At long last, NFL regular-season football has returned to Foxboro, Massachusetts.
On a beautiful late-summer afternoon, the New England Patriots welcomed their AFC East division rivals the Miami Dolphins, as both teams opened the 2021 NFL Season at Gillette Stadium.
In his NFL regular-season debut, Mac Jones threw for 281 yards, going 29-for-39 with one touchdown. However, the story of the day for New England would be lost fumbles (each by running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris) and costly penalties. as the Patriots fell to the Dolphins 17-16 in their week one season opener.
First Half Highlights
The Dolphins hit the scoreboard first, with a 10-play, 80 yard drive, capped by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa rushing for the 3-yard touchdown. The Miami offense was able to travel the distance in just a little over five minutes, with running back Myles Gaskin gaining 28 yards on five carries.
Dolphins 7, Patriots 0
The Patriots first scoring drive of 2021 had some promising moments. Despite ending with a Nick Folk field goal, the Pats came away from this drive feeling like they had left some points on the board. After absorbing a potential drive-killing fumble by tight end Jonnu Smith, it appeared that running back Damien Harris had come close to finding the end zone, on a left field run. However, left tackle Isaiah Wynn was called for a holding penalty, which caused the Pats to retreat 10 yards. Folk would cap the drive with the 27-yard field goal for the first score of the second quarter.
Dolphins 7, Patriots 3
With 2:35 left in the second quarter, Mac Jones would collect his first touchdown pass of his NFl career. Jones would lead the Pats on a 7-play, 63-yard drive, during which he would find Nelson Agholor over the deep-middle for 25 yards. Mixed with a couple of solid runs by Damien Harris, the rookie once again found Agholor for a 7-yard score.
Patriots 10, Dolphins 7
Miami would light the board to close the second half on a 48-yard field goal by Jason Sanders. The Pats defense, however, would have it share of shining moments to hold the Dolphins to three. Jalen Mills had an impressive pass break up, on what would have been a sure score from Tagovailoa to Albert Wilson. On the next play, linebacker Josh Uche easily beat Miami lineman Liam Eichenberg for the sack on Tagovailoa.
Patriots 10, Dolphins 10
Second Half Highlights
The Dolphins would strike first in the second half, with a nine-play, 75-yard drive, highlighted by a 30-yard completion from Tua Tagovailoa to receiver DeVante Parker. The Alabama connection between Miami’s starting quarterback and its profiling rookie receiver would cap the drive, as Tagovailoa found Waddle for the three-year touchdown pass.
Dolphins 17, Patriots 10
The Patriots would answer by going 67 yards on 14 plays. Mac Jones continued to increase his comfort level in the Patriots offense, finding tight end Hunter Henry on a nine-yard completion (his first in a Patriots uniform) and a back shoulder wheel route to running back James White. Folk would connect on the 42-yard field goal, cutting the Miami lead to three.
Dolphins 17, Patriots 14
The Pats continued to chip away at Miami’s lead into the fourth quarter. The Pats traveled 57 yards on 14 plays, on two carries by Damie Harris. Jones nearly connected with Jakobi Meyers on a 3rd and 4 at the Miami 15. However, the pass falling incomplete set up the 33-yard field goal from Nick Folk.
Dolphins 17, Patriots 16
Set up by an interception of Tagovailoa by slot corner Jonathan Jones, the Pats would take over at midfield. Facing a 3rd and 6, Jones would find Meyers for the seven-yard completion to keep the drive alive. The rookie would find Jonnu Smith for 11 yards. However the promising Pats drive would be stalled by a forced fumble on a Damien Harris carry. With former Patriots Eric Rowe and Elandon Roberts in coverage, the ball would be forced loose and recovered by Dolphins cornerback Xavier Howard. The Dolphins would maintain the ball throughout the final drive, holding on for the victory.
Final: Dolphins 17, Patriots 16
Patriots offensive lineman Trent Brown exited the game in the first quarter with a calf injury. Soon after, he was seen on the sidelines with the calf heavily bandaged, and did not return to the game. He was replaced in the lineup by offensive lineman Justin Herron.
The Patriots travel to the ‘green side’ of the Meadowlands, New Jersey as they will take on the New York Jets (0-1) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at 1:00pm ET on Sunday, September 19.