The Miami Dolphins scored on offense, defense and special teams en route to a season-opening 20-7 victory over the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
Tua Tagovailoa threw for 270 yards and one touchdown and Tyreek Hill recorded eight receptions for 94 yards as Mike McDaniel picked up a win and a gatorade bath in his NFL head coaching debut.
"I'm very happy for the team overall," McDaniel said. "They've put in the work. Really since April, even before that, the whole organization has really worked in one direction and you like to see that get rewarded."
New England's opening drive started well as they picked up 8+ yards on five of their first seven plays. An 11-yard pass from quarterback Mac Jones to Hunter Henry set up a first-and-10 from the Miami 22 yard line. On the next play, however, the Dolphins defense got a much needed turnover.
Cornerback Xavien Howard deflected a pass intended for DeVante Parker in the back-right corner of the endzone and second-year safety Jevon Holland corralled the ball out of the air for his third career interception and returned it to the Miami 28 yard line where Tagovailoa and the offense took over.
With a 3rd-and-2 from the Miami 36 yard line, Tagovailoa found his three-time All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill for five yards and a first down. The Dolphins then pushed the ball to the 50 yard line where a 4th-down neutral zone infraction on Patriots defensive lineman Carl Davis Jr. extended the drive.
Tagovailoa found Hill again on the very next play, this time for a 23-yard gain. After the Patriots defense forced a fourth down, Jason Sanders converted a 43-yard field goal to give Miami a 3-0 lead in what would be the only score of the first quarter.
Following punts by each team, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones took over from their 15 yard line. On the second play of the drive, Miami safety Brandon Jones blew past Patriots left tackle Trent Brown and delivered a huge hit on the second-year quarterback, popping the ball loose in the process. Linebacker Melvin Ingram scooped the ball up off one bounce and high-stepped into the endzone for the Dolphins' first touchdown of the season. Sanders' extra point gave the Dolphins a 10-0 lead with 7:34 left to play in the first half.
Another New England punt returned the ball to Tagovailoa who then directed a 10-play, 92-yard scoring drive capped by a 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. The third-year quarterback took a fourth-and-7 snap and found his receiver down the middle of the field. Waddle did the rest, speeding past multiple Patriot defenders before coasting into the endzone with nothing but green grass around him. Sanders' extra point extended the Miami lead to 17-0 for the final points of the half.
Tagovailoa finished the first half 13-of-18 for 179 yards and a touchdown while Hill led all receivers with six receptions for 77 yards. Waddle added two catches for 50 yards as the pair of speedy wideouts combined for 127 receiving yards in the first half.
In addition to Ingram's scoop-and-score, Miami's defense put up a dominant first-half performance, shutting out the Patriots offense and limiting Mac Jones to just 87 yards passing. Rhamondre Stevenson led New England's ground game with five carries for 25 yards.
The Dolphins opened the second half with a quick three-and-out but still managed to flip the field thanks to a 58-yard punt from Thomas Morstead.
On the Patriots ensuing possession, Jones found veteran wide receiver Ty Montgomery for a six-yard score to cap an extensive 15-play, 92-yard drive that lasted eight minutes and 21 seconds. The drive cut New England's deficit to 10, 17-7, with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
But the Dolphins bounced back and responded with a scoring drive of their own highlighted by an 18-yard completion to Hill and a 16-yard completion to running back Raheem Mostert. Sanders punctuated the drive once again with a 49-yard field goal to stretch Miami's lead back up to 13, 20-7.
Neither team would score again.
The Dolphins defense turned the Patriots over two more times, first on downs and then on a fumble forced by undrafted rookie cornerback Kader Kohou and recovered by second-year linebacker Jaelan Phillips.
Four first downs from Miami's offense sealed the victory as Tagovailoa and the Dolphins kneeled to end the game and improve to 1-0 on the season.
"It was awesome to see the team come together under Mike McDaniel," Tagovailoa said after the victory. "That's his first win as the head coach for the Miami Dolphins. It's something special."
The Dolphins return to action next Sunday when they visit the Baltimore Ravens. Kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium is set for 1 p.m. ET