The Cam Newton era is off to a perfect start: while the regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins did get close in the second half, New England was in total control from start to finish behind a strong outing on both sides of the ball. The team starts the season 1-0, with plenty to feel good about coming out of the contest.
Patriots (1-0) 21 : 11 Dolphins (0-1)
The Patriots opened the 2020 season by winning the coin toss and deciding to kick off to the Dolphins. Following Jake Bailey’s touchback, 2019’s number one scoring defense went straight to work by immediately forcing a three-and-out. While the ensuing punt almost resulted in disaster — Damiere Byrd muffed it, with J.C. Jackson recovering — New England kept the ball and marched down the field behind a dominant running attack led by Cam Newton. However, the drive stalled after a drop by Julian Edelman and a 9-yard sack.
Miami found more success on its second series. After gaining two first downs, however, some back-to-back good run defense by Chase Winovich forced a 3rd-and-12 that the team was unable to convert. New England’s second possession, meanwhile, looked just like its first: some very encouraging running play with the occasional pass — including a 25-yarder to Ryan Izzo — sprinkled in. The quarter ended with the Patriots getting ready for a 3rd-and-5 at the Miami 24-yard line.
The first play of the quarter saw Newton pick up seven yards on third down to keep the Patriots’ second possession alive — one that ended with Cam Newton scoring from four yards out to give New England a 7-0 lead. [Patriots 7 : 0 Dolphins]
The Dolphins’ next drive ended on just the fourth play. Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Preston Williams, but reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore was able to pick off the pass and return the interception 15 yards:
While the Patriots started their ensuing possession on the Miami 35-yard-line, the offense was unable to capitalize on the good field position. Following two short running attempts by Sony Michel and James White, Cam Newton took a 6-yard sack that took New England out of field goal range and forced a Jake Bailey punt.
Even though Miami’s next drive started at its own 13-yard line, the team’s offense moved the football well. A pair of runs for no gain — tackles were made by John Simon and Deatrich Wise Jr. as well as Byron Cowart — and an incomplete pass intended for Williams with Gilmore in coverage forced the Dolphins to settle for a field goal, but they were still able to change momentum and cut New England’s lead to four points. [Patriots 7 : 3 Dolphins]
The Patriots’ answer to Miami’s field goal was a disappointing one: the offense was off the field again after just three plays, the final of which a 5-yard run by James White on 3rd-and-6. The punt that followed, however, forced the Dolphins into an unfavorable field position: returnman Jakeem Grant tried to spin away from New England’s coverage team, but was taken down for a 3-yard loss to set up his team at the 8-yard line.
Despite the team starting deep in its own territory, it was able to successfully drive down the field until first-year Patriot Adrian Phillips ended the drive: he was able to intercept Ryan Fitzpatrick on a zone-drop to end the series and give his team’s offense another shot at adding to its point total.
Adrian Phillips ends Miami’s drive. pic.twitter.com/SinH7vVzr4— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) September 13, 2020
The Patriots started the drive after the interception at their own 44-yard line, and moved the football well early on with James White and Julian Edelman successfully gaining first downs on Newton passes. However, the team was unable to keep its momentum going and eventually had to settle for a 45-yard field goal. While Nick Folk was successful from this distance during warmups, he failed to make the kick and pushed the football wide to the right. New England and Miami therefore headed into the locker room with the score still at 7-3.
New England received the second half kickoff and quickly went to work by gaining first downs on three consecutive pass plays (to Julian Edelman twice and to James White). The drive continued successfully in Miami territory with a good mix of running and passing before Newton found the end zone again — this time from 11 yards out. [Patriots 14 : 3 Dolphins]
Miami’s first drive of the third quarter was a rather short one: the team had to leave the field again after three offensive plays, with former second-round draft pick Joejuan Williams’ tight coverage against tight end Mike Gesicki forcing an incompletion on third down. New England’s offense, on the other hand, continued to do what it did all game long: rely on a balanced attack to move the football down the field.
With the Patriots getting some strong contributions from rookie running back J.J. Taylor and former first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, the team marched right down the field again: 12 plays, 68 yards. The final play of the drive, however, ended in disaster: Harry received a short pass from Newton, but lost the football at the 1-yard line. To make matters worse, the fumble rolled through the end zone for a touchback.
The Dolphins took over at their own 20-yard line and moved the football well early on in the drive: three straight pass completions allowed the team to set up shop at the 39 heading into quarter four.
The Patriots defense forced Miami into a fourth down early in the final period, but the Dolphins were able to convert when Stephon Gilmore was flagged on a 23-yard pass interference call. The penalty kept the series alive and eventually allowed Brian Flores’ team to score its first touchdown of the day: Jordan Howard found the end zone from one yard out, before Ryan Fitzpatrick added a two-point conversion to make it a field goal game. [Patriots 14 : 11 Dolphins]
With momentum shifting towards the Dolphins, New England’s offense answered in style. With Julian Edelman jumpstarting the series on a 23-yard run — plus 15 more on a late hit penalty — the Patriots marched right down the field to answer Miami’s touchdown with one of their own. Following a fourth down conversion by Newton, Sony Michel capped the series with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the home team up by 10 points. [Patriots 21 : 11 Dolphins]
With under six minutes left in the game, Miami needed to go to their up-tempo offense in order to get back into the game. The Dolphins did find some success — in part due to another Gilmore pass interference call, this one on 3rd-and-18 — and moved into the red zone just at the two-minute warning. However, the drive ended with J.C. Jackson registering an interception in the end zone:
With Miami still having three timeouts in its pocket, the game was not yet over. However, a first down run by Cam Newton on the ensuing possession put the icing on the cake and the Patriots to 1-0.