Patriots at Dolphins score: Mike McDaniel earns first win of coaching career as Miami knocks off New England

The Miami Dolphins are 1-0 in the Mike McDaniel era after taking down the New England Patriots in the Week 1 opener 20-7. It was an overall dominating effort by the Dolphins to begin the year as they played complimentary football, scoring 10 points off turnovers in the win. At the break they were able to jump out to a 17-0 lead, which matched their largest halftime lead over New England since 1990.

Not only did McDaniel earn his first win of his career career, but quarterback Tua Tagovailoa stretched his undefeated record over Bill Belichick and the Patriots to 4-0. That matches John Elway for the most wins against Belichick without a loss (including playoffs). He finished 23 of 33 for 270 yards and that touchdown.

On New England’s side, the offense did flash at times, but was overall disjointed and struggled to protect Jones. He completed 21 of his 30 throws for 213 yards, a touchdown and a pick.

For a more detailed breakdown of how this game shook out, check out our main takeaways below.

Why the Dolphins won

While there was plenty of talk about Miami’s new offense it was set to run under McDaniel, it was the defense that flashed first in the winning effort as it was able to pick off Patriots second-year quarterback Mac Jones in the end zone on the opening possession of the game. That was turned into a field-goal drive on the ensuing possession and the Dolphins never looked back.

Turnovers were a main storyline in this matchup between AFC East rivals. On top of that interception to start, Miami forced three turnovers on the day, including a strip-sack of Jones in the second quarter that was recovered by Melvin Ingram and brought in for a touchdown to go up 10-0. They also forced a fumble on Patriots wideout Nelson Agholor on the team’s final possession of the game, which allowed them to simply burn the clock down with a 10-play drive.

All that said, the offensive attack in Miami looked sharp in the win. Tyreek Hill made his regular-season debut for the Dolphins and was the same lethal weapon he was in Kansas City, catching eight passes on a team-high 12 targets for 94 yards. Jaylen Waddle also got in on the action with a massive 42-yard touchdown.

Tagovailoa was solid at times, but it was hardly a stellar showing for him as he made some questionable plays down the stretch. If he can stay consistently, however, this Dolphins offense has plenty of weapons to put up points.

Why the Patriots lost

For a minute it looked like the Patriots offense was going to begin the year on a high note. They began the game with the ball and moved down the field with relative ease while compiling a number of chunk plays on the opening possession. However, Jones was picked off in the end zone on a pass intended for DeVante Parker, which threw all of that positive momentum out of the window. From there, they punted twice and Jones was stripped with the ball being returned for a touchdown to finish off the first half and found themselves trailing 17-0 at the break.

They were able to find the end zone on their first possession of the second half, but that trip to pay dirt was all they’d enjoy in the opener as they punted, committed a turnover on downs, and fumbled to end the day.

The offensive line’s struggles over the summer continued in the opener as Jones was sacked twice and suffered what the team is calling a back injury. Safety Kyle Dugger and wideout Jakobi Meyers were the bight spots for their respective sides of the field. Dugger was all over the field and made a number of key tackles, while Meyers finished with four catches for 55 yards and seemed to be Jones’ go-to target.

Going forward, New England is going to need to protect Jones far better and the pass catchers must be able to create yards after the catch, which was something they failed to do in Miami.

Turning point

You have to give McDaniel some credit: He isn’t afraid to make a risky call. In the closing seconds of the first half and the Dolphins already leading by 10, McDaniel kept his offense on the field on a fourth-and-7 attempt from the New England 42-yard line. Tagovailoa then took the snap and fired a perfectly placed ball over the middle of the field into the arms of Waddle, who turned on the burners for a 42-yard touchdown.

That score completely broke the game open for Miami as they went into the break with a 17-0 lead and left the Patriots deflated for what felt like the rest of the afternoon.

Waddle finished with four catches on five targets for 69 yards and that score.

Play of the game

As we noted above, this was a rather dominant defensive effort by the Dolphins and were able to force multiple turnovers. The biggest of the day came midway through the second quarter when Byron Jones came in on a corner blitz untouched, walloped Jones and popped the ball free. Ingram was able to pick up the loose ball and walk it in for the touchdown to go up 10-0. That was effectively all the Dolphins would need to pull off the win.

What’s next

From here, the Dolphins will leave the friendly confines of Hard Rock Stadium and head up to Baltimore to face the Ravens (1-0) in Week 2. As for the Patriots, they’ll continue their two-game road trip to begin the regular season when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers (1-0).

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