Hard Rock Stadium wasn’t the house of horrors that it had been before for the New England Patriots.
There would be no future Hall of Fame tight end playing safety on Sunday afternoon. There’d be no hook-and-ladder drill, no flinging of the football into the stands, and no Miami miracle in a game New England entered as 18.5-point favorites.
The Patriots exited with a 43-0 victory over head coach Brian Flores’ Dolphins instead.
Here are six observations from it.
Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones starts at safety
With a three-year contract extension in hand, Patriots nickelback Jonathan Jones showed the Dolphins a different hand on Sunday.
The Patriots started Jones at safety, where he also got the nod in Super Bowl LIII, and subbed Patrick Chung in on third down. But it was a wrinkle more than a full-time change. Chung was back in to play his hybrid role by the second series.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Jones then stepped back into his slot responsibilities as New England’s third cornerback.
Antonio Brown’s presence felt early in crowd of wideouts
Amid the civil suit, Brown practiced fully in his first week with New England. And by kickoff, the longtime Pittsburgh Steeler and onetime Oakland Raider was off and running.
As early as the second offensive snap, Brown worked out of the slot to catch his first pass from quarterback Tom Brady. An out route followed on Brown’s next snap. No. 17 logged three receptions for 36 yards on New England’s opening drive while also drawing a holding call. He’d finish his debut with four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown – as well as a jet sweep for five yards.
Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and even a glimpse of Matthew Slater factored in for the Patriots at wide receiver. Yet with Brown active, rookie Jakobi Meyers was inactive after catching one pass for 22 yards in New England’s season opener. Gunner Olszewski, a fellow undrafted free agent, continued to operate on punt returns and kickoff coverage.
Injuries leave New England searching at the tackle spots
The Patriots ruled out starting right tackle Marcus Cannon 90 minutes before kickoff. Cannon had practiced in a partial capacity leading up to the Miami meeting, but was officially listed as questionable with the shoulder injury that forced him out in Week 1.
Without New England’s longest-tenured offensive lineman, August trade acquisition Korey Cunningham and Wednesday signing Marshall Newhouse were both active.
Newhouse, a former teammate of Cannon’s at Texas Christian, made his 73rd career start in his place. But an injury to starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn would send Newhouse to the left side and Cunningham to the right side midway through the first quarter. Wynn, the top pick in New England’s 2018 draft class, was announced as questionable to return due to a foot injury. The Patriots subsequently downgraded Wynn to out.
No Deatrich Wise Jr., but no letup from Patriots’ defense
New England’s decision to deactivate Wise served as a surprise. Wise, who’d appeared in all 32 games over the last two regular seasons, recorded a sack and a forced fumble against the Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last weekend.
But this weekend, New England’s defense went on to concede 38 total yards and two first downs through three quarters. The unit also notched seven sacks by the fourth. Adam Butler got to the Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick for a pair of sacks and batted a pass. Danny Shelton, Chase Winovich, John Simon and Michael Bennett, among others, also met at the QB as the Dolphins were forced to punt on seven occasions.
Fitzpatrick would be picked off by free safety Devin McCourty for the fifth time since January 2012. First-team All-Pro corner Stephon Gilmore then turned in a pick-six opposite his ex-Buffalo Bills teammate. Linebacker Jamie Collins did the same off a bobble, then collected another interception via Dolphins backup Josh Rosen as time expired.
Uprights evade kicker Stephen Gostkowski
New England’s all-time points leader had missed an extra point last year at Hard Rock. That’d be the case this year, too. Twice.
Gostkowski saw extra points sail wide left and wide right versus Miami, and pushed a 48-yard field goal outside the uprights prior to those.
Gostkowski would convert on a 28-yard attempt in the second half. But he had gone 4-for-4 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points a Sunday ago versus Pittsburgh.
Patriots rusher Sony Michel gets another day in the sun
It was against the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium last September that the skies cleared for Sony Michel. The No. 31 overall pick out of Georgia rushed 25 times for 112 yards and his first career touchdown that time around. And this time around, he got the workload again.
Michel plunged through for the Patriots’ initial touchdown in Miami Gardens. He’d go on to gather 85 yards on 21 rushing attempts after being held to 14 yards on 15 rushing attempts in the opener against Pittsburgh. A fumble would arrive, however, with 5:43 left in a 37-0 game.
New England utilized a trio of halfbacks against the Dolphins, with James White and Rex Burkhead combining for 97 yards of offense and a TD.
Pats Pulpit Live: Week 2 in Miami
Welcome to another victory edition of Pats Pulpit Live! The Patriots dominated the Dolphins in Miami to the tune of a 43-0 shutout. Host Brian Phillips breaks down 4 players who were "up" and two who were "down" on Sunday.Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, September 15, 2019