By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Cam Newton era is off and running in New England…literally.
In the team’s season opening 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots ran the ball 42 times for 217 yards, their most in a game since 2018. Combine that offensive approach with three interceptions by the defense, and it felt like a mix of ‘the good old days’ and ‘old school’ at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
The Patriots won the toss and deferred. After a three-and-out by the defense, Newton took the field for the first time with the Patriots. Five straight runs, including two by Newton, got the Patriots near midfield, but a drop by Julian Edelman followed by a sack stalled the drive. A Jake Bailey punt pinned the Dolphins at the 11.
After another Patriots defensive stop, the offense found their rhythm. An 11-play, 80-yard drive lasting 6:11 led to the Patriots first score of the year, a four-yard carry by Newton. A mostly methodical march, Newton did hit tight end Ryan Izzo for a 25-yard completion early in the drive, which spanned the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters.
The defense got the offense back on the field just three plays later, with Stephon Gilmore intercepting a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass that sailed high of Preston Williams. Unable to capitalize though, the Patriots were forced to punt from the Miami 37.
Ryan Fitzpatrick responded to the pick by leading a 10-play, 59-yard field goal drive. Second-year defensive tackle Byron Cowart nearly blocked the kick, after making a run stop on the previous play to end the drive.
A three-and-out had New England punt the ball back, and set Miami up for what looked to be a promising two-minute drill. But as the ‘Phins got into Patriots territory, free agent signee Adrian Phillips capitalized on a missed Fitzpatrick read for the Pats’ second interception of the day.
With just 31 seconds to go, Newton got the ball to the Miami 28, but Nick Folk missed a 45-yard field goal on the final play of the half. Still, the Patriots went into the locker room up 7-3.
Halftime adjustments in hand, the Patriots got the ball and rolled right down the field with an 8-play, 75-yard drive capped by Cam Newton’s second rushing touchdown of the day on a naked bootleg. It was also the most aggressive we’d seen Newton in the passing game to that point. The 31-year-old threw to all parts of the field, including to Julain Edelman three times for 35 yards.
The Patriots started driving again at the end of the third quarter, but the drive was halted in the red zone after N’Keal Harry fumbled the ball at the one-yard line. Because he fumbled through the end zone and out of bounds, Miami got the ball at their own 20 off a touchback.
Miami capitalized, going 80 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a Jordan Howard one-yard touchdown run. The Patriots committed two costly pass interference penalties on the drive, including a questionable call on Stephon Gilmore on a third down that gave Miami 23 yards. A Ryan Fitzpatrick scramble on the two-point conversion made it 14-11 with 10:31 to play.
In classic Patriots fashion, New England responded with a clock-killing 10-play, 75-yard drive that saw every yard gained come on the ground. Of the two pass plays called, one was an incompletion, and the other turned into a Newton 12-yard scramble. Julian Edelman contributed with a 23-yard end around, the Patriots longest run of the day, and Sony Michel capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run.
The Dolphins got down near the end zone one more time, but a J.C. Jackson interception, the Patriots’ third of the day, was the cap on this one.
Newton was as impressive as even the most optimistic fan could have hoped for in his Patriots debut. The former MVP completed 15 of his 19 attempts for 155 yards, while also leading the team in rushing with 76 yards on 14 carries, with the two touchdowns.
Michel led all Patriots running backs on the ground, with 37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
When the Patriots did put the ball in the air, Julian Edelman was the favorite target. The 34-year-old had five catches on seven targets and 57 yards, as well as 23 yards rushing from an end-around.
Defensively, the Patriots showed almost no gaps. The unit forced three turnovers with interceptions by Gilmore, Phillips, and Jackson. Derek Rivers had the team’s lone sack, although Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing under pressure for most of the game.
As a whole, the unit allowed just 269 yards and held the Dolphins to 4-for-11 on third downs. They only committed three penalties, all pass interference, with two coming on the lone Miami touchdown drive.
Nick Folk, the winner of the training camp kicker battle, hit all three of his extra points. However, he did miss a 45-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
In addition to the win, the Patriots made it through the game healthy. James White and Adam Butler both left the game banged up at separate points, but each was able to return to the action.
With the win, the Patriots move to 1-0 on the season, and Miami falls to 0-1. Bill Belichick is now 15-5 in Week 1 as the head coach in New England.
The Patriots head to the west coast next week for a primetime matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. It’s an 8:20 pm. ET kickoff, with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call for 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com