Patriots, Dolphins face new challenges in week ahead
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Under Bill Belichick the New England Patriots have, in many ways, mastered the art of getting headlining performances out of understudies.
He'll have to pull off his magic again if the Patriots are going to keep their early season momentum.
New England improved to 21-1 at home against the AFC East since 2009 with its 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. But it also left with yet another quarterback issue to resolve after Jimmy Garoppolo had a Tom Brady-light performance halted by a right shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins find themselves at 0-2 under first-year coach Adam Gase, despite discovering some late-game traction on offense that had been missing in their season-opening loss at Seattle.
Garoppolo threw for three touchdowns in three drives before being driven hard into the ground by linebacker Kiko Alonso on a second-quarter pass play. The injury looked bad, with Garoppolo barely able to move his shoulder as he walked off the field.
''This game is a 100 percent injury rate,'' receiver Julian Edelman said. ''It's football and everyone's just gotta do their job a little bit better.''
The Patriots have yet to say much about Garoppolo's injury, but it's possible the final two starts before Brady returns from his ''Deflategate'' suspension could fall to rookie Jacoby Brissett. They'll have to figure it out in a hurry before Thursday night's matchup with the Texans.
Other observations from Dolphins-Patriots:
RESILIENT DOLPHINS: The Dolphins dug out of a 31-3 hole with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. They had a chance to tie in the closing seconds before Ryan Tannehill was intercepted in the end zone.
Tannehill , 0-5 against the Patriots in Foxborough, believed they can build on that this week as they head home to host Cleveland after two road losses.
He said it starts with not overthinking things.
''Just make the plays that are there,'' Tannehill said. ''We had some opportunities. ... We just have to make those plays early in the game and I have confidence in those guys that we will get it done.''
HISTORICAL REFERENCE: New England last had to make an injury-related adjustment at quarterback in 2008 when Brady suffered a knee injury in the Patriots' opener. With backup Matt Cassel, the Patriots went 11-5, but failed to make the playoffs.
The downtime without Brady this time will be much shorter, but the mindset for the Patriots is pretty much the same as it was then. Edelman said the same work put in getting on the same page with Garoppolo must now transfer to Brissett.
''It's always frustrating to lose any player on any position. Unfortunately that's part of this game,'' Edelman said.
BRISSETT'S CONFIDENCE: Brissett didn't seem consumed by the moment with Garoppolo going down.
After the defense forced a fumble, he led New England on its final scoring drive, a five-play, 68-yard series that gave the Patriots a 31-10 cushion.
''The guys did a good job of staying calm,'' he said. ''When the opportunity comes, you gotta be ready for it.''
STARTING SLOWLY: The Dolphins limited New England to a single second-half touchdown, which probably had a lot to do with Garoppolo getting knocked out of the game. But that doesn't fully explain why the Miami offense started clicking after halftime - a little too late.
After getting two first downs and 34 net yards on five possessions that ended in four punts and a fumble, the Dolphins began to move at the same time the Patriots began to struggle. A 77-yard drive led to a field goal at the end of the second quarter, and Miami also drove to touchdowns on three straight possessions in the second half.
''I need to figure out a way to get our guys in rhythm earlier,'' Gase said. ''The second half of us being able to get up on the ball and go, get completions and run the ball, those types of things . that's what we need to do in the first half.''
RETURNING RECEIVER: The return of DeVante Parker gave the Dolphins' offense a boost. The Miami receiver made his 2016 debut after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. Parker caught eight passes for 106 yards against the Patriots.
''DeVante's a great football player,'' Tannehill said. ''You see some of the plays he made - the one handed catch on the takeoff - so we're just scratching the surface with him. He's going to be a big-time player for us. We just have to keep him healthy and on the field.''
Parker had five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in a season-ending victory over New England on Jan. 3.
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