The Patriots fell to 0-2 in 2023 on Sunday night, falling to the Miami Dolphins 24-17 in front of a national audience.
It looked like Miami might run away with the game early as they built a 17-3 lead in the first half but a blocked field goal and an interception helped the Pats make a game of it in the second half. Scores by Hunter Henry and Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth quarter helped make it a one-score game two different times but New England was unable to get over the hump as Miami finally closed things out with a late-game stop.
Here are the key takeaways from the loss.
1. Miami opens scoring
The Patriots showed some initial promise after receiving the opening kickoff, progressing past midfield and into Miami territory, but a 10-yard loss on a sack set them back and forced them to punt to the Dolphins. This came as Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu returned to the lineup at guard while tackle Trent Brown missed the game with a concussion. Vederian Lowe got the start at left tackle in his place with Calvin Anderson remaining at the right tackle spot he occupied last week.
New England employed a three-tight end package but spread things out with the heavy package as the Pats looked to get Miami in their base defense then attack them through the air.
Defensively, the Pats were without Jonathan Jones who popped up on the injury report with an ankle issue this week that was enough to cost him the game. New England flooded the middle part of the field early, with three deep safeties spinning the coverage dial post-snap. Miami wasn't entirely phased by the tactic early on, as Tua Tagovailoa spread the ball around on the ground and through the air on a 13-play, 81-yard drive.
New England stiffened inside the red zone, getting a tackle for loss on second down and then watching Tua trip on third down and throw an incompletion. Credit the defense for a red zone stop that held Miami to a field goal for a 3-0 first-quarter lead.
2. Turnover Problems Persist, Deficit Grows
The Pats started their first game of the season off with two turnovers on their first two possessions and while they'd punt away their first one against the Dolphins, they returned to the giveaway script on the second possession with Demario Douglas coughing up a fumble after making a nice catch and cut on a third down that would've been a big play in a positive way until the ball hit the turf and ended up with Miami. The Patriots were again starting to find some rhythm on offense, traveling 47 yards before the mistake.
Douglas has been one of the young bright spots this summer and had already picked up a previous catch before his fumble. The mistake wasn't enough to keep Douglas off the field, as he took over punt return duties after Marcus Jones was injured, however, his snaps at wide receiver disappeared.
The Dolphins would then make the Patriots pay for the mistake with an 11-play, 58-yard drive that would not be denied from the end zone this time, with Raheem Mostert running the ball in from eight yards out to extend the lead to 10-0. The Patriots defense had few answers for Tua and the Dolphins attack on their first two possessions, with mistakes by Miami doing more to slow them down than plays made by the Patriots.
3. Ryland Bags Three, Dolphins Break Free
Down 10-0 with halftime fast approaching, the Patriots needed to find a way to get some points on the board and that they did, albeit on a 10-play drive that went just 35 yards. They overcame a Cole Strange holding penalty on the drive but stalled out, setting up rookie Chad Ryland's first field goal attempt. Ryland was up to the challenge and nailed a 49-yarder to get his field-goal-kicking career underway and the Patriots on the scoreboard.
Miami received the ball back with 1:49 left in the half at their own 25-yard line and put together their most dominant drive yet, highlighted by a pinpoint pass from Tua to former Patriots Braxton Berrios just outside the end zone for a big 18-yard gain. One play later Miami would add their second touchdown, this one a lightning-fast throw to Tyreek Hill to make it 17-3 at halftime. It took just eight plays to go 75 yards.
Miami put up 237 yards in the first half and converted 3-of-5 third downs (60 percent) as the Patriots forced just one punt on four possessions. Miami had six plays that went 15-plus yards as well. The Patriots had 116 total net yards in the first half.
4. Blocked FG Provides Brief Spark
Miami and New England traded punts to start the second half, but the Dolphins found their stride again on their second possession, driving into Patriots territory and looking to extend their lead to three scores. A holding penalty backed them up, and then, during an all-out blitz, Kyle Dugger dropped into coverage at the last second, quickly breaking up a pass that might've gone for a big gain. Miami was forced to settle for a field goal attempt.
Needing a big play, special teams coordinator Cam Achord pulled out a little trickeration, starting Brenden Schooler out wide as Miami was setting up for the field goal attempt. Schooler came flying in at the snap, blocking the field goal attempt and thereby giving the ball back to New England's offense just over midfield.
The momentum shift would be brief as the Patriots would get as far as Miami's 22-yard line and then Mac Jones' pass attempt down the sideline was athletically intercepted by Xavien Howard with under a minute left.
5. Defense Keeps the Door Open
After the interception, the defense stepped up and forced a much-needed punt on a three-and-out, resetting the Patriots offense up near midfield and this time Mac Jones and his attack delivered with an eight-play, 58-yard touchdown drive. Mac made some of his best throws of the young season on the drive, including a 12-yard dime to Juju Smith-Schuster along the sideline and then an eight-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry, made as Mac rolled out of the pocket and fired on the run.
The game slowly turned into a defensive struggle in the third quarter and the Patriots were able to take advantage in the early fourth, closing to within a touchdown with plenty of time left on the clock.
On Miami's ensuing possession the Pats stayed hot, with Christian Gonzalez grabbing the first interception of his career, tracking a Tua deep shot and making a leaping grab over Tyreek Hill to give the ball back to the offense once again.
Even after a quick three-and-out and a one-play scoring drive by Miami on a 43-yard touchdown run by Mostert that made it 24-10, New England continued to fight, turning in a nine-play, 59-yard scoring drive that once again made it a one-score game with five minutes left in the game.
6. One Last Chance
With a chance to close the game out with a long drive and score, Miami flamed out just past midfield, settling for a 55-yard field goal attempt. That attempt went just wide, setting up New England with one final chance from their own 45-yard line.
Things got crazy on 4th-and-4 from Miami's 33, as Mike Gesicki made the catch, was stopped short of the line to gain and the lateralled the ball back to Cole Strange who tried to barrel forward for a first down but was stopped short of the line to gain. Miami took over to close out their victory.
As usual, even with the slow start and the ups and downs, the Patriots managed to make a game of it right down to the end but couldn't get over the final hump.
7. Pats are now 0-2
For the first time since 2001, the Patriots have started the season 0-2 and will now take to the road to face the New York Jets in Week 3, facing an early must-win divisional contest.
Another loss to Tua and the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium is a tough pill to swallow and it's a result that could have end-of-season ramifications. For now, however, the Patriots will have to try to turn the page and get on track this week.
Offensively, it was another game marred by untimely mistakes and execution. There were flashes but any momentum gained was often quickly lost. The door was open at the end for the second week in a row, but the slow start was too much to overcome. That one final stop and score continue to evade these Patriots.
Defensively it looked ugly early when Miami scored on three of their first four possessions but as is often the case, the Patriots defense got in gear and kept the game within reach for the offense. But as was the case against Philly in Week 1, the offense wasn't able to capitalize on those chances and produced too little too late.
The Patriots will be playing to stay out of the AFC East gutter next weekend when they take on a Jets team coming off a post-Rodgers loss to the Cowboys.