for a 21-yard gain. Rowe made the stop and was slow to get up but would come back in a few plays later. An apparent 33-yard pass was negated by a holding penalty, setting up 1st-and-20 at the Patriots 25-yard line, but the Patriots were given a new set of downs on an illegal use of hands penalty on Miami the next play, resulting in an automatic first down despite only being a five-yard penalty. White was stopped for a one-yard loss and Jones threw an incomplete pass before connecting with White for a 26-yard gain. Jones then completed a pass to tight end Hunter Henry for a nine-yard gain. White ran for 10 yards, then Harris lost four yards. Jones threw to White for six yards before an incomplete pass finally stalled out the drive and the Patriots settled for a field goal. Dolphins 17-13.
Miami did nothing with the ball, losing three yards on an Ahmed run, gaining nothing on a Tagovailoa incomplete pass, and losing two yards on a screen pass from Tagovailoa to Gaskin. The Dolphins punted on the three-and-out drive.
The Patriots began their possession at their own 28 after an unnecessary roughness penalty on the punt. They then appeared to gain 17 yards on a pass from Jones to Kendrick Bourne, but an illegal blindside block backed up the Patriots. A 16-yard pass from Jones to Henry made up for the loss, however, as the third quarter ended.
- Miami came out with rhythm on offense, just as they did in the first half, but they have to back it up the rest of the game.
- It was fun to see the wildcat come in and have some success.
- That eight-minute drive from the Patriots was impressive for just how methodically they could move the ball.
New England came out on the first play of the final period with a short four-yard pass from Jones to White, beating a blitz from cornerback Byron Jones. Jones went back to White on the 2nd-and-6 play, but only picked up one yard. Jones then found Henry for six yards, followed by another pass to a tight end, this time Smith for 10 yards. Jones found Meyers for three yards before an incomplete pass set up 3rd-and-7. The Patriots converted for the first down on an eight-yard reception from White. Harris then ran up the middle twice for three yards each time before an incomplete pass stalled the drive. New England connected on the 33-yard field goal. Dolphins 17-16.
The Dolphins’ drive began at their own 25-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff. a quick slant pass from Tagovailoa to Parker picked up 15 yards, the Gaskin picked up five yards. After a short pass from Tagovailoa to Gaskin on second down picked up three yards, the Dolphins faced a 3rd-and-2, appearing to convert on a pass to tight end Mike Gesicki, but guard Solomon Kindley was called for illegal man downfield, negating the play and leading to a 3rd-and-7 attempt. Tagovailoa was flushed out of the pocket, nearly tripped, then tried to force a pass, and, after several deflections, it was picked off by Jonathan Jones.
Starting at midfield, the Patriots began the drive with a one-yard run from Harris, followed by two passes to Meyers, picking up three yards, then seven yards. Harris rank two straight times, picking up eight yards and one yard, setting up a 3rd-and-1 play. The Patriots were able to convert on a pitch to the left, with Harris just able to avoid a couple of tackles that could have stopped him in the backfield. Brandon Bolden picked up five yards for New England, then Jones found Smith over the middle for 11 yards. Setting up 1st-and-10 at the Dolphins’ 11-yard line, the Patriots returned to Harris, who picked up two yards before cornerback Xavien Howard forced and recovered a fumble.
Tagovailoa started the drive from the Miami nine-yard line with an eight-yard run, but a holding penalty on Liam Eichenberg brought the ball back to the Dolphins’ five-yard line. Tagovailoa then threw to Parker for 13 yards, giving the team some space, followed by a wildcat formation run from Brown for two yards. After a New England timeout, Brown ran for five yards. Another Patriots timeout was followed by a Brown run for four yards. After the Patriots’ final timeout, Brissett was again brought in for a quarterback sneak, picking up the first down and sealing the game. Tagovailoa knelt to kill the clock the rest of the way.
- The Dolphins are getting crushed by this dink-and-dunk offense right now. Limiting the Patriots to short passes of four yards is awesome, except three four-yard gains is still a first down.
- Xavien Howard! After a game in which nothing was thrown his way, Howard decided it was time to have an impact. Great play to force and recover a fumble deep in Miami territory and essentially secure the win for the Dolphins.
- It was not pretty and it was stressful, but the Dolphins got it done in New England and come away with the win and the lead in the AFC East.