The New England Patriots will begin the quest to defend their AFC East title in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. It will mark the fourth straight season that the Patriots open at home and the first time New England will open the regular season against a division opponent since 2014 when the Patriots lost to the Dolphins in Miami.
The Patriots will open the season against the same opponent that they played in the regular-season finale for the third time since 2000. In 2008, the Patriots closed out the year at Buffalo and opened the 2009 season at home against the Bills. New England closed out the 2010 regular season at home against Miami and opened the 2011 season on the road against the Dolphins.
It would have been easy to expect a slow start, with the New England Patriots transitioning from the greatest quarterback of all time and a pocket passer (Tom Brady) to a former MVP who thrived as a runner but was hampered by injuries in recent years (Cam Newton). But Bill Belichick and Newton were just fine. In fact, they were much, much better than that.
Newton did not disappoint in his debut. The Patriots looked as dialed and prepared for Week 1 as ever — even in a pandemic and even amid turnover at quarterback. Though the Dolphins kept the game close, New England seemed to control the game, with a 21-11 finish and a 1-0 record in the post-Brady era (a.k.a. the Newton era).
The Dolphins couldn’t pull off the upset like they did in Week 17 of last season. Though Miami spent money in free agency and first-round picks in the NFL draft, the Patriots still managed a win at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
How does Belichick keep doing this?
- Cam Newton’s turnovers — or lack thereof: Speaking of turnovers, Newton committed none. His biggest mistakes included high passes and a few moments where he missed open receivers. The biggest blemish from a turnover standpoint was N’Keal Harry’s fumble at the goal line. It bounced out of his hands and into the back of the end zone for a touchback — and Miami countered with a touchdown on the following drive.
- New England’s strong interior: Even with a tremendous amount of change at linebacker, the Patriots looked stout in between the tackles. Defensive linemen Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Byron Cowart led the way, but linebackers Anfernee Jennings, Chase Winovich and Ja’Whaun Bentley were great, too. The secondary was also pretty solid in the middle, though they started letting up some chunk plays in the fourth quarter.