Dolphins hold off Patriots in balanced road win to start 2-0
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It didn’t take every one of 466 yards passing, like the opener.
But it was quarterback Tua Tagovailoa taking what the defense gave him. It was the run game providing balance. And it was the Dolphins defense making a rebound from a Week 1 performance the unit wasn’t proud of and the final stop.
The Miami Dolphins went into Gillette Stadium to take down the New England Patriots, 24-17,
The Dolphins (2-0) have now won five of their last six in the division rivalry with the Patriots. They start a season with two road wins for the first time since 2013.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is now 5-0 in his career against the Patriots, and 4-0 versus his former backup at Alabama, Mac Jones.
Tagovailoa went 21 of 30 for 249 yards, a touchdown and an interception against a New England defense that was playing off coverage, often with three safeties, to limit the deep passing game.
Running back Raheem Mostert went for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his staple game plan to limit an opponents’ greatest playmaker, held Tyreek Hill to five receptions for 40 yards with a touchdown. That was without cornerback Jonathan Jones and with fellow corner Marcus Jones going down during the game. Jaylen Waddle had four receptions for 86 yards.
Mac Jones finished 31 of 42 for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The Miami run defense, which was rolled over for 234 yards on the ground in the opener against the Chargers, held New England to 88 rushing yards. Rhamondre Stevenson was contained to 50 yards on 15 attempts.
Former Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, now with the Patriots made a catch on the final fourth down. In cornerback Justin Bethel’s grasp, he lateraled to lineman Cole Strange. Strange made an effort for the marker and called to have reached the line to gain on the field before the play was overturned upon review.
With the Dolphins ahead, 17-10, Mostert reeled off a 43-yard scamper over the middle for a touchdown on the opening play of a possession to extend Miami’s advantage back to two scores, 24-10, with 8:45 remaining.
The Patriots swiftly responded. Jones led them 75 yards in nine plays, and Stevenson punched in a 2-yard touchdown with 5:25 to play. New England was back within a score, 24-17.
Then, Miami missed out on points on the ensuing drive. A fumbled unter-center snap between center Connor Williams and Tagovailoa led to a failed third-and-1. Jason Sanders’ 55-yard field goal, after having one blocked earlier, missed wide left.
Tagovailoa pulled off a two-minute drive before halftime where he was 7 of 7 for 69 yards and a 2-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill on a short out from the slot. It gave Miami a 17-3 lead at the half. A smooth touch throw to Braxton Berrios down the sideline got Miami to the 2-yard line before Hill’s score.
As the Patriots looked to rebound, they picked up momentum from a blocked field goal in the third quarter. They were driving deep into Miami territory, but cornerback Xavien Howard ended the threat with an interception of Jones in single coverage against DeVante Parker. Howard shielded Parker from the ball with inside positioning and still had to toe-tap the sideline.
New England did score on its next drive, however, as Jones threw on the run to tight end Hunter Henry for a 6-yard touchdown. It brought the Patriots within a touchdown, 17-10, with 11:21 remaining.
Not taking many deep shots the way the Patriots were defending the Miami passing game, Tagovailoa decided to throw one to Hill, but rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez was there, leaping for an interception at its highest point.
The Dolphins again got a stop, spearheaded by an Andrew Van Ginkel sack that backed up New England inside its 5-yard line.
The Dolphins opened up a 10-0 lead in the second quarter with Raheem Mostert’s 8-yard touchdown run to the pylon. A screen to Jaylen Waddle on second-and-19 that went for 28 yards behind blocks by right guard Robert Hunt, right tackle Austin Jackson and center Connor Williams highlighted the drive.
The Dolphins, after forcing the Patriots to punt on the opening drive Sunday, scored first with a 13-play, 81-yard drive that resulted in a 23-yard field goal from Jason Sanders. Tagovailoa started by completing his first five passes until he stumbled on a dropback and throw off a low snap from center Connor Williams.
Miami got another defensive stop on the following series, and that time with their first takeaway of the young season. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb forced a fumble, punching the ball out of receiver Demario Douglas’ grasp, and safety DeShon Elliott was present for the recovery.
After scoring on their first two drives, the Dolphins went three and out on their third series. The Patriots took advantage of the field position but were held to 3 points as Elliott broke up a pass to DeVante Parker while Eli Apple nearly came up with a diving interception off the ricochet. Rookie New England kicker Chad Ryland made his first NFL field goal attempt, a 49-yarder that cut the Dolphins lead to 10-3 with under 2 minutes in the first half.
In the second half, the Patriots made a patented special teams play when Brenden Schooler shot through off the edge to block a field goal. Christian Wilkins, who had a sack later, didn’t pick him up as got a running lateral start from the outside. Wilkins then saved a touchdown with the tackle to follow.
After Tagovailoa was never sacked in last week’s opener, he was only sacked once Sunday. Miami played both games without Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead.
Miami has its home opener next week, hosting the Denver Broncos.
This story will be updated.