If you were told that three of four AFC East teams won on the opening Sunday of the 2014 season, surely you would not guess that the New England Patriots were the lone loser. That's just what happened on Sunday, as the Buffalo Bills beat the Chicago Bears in overtime, the New York Jets took care of the Oakland Raiders, and the Miami Dolphins upset the Pats at Sun Life Stadium 33-20. It was New England's first opening-day loss since 2003, the most points the Patriots have allowed to the Dolphins since 1994 and it came about after Miami outscored New England 23-0 in the second half.
New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor gave quarterback Ryan Tannehill a faster-paced gameplan, and although Tannehill showed those same old accuracy issues from time to time, he was very solid for the most part, finishing 18-of-32 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. More impressive was free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno, who gashed the Patriots defense for 134 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Miami's offensive line, which was a disaster on and off the field in 2013, held up very well, opening up holes for Moreno and keeping Tannehill, who led the league with 58 sacks last season, pretty clean. Tannehill was sacked just once, while Tom Brady was taken down four times. Brady threw the ball 52 times, completing 29 of them for 249 yards and a touchdown.
New England looked good at the start, opening up a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter when Brady threw a six-yard score to Rob Gronkowski. But Caleb Sturgis hit his first of four field goals on the day with 1:59 left in the first half, and after New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski answered with one of his own to push the lead to 20-10 with six seconds left in the second quarter, the Pats did not score again.
Tannehill played well in the third quarter, completing 5-of-9 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown to receiver Mike Wallace. He also moved well in the pocket and started to show real comfort with Lazor's high-tempo schemes, while new offensive tackles Branden Albert and Ju'Wuan James blocked solidly on the edges. Meanwhile, Brady threw for just 31 yards in the third quarter and 31 in the fourth quarter, overcompensating with 20 passing attempts in the final 15 minutes. Adding in his two fourth-quarter sacks, Brady compiled 20 net yards on those 20 passing attempts. Miami's defense, despite losing its top three linebackers to injuries, played well and kept New England's offense at bay. New England's offensive line was fairly disastrous all day, and the Pats couldn't get much of anything going in the second half. Undrafted rookie linebacker Chris McCain stepped in admirably for the Phins, and New England had no answer for Miami pass-rusher Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins next face the Bills, while the Pats will play the Vikings.