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Game Preview: Dolphins at Patriots

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WEEK 1 · Sun 09/12 · 4:25 PM EDT

Dolphins

Miami Dolphins

AT

Patriots

New England Patriots

CBS / WBZ
98.5 FM The Sports Hub
GILLETTE STADIUM

The New England Patriots will begin the 2021 regular season at home against the Miami Dolphins for the second straight season, and will begin the year with a home game on kickoff weekend for the fifth consecutive season. It will be the 10th time the Patriots open the year against Miami. The last time the Patriots opened the season two years in a row against the same opponent was in 1988 and 1989 against the New York Jets.

The Patriots will open and close the season with Miami, marking the sixth time in team history the team will open and close the season against the same opponent. It also happened in 2003 and 2013 against Buffalo, 1974 and 1987 against Miami and 1981 against the Baltimore Colts.

SERIES HISTORY

The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will square off for the first of two scheduled meetings and on opening day for the 10th time in team history and for the second straight season after the 21-11 season-opening win vs. Miami on Sept. 13, 2020. The Patriots and Dolphins will meet for the second time in the regular season finale at Miami on Jan. 9, 2022. The two teams have split the series in each of the last four seasons. 

The Patriots have had the upper hand at home against Miami, holding a 36-18 record in games played in New England in the regular season, including a 16-3 record at Gillette Stadium. But the Patriots are 17-39 all-time in Miami, including two postseason contests. Miami beat New England at Gillette Stadium for the first time in the final game of the 2005 season.

The Dolphins and Patriots met for the first time in 1966 and began playing twice a year during the 1967 regular season, except in 1982 during a players' strike.

The two have played three times in the postseason with New England holding a 2-1 advantage.

MIAMI 57, NEW ENGLAND 54
(Including New England 2, Miami 1 in Playoffs)

Record in New England: 37-18 (Incl. 1-0 in playoffs)

  • Record in Foxborough: 35-16 (1-0)
  • Record in Boston: 2-2

Record in Miami 17-39 (Incl. 1-1 in playoffs)

  • Record at Dolphins / Hard Rock: 13-21
  • Record at Orange Bowl: 3-18 (1-1)
  • Record in Tampa*: 1-0

Season Sweeps: Patriots 10, Dolphins 13

Season Splits: 30 (Most recent 2020)

Bill Belichick vs. Miami: 26-18 (26-16 with New England)

*A Miami home game was played in Tampa in 1969.

Patriots running back James White (28) carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins.
Patriots running back James White (28) carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run: Edge: Patriots

It's no secret that the Patriots want to run the football, and with a strong offensive line and a deep backfield they should be able to accomplish that feat. Damien Harris will get first crack at the lead back role with Sony Michel dealt to Los Angeles. Harris runs with power between the tackles and shows enough breakaway speed to turn in the occasional big play. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson is coming off an impressive preseason that should earn him some looks early while J.J. Taylor flashed in the old Rex Burkhead hybrid-type role. Trent Brown returns to the lineup as the right tackle and figures to be a key element of the running game as well. Miami was in the middle of the pack stopping the run a year ago, finishing 16th while allowing an average of 116.4 yards per game. The Dolphins front of Emmanuel Ogbah, Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins does a nice job of protecting linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel, Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker. Expect the Patriots to turn to the running game at some point Sunday with Harris receiving the bulk of the load.

When the Patriots pass: Edge: Dolphins

Rookie Mac Jones will be making his NFL debut against one of the more talented secondaries he'll see this season. Miami features corners Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Noah Igbinoghene with a pair of former Patriots at safety in Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty. That group has some experience to cause the youngster some problems despite the fact that Miami ranked just 22nd a year ago in pass defense (251.5 yards per game). It wouldn't be surprising to see Josh McDaniels allow Jones to come out throwing a bit early, both in an effort to get him comfortable and to catch Miami a bit off guard. The key will be to stay out of obvious passing situations where the Dolphins can get in position to create turnovers. Despite their pedestrian numbers in terms of yards allowed in 2020, Miami finished fourth in points allowed and will make life difficult on Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry (assuming Henry's shoulder injury is sufficiently healed).

When the Dolphins run: Edge: Patriots

Other than against the Patriots last December, Miami really struggled to the run the ball in 2020. The Dolphins averaged just 105.5 yards per game on the ground and were led by Myles Gaskin's 584 yards and three touchdowns. Gaskin is a talented multi-purpose back who will likely open as the lead ball carrier on Sunday, but he's not suited for an every down role. Making life more difficult for Miami is the uncertainty along the offensive line. Left tackle Austin Jackson is currently on the COVID-reserve list, as is backup tight end Adam Shaheen. Newcomer Greg Little, who was recently acquired from Carolina, may have to fill in if Jackson isn't cleared in time for the game. It's an underwhelming offensive line to begin with, and the Patriots commitment to improving their run defense (26th, 131.4 yards per game) was an offseason key. Former Dolphin Davon Godchaux joins Lawrence Guy and rookie Christian Barmore among those charged with improving the run defense, and returning linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy should help as well, as should free agent newcomer Matt Judon. Miami's uncertainty up front gives the Patriots a significant edge here.

When the Dolphins pass: Edge: Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa enters his first full season as the starter after playing the last half of the 2020 season. He experienced some ups and downs in his rookie year, getting yanked twice but still managing to go 6-3 as the starter. He was especially sharp in a win over the Patriots in December when he went 20 of 26 for 145 yards in a key Dolphins win down the stretch. He enjoyed a strong summer and showed a better grasp of the offense in the preseason, something he admitted he wasn't able to do as well as he should have as a rookie. His ability to navigate the Patriots tough pass rush schemes will be key on Sunday. He has quality weapons in DeVante Parker, rookie Jaylen Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki (free agent wideout Will Fuller has to sit out to complete a suspension from last year). Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant also could be factors in the passing game, as will Gaskin. The Patriots will be without top corner Stephon Gilmore and are in need of some consistency alongside J.C. Jackson. Jalen Mills and Joejuan Williams are the leading candidates to replace Gilmore with Jonathan Jones slated for slot duty. If Tagovailoa has time to throw, he should find success.

Special Teams: Edge: Patriots

The Patriots always seem to hold an advantage in the kicking game but there is some uncertainty heading into the opener. Bill Belichick kept rookie Quinn Nordin on the active roster despite an inconsistent summer. He did retain Nick Folk on the practice squad, so it's possible the veteran will be elevated for kicking duties on Sunday. They join Jake Bailey, one of the best punters in the business, in the kicking game. Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Brandon Bolden and Cody Davis return as core special teams players who have allowed the Patriots to control field position through the years. Miami counters with Jason Sanders, who went 36-for-39 on field goals a year ago. Punter Mike Palardy is coming off a torn ACL and did not kick in 2020. Grant is a dangerous return man and handles both kicks and punts while Gunner Olszewski and J.J. Taylor are candidates to do so for the Patriots. New England's consistency in the coverage department gives the edge to the home team.

QUICK HITS

  • Since Bill Belichick became Patriots head coach in 2000, New England is 26-16 (.619) against Miami.
  • Since 2000, the Patriots are 96-34 (.738) against AFC East opponents. New England is 26-16 against the Dolphins over that span, 32-10 against the New York Jets and 35-7 against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots were 3-1 against Indianapolis from 2000 through 2001 when they were in the AFC East.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2020 REGULAR SEASON NEW ENGLAND MIAMI
Record 7-9 10-6
Divisional Standings 3rd 2nd
Total Yards Gained 5,236 5,424
Total Offense (Rank) 327.3 (27) 339.0 (22)
Rush Offense 146.6 (4) 105.5 (22)
Pass Offense 180.6 (30) 233.5 (20)
Points Per Game 20.4 (27) 25.3 (15)
Total Yards Allowed 5,660 5,886
Total Defense (Rank) 353.8 (15) 367.9 (20)
Rush Defense 131.4 (26) 116,4 (16)
Pass Defense 222,3 (8) 251.5 (23)
Points Allowed / Game 22,1 (7) 21.1 (6)
Possession Avg. 28:58 31:17
Sacks Allowed / Yards Lost 37/234 34/201
Sacks Made / Yards 24/165 41/349
Total Touchdowns Scored 36 42
Penalties Against / Yards 62/534 74/635
Punts / Avg. 55/48.7 68/44.7
Turnover Differential +3 (13t) +9 (3t)

Patriots.com's Mike Dussault shares his players to watch ahead of the Patriots Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

PATRIOTS VS. MIAMI IN SEASON OPENERS

The Patriots will be opening the season against the Miami Dolphins for the 10th time in team history and for the second straight season after the 21-11 season-opening win vs. Miami on Sept. 13, 2020. The last time the Patriots opened the season two years in a row against the same opponent was in 1988 and 1989 against the New York Jets.

The Patriots, who are 54-57 all-time against Miami, are 5-4 against the Dolphins when meeting in the season-opener. The Patriots are 4-1 in home games and 1-3 at Miami. Miami will become the most frequent team that the Patriots open with after opening day. The Patriots have met Buffalo in the season-opener nine times.

CONNECTIONS

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • QB - Jacoby Brissett (2016)
  • DT - Adam Butler (2017-20)
  • CB - Justin Coleman (2015-16) CB - Jason McCourty (2018-20)
  • LB/FB - Elandon Roberts (2016-19)
  • DB - Eric Rowe (2016-18)
  • GM Chris Grier - Coaching Intern (1994), Regional Scout (1995-99).
  • HC Brian Flores – Scouting Ast. (2005-06), Pro Scout (2006-07), Assistant Coach (2010-12), Safeties (2012-15), Linebackers (2016-18).
  • DC Josh Boyer - Defensive Assistant Coach (2006-18)
  • Co-OC/TE Coach George Godsey – Offensive Assistant (2011), Tight Ends coach (2012-13)
  • Quality Control Mike Judge – Coaching Assistant (2005-06)
  • Coaching Ast. Steve Gregory – Player (2012-13)

FORMER DOLPHINS

  • RB Brandon Bolden - (2018)
  • DT Davon Godchaux - (2017-20)
  • Quality Control/QBC Bo Hardegree - Quarterbacks Coach (2016-18)
  • C Ted Karras - (2020)
  • LB Raekwon McMillan - (2018-19)
  • WR Malcolm Perry - (2020)
  • LB Kyle Van Noy (2020)
  • Asst. OLC Billy Yates (2003)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • With rookie free agent K Quinn Nordin making the 53-man roster, the Patriots have now had a rookie free agent make the opening day roster for the 18 straight seasons.
  • The Patriots have gone 86 straight games (regular season and postseason) scoring in the first half, an NFL record. The Patriots also own the second-longest streak at 82 games with a first half score (2006-11). The last time the Patriots failed to score in the first half was a 16-0 loss at home against Buffalo on Oct. 2, 2016.
  • The Patriots are 102-1 all-time at Gillette Stadium in the regular season when leading at halftime. New England's only loss was on Sept. 7, 2017 when the Patriots held a 17-14 lead at halftime before losing 42-17 to the Kansas City Chiefs on opening day of the 2017 season.
  • Bill Belichick begins his 22nd season as head coach of the New England Patriots with a 274-103 (.727) record (including postseason), the best mark in the NFL over that span.
  • Belichick's 311 career victories as a heads coach (including postseason) are third-most all-time behind George Halas (324) and Don Shula (347).
  • Belichick enters his 47th season as an NFL coach in 2021. His 47 consecutive years as an NFL coach are the most in NFL history, passing the 45 by Dick LeBeau. The only other NFL coach with at least 40 consecutive NFL coaching seasons is Tom Moore.
  • 22 players have had two stints with New England since 2000 (on the active roster with the Patriots for at least one game in each stint; on the active roster with another team for at least one game in between). In 2021, the Patriots have four such players returning for a second stint: Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Harvey Langi and Kyle Van Noy

IF THE PATRIOTS WIN...

  • The Patriots will claim their 36th Kickoff Weekend victory in franchise history, third-most among all AFC teams. Additionally, New England will claim its fourth straight kickoff victory.
  • The Patriots will improve their regular season divisional record to 95-28 since 2001, the best mark in the NFL.
  • The franchise will earn its 557th overall victory, third-most in pro football since the club began play in 1960.
  • And hold the advantage at halftime, the Patriots will improve to 103-1 all-time at Gillette Stadium when leading at the half.
  • And a player eclipses 100 yards rushing, the team will improve to 54-3 since the 2000 regular season when a player rushes for at least 100 yards.
  • Bill Belichick will improve to 19-8 (.704) on Kickoff Weekend. His 18 wins are the most among active head coaches. Belichick, Kansas City's Andy Reid (14-8, .636) and Baltimore's John Harbaugh (10-3, .769) are the only active head coaches with at least 10 Kickoff Weekend wins.
  • Belichick will improve his all-time regular season record against the AFC East as head coach of the Patriots to 97-34 (.740).

UNDER COACH BELICHICK, QUARTERBACKS ARE 6-0 IN FIRST CAREER STARTS

Under Head Coach Bill Belichick, quarterbacks are 6-0 in their first career starts. Of those six quarterbacks, Eric Zeier and Jacoby Brissett made their first starts in their rookie seasons.

NEW FACES

The Patriots have 24 new players on the 53-man roster that did not play a game with the Patriots during the 2020 season. 

  • 2021 draft picks – QB Mac Jones, DL Christian Barmore, LB Ronnie Perkins and RB Rhamondre Stevenson.
  • 2021 rookie free agents – K Quinn Nordin
  • 2021 rookies (claimed or traded) – CB Shaun Wade
  • Veteran free agents making their return to the Patriots – T Trent Brown, OL Ted Karras, LB Harvey Langi and LB Kyle Van Noy.
  • Veteran free agents – WR Nelson Agholor, DL Henry Anderson, WR Kendrick Bourne, OL Yasir Durant, DL Davon Godchaux, TE Hunter Henry, LB Matt Judon, DB Jalen Mills, WR Malcolm Perry, TE Jonnu Smith.
  • Veterans returning from Reserve-Opt Out – RB Brandon Bolden and LB Dont'a Hightower
  • Veterans returning from Reserve Lists – OL Yodny Cajuste and LB Brandon King

BROADCAST INFO

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Ken Mack and directed by Suzanne Smith.

NATIONAL RADIO: This week's game will be broadcast to a national audience by ESPN Radio. Marc Kestecher and Rob Ninkovich will call the game with Ian Fitzsimmons providing sideline analysis.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

For information on how to stream the game please visit our Ways to Watch guide.

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