Dolphins Diary Week 1: X Factor
You know you see a team that is well-coached when you win games that you should not win. For most of the game, the Miami Dolphins were outplayed but found a way to steal the game from the New England Patriots in Foxboro. The Dolphins' offense was shaky most of the game but scored on their first possession of each half showing, the ability to script plays. The defense was not perfect but did not break, and held the Patriots to three field goals and had two key turnovers, including the game-sealing fumble forced by Xavien Howard as New England was driving to take the lead.
The game was built as a battle between former Alabama quarterbacks, as Mac Jones made his NFL debut, while Tua Tagovailoa began his second season with the pressure of proving himself as an NFL quarterback. Tagovailoa had his best series at the start of the first quarter, leading the Dolphins down the field 80 yards on ten plays while scoring on a three-yard sneak out of the shotgun.
The Dolphins had a chance to take control of the game early as Erik Rowe stripped Rhamondre Stevenson and set the Miami offense up at midfield. However, the Dolphins struggled and went three and out. When New England got the ball back, Mac Jones began to find his comfort zone, as he drove his team down the field and got the Patriots' first points of the game with a 27-yard field goal by Nick Folk. The Dolphins' defense did a good job of keeping the Patriots out of the end zone, as they had 14 plays and began to take control of the line of scrimmage.
The Patriots would take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter as Nelson Agholor caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from the rookie quarterback. The Dolphins did not panic and answered before the end of the half as the always reliable Jason Sanders nailed a 48-yard field goal to end the first half with the game tied 10-10.
Coming out of the locker, the Dolphins offense looked reinvigorated, as they went 75 yards in nine plays, with Tua Tagovailoa hitting rookie Jaylen Waddle on a three-yard touchdown pass. Waddle, a former teammate of Tua at Alabama, had a key drop in the first half and finished with 61 yards on four receptions. The Patriots responded with a long drive, but once again, the Dolphins' defense bent, but it did not break as a 14-play drive resulted in a 42-yard field goal.
The Dolphins were on their heels as the fourth quarter began, following a three and out that was hurt by a penalty; the Dolphins defense found themselves pushed to the breaking point again but again held firm as a third 14-play drive ended with a Nick Folk field goal 33 yards. Look to answer, Tua Tagovailoa made his lone mistake of the game throwing a careless pass that Jonathan Jones picked off at midfield.
The game hung in the balance. The Dolphins' defense was tired; the Patriots had the momentum and were driving to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. At the doorstep, Damien Harris running the ball for the Patriots at the Miami nine was stripped by Xavien Howard, and the game was saved. The Dolphins managed to run out the final 3:31 as Tagovailoa had a sweet 17-yard run and hit DeVante Parker on a critical 13-yard pass. Jacoby Brissett, who entered the game twice on one-yard sneaks, was able to get the final first down before the two-minute warning as the Patriots had exhausted their final timeout.
Tua Tagovailoa had an uneven game, passing for 202 yards, as the offensive line did not have a great game for Miami. Tagovailoa was saved twice and had one interception. Mac Jones passed for 281 yards in his debut for the Patriots, but the Dolphins' ability to stiffen on defense proved to be what won the game, as three 14-play drives led to field goals, and the Dolphins were able to get a 17-16 win in Foxboro.
The Patriots had the ball for 13 more minutes and had nearly 400 yards of total offense, but the Dolphins found a way to win the game. The Dolphins are well-coached, and it shows as they had just five penalties called against them. They limited the mistakes and did not panic. They stiffened when it was needed and had scored when they had to. They did not do much on offense, but by staying under control and limiting mistakes, they beat the Patriots and Bill Belichick to start 1-0. With losses by the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, the Dolphins stand atop the AFC East at 1-0.