Bill Belichick made it clear in his tone during his Wednesday press conference that he wanted his team to avoid any letdown or trap heading into the home opener against Miami following the previous week's Sunday night upset in Arizona.
Well, message received. Jimmy Garoppolo led New England to an impressive eight-play, 75-yard opening touchdown drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown throw to Danny Amendola for the quick 7-0 lead.
The Patriots defense would get into the fun forcing a punt on the Dolphins opening possession giving Garoppolo another chance that the fill-in young passer turned into a 75-yard drive to a 20-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.
Barely halfway through the first quarter in Foxborough and Garoppolo was well on his way to the potential blowout victory, building early-season momentum rather than falling victim to any sort of trap game that Belichick may have feared for his young quarterback or team.
But an even bigger fear came to fruition late in the second quarter when Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury as he was driven to the turf following a completion to Malcolm Mitchell. Garoppolo went to one knee on the way back to the New England bench, left the field and immediately went to the Gillette Stadium locker room. He was announced as questionable for return, but he did not as he was officially rule out at the conclusion of halftime. Early reports from the Boston Herald indicated that Garoppolo could miss at least six weeks, put his return beyond that of Tom Brady's.
What was on the way to a blowout turned into New England holding on for a 31-24 win, Duron Harmon icing it with an interception in the end zone on a fourth-down Dolphins play as time ran out.
For the second straight week the Patriots held on for the victory and improved to 2-0 atop the AFC East.
Strangely, when Garoppolo went down with a 24-0 lead, it was the defense rather than the offense that seemed to suffer. The lead actually swelled to 31-3 before Ryan Tannehill suddenly found plenty of room to throw, finishing with 389 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In Garoppolo's stead, rookie third-round pick Jacoby Brissett came in and was able to hold on for the victory. The Patriots seemed to tailor the offense to the young passer and some of his teammates on offense did step up. LeGarrette Blount picked up the pace on the ground. Bennett continued to block and added five passes for 114 yards.
And though the defense gave up 400-plus yards and too-many points, the unit did have four turnovers on the day, including the final pick to close it out.
"It's always good to win at home, good to win in the division. In the end we made enough plays to win, just barely. But we'll take it," Belichick said afterwards.
It took a team effort to hold on after the impressive fast start, which came via a total team effort as well.
"Today I think we got a lot of good performances from a lot of different people," Belichick added.
And though he was thrown to the fire, Brissett did enough in his role.
"Jacoby has been working for this for a long time. He did a good job for us," Belichick concluded.
The bottom line is that the Patriots are halfway through Brady's four-game suspension with two wins. They are down another quarterback and have a short week as the 2-0 Texans come to town. There's a lot to take care of in a short period of time.
"Give Miami credit they fought hard and came back. Good to get this one and we'll move on," Belichick said.
Before moving on to the short week, here are some of the highs and lows from the big Week 2 win in Foxborough:
View the best images from the Patriots Week 2 game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2016.
Josh McDaniels – New England's offensive coordinator had a great game plan that led to a couple extremely impressive early touchdown drives. He used similar formations for passes and runs. He mixed up his personnel and seemed to have plays to take advantage of the mobility of his quarterback. McDaniels has had to deal with a tough situation all offseason at quarterback but has handled it well. He continued to do so after the Garoppolo injury, giving Brissett some screens and plays on the move to ease the young passer into the mix. McDaniels' coaching resume is growing more impressive by the week, and the win.
Jimmy Garoppolo – The third-year quarterback was simply on fire early his first home start on the way to the big early lead. He was even that much more impressive than was the case in his first career start on the road. He was controlling the offense. In a quarter-plus of action Garoppolo completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards with three touchdowns for a 130.8 passer rating. Then he sent a hush over all of New England – and potential trade talk down the road – when he left the game with a right shoulder injury. Tough break for a young, impressive player finally getting his time to prove his worth, and doing so impressively.
*Danny Amendola – *Many wondered if the veteran receiver would even be on the roster to open the season after missing the entire summer on PUP. He certainly looked healthy early on against the Dolphins, notching a pair of touchdowns from Garoppolo covering 12 and 10 yards, respectively. Now, Amendola did have a lost fumble and was a little loose on the end of a punt return, but the veteran was still critical in the Patriots building an early lead. He finished with four catches on four targets for 50 yards and the two scores in a very efficient effort.
*Chris Long – *The veteran newcomer continues to show endless energy as he runs all over the field. He had a long tackle for a loss after a botched shot-gun snap, one of two QB hits on the day. He also recovered a fumble forced by Logan Ryan on the sideline. Long wasn't perfect chasing Tannehill, but he's been the most active edge (and sometimes inside) guy the Patriots have had threw the first two weeks.
LeGarrette Blount – The running back wasn't great early, despite an impressive passing game. But when the Patriots needed the big man most, he got the job done to run out the game with a third-stringer in the mix. Blount finished with 29 carries for 123 yards (4.2 avg.) and a touchdown. He did have a loose fumble out of bounds on the sideline but he also had a nice 26-yard run on which he hurdled a defender in characteristic fashion. Blount stepped up when needed.
Marcus Cannon – New England's offensive line remains a work in progress, but Cannon has been less-than-stellar as one of the eldest members of the group. He was hit with one holding call and had a sack he allowed to Cameron Wake in the first half wiped out by a penalty on Miami. Cannon is battling a knee injury already and simply hasn't been good enough the first two weeks as Dante Scarnecchia tries to piece it together up front. That said, Cannon and the rest of the line was a part of Blount's surge late to help run things out.
Cornerbacks – New England's secondary was subpar against Miami, especially in the second half and especially at the cornerback position. Staked with a nice big lead early the pass defense proceeded to watch Ryan Tannehill and the passing game heat up and come back. Nearing 400 yards allowed through the air just isn't good enough. The defense as a whole – the rush and the coverage should be expected to contribute more to the effort given the circumstances. Instead, it gave up too many plays and had to hold on like the rest of the team for dear life.
Stephen Gostkowski – The AFC Special Teams Player of the Week had a very solid game, right up until he missed a 39-yard field goal wide right. That's a kick that any kicker, especially the best in the game, should make. Gostkowski was good earlier from 34 yards. He had five touchbacks and another kick that was covered near the 10. But with the game on the line Gostkowski missed his chance to seal it and those who question his clutch-ness will likely pounce critically yet again.
Penalties –* *If there is one thing that all coaches hate it's piling up penalties. That's exactly what the Patriots did against Miami with seven penalties. Rookie Joe Thuney had a pair of holding calls. Cannon also had a couple holds. Logan Ryan had a pass interference. And Jonathan Freeny had his own flag on D. Two weeks in a row the Patriots have had too many penalties. So far it hasn't hurt them in two hold-on-for-your-life wins. But it has to be better.
What do you think of our lists? Let us know with a comment below!