The New England Patriots opened the 2022 regular season where the 2021 regular season closed.
But the result remained the same for Bill Belichick’s side in Sunday’s 20-7 loss to head coach Mike McDaniel and Miami Dolphins.
Here’s a glance through what went into the 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Hard Rock Stadium as the visitors head home 0-1.
Jones begins sophomore year with two turnovers
The sophomore campaign began with a feels-like temperature of 103 degrees for Mac Jones. And soon after connecting with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers for nine yards down the sideline on the first snap, the quarterback felt the AFC East heat.
New England’s initial drive ended with an interception on a tipped pass intended for 2015 Dolphins first-round draft pick DeVante Parker’s fade route. Cornerback Xavien Howard and safety Jevon Holland both had hands in what became a touchback. The second possession gave way to a punt. Then the third possession gave way to a fumble recovery for a touchdown by outside linebacker Melvin Ingram.
No. 10 finished having completed 21-of-30 passes to nine different targets. Along the way came 213 yards with one touchdown and the two turnovers. The jump balls brought a low success rate while the Miami pass rush brought two costly sacks. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah went untouched through the B-gap and safety Brandon Jones screamed around the C-gap on a blindside blitz.
Handling Hill, Waddle and the Dolphins’ sudden passing attack
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had gone 3-0 in his previous starts versus New England. He would go 23-of-33 through the air for 217 yards with one touchdown this time around as his Crimson Tide understudy looked on.
The Patriots started in the big nickel with safeties Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips, who was later ruled out due to a ribs injury. An ability to close in open field played no small part in why. The trio combined for 14 tackles with three for loss.
Perennial All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill reeled in eight passes for 94 yards. He did so while facing veteran Jonathan Jones’ 40-time of 4.33 seconds and rookie Jack Jones’ three-cone of 6.9 seconds. And Jaylen Waddle, who set the rookie receptions record after arriving at No. 6 overall last season, reeled in four more for 69 yards and a touchdown on fourth down. The score spanned 42 yards on a post pattern while lined up against cornerback Jalen Mills and safety company. It put New England into a 17-0 deficit in the final seconds before intermission.
New England’s three-man ground game shows brief glimpses
Ty Montgomery had been carted to the locker room during the preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders. But the knee issue that kept him limited during practices at Palm Beach Atlantic University and questionable on the final injury report did not keep him inactive.
The versatile running back would be back to handle the opening kickoff return in Miami Gardens. Montgomery would also handle five offensive touches and a tumbling touchdown to put the Patriots on the board. It came six yards from the end zone on third down. It was his first TD since 2018. And it was part of a depth chart led by the tandem of Alabama and Oklahoma products.
Damien Harris rushed for 48 yards on nine attempts and caught two passes for 10 yards. Rhamondre Stevenson, who spelled in midway through the first series, rushed for 25 yards on eight attempts and caught two passes for as many yards. Their longest runs went for a dozen apiece in an offense no longer utilizing the fullback position but zone concepts.
Strange goes in and out in NFL debut
Patriots rookie Cole Strange got his first NFL start on an offensive line featuring Trent Brown, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu and Isaiah Wynn. But the No. 29 overall pick in April’s NFL draft would stay on the sideline during the third and fourth drives.
James Ferentz, who signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad last week, subbed in at left guard for that stretch. The Chattanooga standout then stepped back on with fresh legs in the second half after being in the vicinity of a free rusher in the first half.
Later, swingman Yodny Cajuste checked in at right tackle to end the third quarter and begin the fourth quarter.
Surprise scratch off the Patriots’ edges
Anfernee Jennings would be a healthy scratch for the Patriots 90 minutes prior to kickoff with a group of rookies that included quarterback Bailey Zappe, running back Pierre Strong Jr., guard Chasen Hines and defensive tackle Sam Roberts. That was case for the 2020 third-rounder despite a preseason that brought a dozen quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
But it was Deatrich Wise Jr. in the 3-3-5 front as Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux manned the interior. The new team captain swiped by offensive lineman Robert Hunt for a sack and forced fumble on third down, holding Miami’s first drive to a 43-yard field goal. Then three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon hit home for a sack with a minute remaining before halftime.
Linebackers Josh Uche, Jahlani Tavai and Mack Wilson Sr. rotated into the front while Raekwon McMillan and Ja’Whaun Bentley, who logged a sack in the final frame, worked off the ball for New England.
With ‘12’ personnel and without much Bourne
Two tight ends reside on New England’s 53-man roster. Both were on the field for “12” personnel as early as the game’s first down for senior football advisor and offensive play-caller Matt Patricia.
Hunter Henry had two catches for 20 yards from there and was flagged once for a false start. Jonnu Smith, who agreed to a contract restructure as the calendar turned to September, worked after the catch for 33 yards on three connections of his own. They were turned to a collective seven times.
But not turned to in the gameplan until late was wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who had set career highs in receptions, receiving yards and tied another in receiving touchdowns last fall. The former San Francisco 49ers undrafted signing did not see a snap in the first half. His second snap went for an in-the-bucket gain of 41 yards. Yet a fumble by fellow wideout Nelson Agholor soon gave the football back to Miami with five minutes to play.