A look at the highlights and lowlights for the Miami Dolphins in their 2021 regular season opener against the New England Patriots:
-- The first big play on defense came courtesy of cornerback Byron Jones, whose blitz rattled rookie QB Mac Jones into throwing the ball backward to avoid a sack. The result was a 13-yard loss that derailed New England's scoring threat.
-- Andrew Van Ginkel's pressure forced Jones to get rid of the ball early on the final third down of the first drive, leading to a short gain on third-and-19.
-- On the first offensive play, Tua threw a quick strike on a slant and Jaylen Waddle used his speed to turn it into a 17-yard gain.
-- Guard Solomon Kindley had a key block to spring Myles Gaskin on a 15-yard that converted a third-and-3 on that first drive.
-- The Dolphins got RB Salvon Ahmed out in space on a swing pass and the easy completion resulted in an 18-yard gain inside the New England 10-yard line.
-- Nice block by Robert Hunt to spring Gaskin for an 8-yard gain to the 3.
-- Great play call on second-and-2 from the 3 with the Tua keeper, who pretty much could have walked into the end zone after faking the handoff.
-- Great play by safety Eric Rowe to strip the ball away from rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson after a short completion, leading to the fumble recovery by Zach Sieler.
-- Elandon Roberts and John Jenkins teamed up to stuff Damien Harris for no gain on a second-and-2 run.
-- Rookie safety Jevon Holland, who showed a knack for interceptions in training camp, forced a fumble with a low tackle of tight end Jonnu Smith, though the Patriots recovered the loose ball.
-- Tua threw a strike to DeVante Parker on a deep slant, good for a 23-yard completion to the 48.
-- On consecutive plays on a New England drive in the second quarter, Jason McCourty batted a deep pass away and Emmanuel Ogbah followed that on third down by knocking down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
-- Salvon Ahmed's ability to bounce off a defender turned a 1-yard gain after a short completion into a 6-yard pick-up.
-- After dropping an easy pass earlier, Waddle made a great adjustment on a deep ball to make a 36-yard reception late in the second quarter.
-- Jacoby Brissett came into the game to run a quarterback sneak on third-and-1 and gained 3 yards with a second effort.
-- Jason Sanders nailed a 48-yard field goal on the last play of the half ... because that's what Jason Sanders does.
-- The second half began (well, not technically "began") with a huge third-down conversion when Tua let it rip down the right sideline and DeVante Parker made the catch for a 30-yard gain. That was the kind of throw Tua was too hesitant to make in 2020, so this was a good sign.
-- A really good seal block by Jesse Davis sprung Myles Gaskin for a 15-yard run on the touchdown drive.
-- The Dolphins used the Wildcat on back-to-back plays, with Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown taking turns getting the snap. They both ran, gaining 8 and 5 yards, respectively.
-- Tua's 3-yard completion was a beautifully designed quick roll-out that made for an easy throw and Waddle did the rest.
-- Linebacker Elandon Roberts forced an incompletion with great coverage on running back Damien Harris.
-- Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was dominant in the second half, and one play that stood out came when he forced a holding penalty. He later stopped James White for a 1-yard loss on a running play.
-- Byron Jones had tight coverage on Nelson Agholor to force an incompletion.
-- Sieler busted up a running play to drop Harris for a 4-yard loss.
-- Linebacker Brennan Scarlett caused an incompletion when he batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
-- Cornerback Xavien Howard came up with the play of the game when he stripped the ball from Harris and recovered the fumble inside the Miami 10-yard line.
-- Tua's 13-yard completion to DeVante Parker helped the Dolphins get out of a first-and-14 hole on the game-clinching drive.
-- Brissett clinched the victory when he converted a second third-and-1 with a quarterback sneak.
-- The first play from scrimmage was a nightmare as the front seven got cleared out and the result was a 35-yard run by Damien Harris.
-- The Dolphins suffered a potential blow to their defense on that first drive when nose tackle Raekwon Davis went down with a knee injury when somebody fell into his right knee.
-- The offensive line allowed penetration on two first-quarter runs that went for 1-yard losses.
-- Tua had his one negative play in the first two drives when he misfired trying to hit Mike Gesicki over the middle and went low.
-- The pass protection broke down on a third-and-11 after the Sieler fumble recovery, leading to the sack of Tua, though the holding call on rookie Liam Eichenberg was nothing short of a horrible call.
-- New England's third down began with a way-too-easy 11-yard run by Damien Harris up the middle when the middle of the line was cleared out.
-- The Dolphins got mixed up in their coverage on a third-and-6 for New England from the Miami 35 when they left wide receiver Jakobi Meyers wide open past the first-down marker for an easy 21-yard completion.
-- The Dolphins' third drive ended when Waddle failed to come down with a very catchable pass from Tua near the sideline. This (inconsistent hands) unfortunately was something we saw from Waddle throughout training camp.
-- Tua made a bad decision when he tried to force a throw down the middle after getting pressure with Mike Gesicki well covered. The ball was tipped and safety Devin McCourty almost came up with a pick for the Patriots.
-- Elandon Roberts had a drive-stopping sack negated when he was called for roughness because he tackled Jones at the knees. Roberts was losing his balance moving forward, which makes it just a really tough play for him.
-- The defense played really soft coverage on a second-and-goal from the 7, making for an easy completion to Nelson Agholor for the touchdown.
-- Eichenberg allowed Josh Uche to get around him for a key sack on third-and-5 in the final seconds of the first half.
-- Sieler helped New England get out of a first-and-20 hole when he got his hand on an offensive lineman's facemask while pass rushing.
-- Linebacker Jerome Baker had a really good game, but he was on the wrong end of a 26-yard completion from Mac Jones to James White, though in fairness to Baker, he had pretty good coverage and just got beat by a perfect pass.
-- Tua looked like he had a shot at a big pass play to Salvon Ahmed down the right sideline, but badly overthrew him and gave him no chance to make a play on the ball.
-- Tua's big mistake of the game, though, came on the Dolphins' next-to-last possession on a third-and-7 when he got so stubborn about not taking a sack that he just tried throwing the ball after barely setting his feet. As a result, his throw didn't have enough velocity to get out of bounds and it ended up in traffic and was tipped up twice and right into the hands of Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones.
-- The Dolphins allowed two third-conversions to allow New England to drive all the way to the 11-yard line on the Patriots' final drive, before Xavien Howard saved the day. It was the continuation of a rough day on third down for the Dolphins defense, an area where the team was so good in 2020. New England ended the game 11-for-16 in third-down conversions, and that's an area where the Dolphins are going to have to make some improvement — and quickly.