A long spring and summer of hype and build-up culminated in a raucous crowd at Hard Rock Stadium cheering on a victorious effort from the home side. As was the case around the majority of the league, the opening stanza of the game was more of a feeling out period.
The team speed and explosive nature of this refined Dolphins roster is the perpetrator of much of that offseason excitement, and sure enough, two first-half splash plays put the Dolphins in front for good. It was Miami's fourth-straight victory over rival New England.
Here are the three takeaways from the Dolphins 20-7 season opening win. For more analysis, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield. Available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield is the Miami Dolphins Podcast Network's home for in-depth analysis and coverage of your team.
1. Cheetah and Penguin
One of the game's most electrifying receiving duos got to work quickly. Both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle played 40 snaps, combining for 12 receptions, 163 yards and a touchdown. Tally up the targets, touches and yards from scrimmage and Miami's animal-themed nicknamed tandem posted 177 total yards on 14 touches (17 pass targets).
Of the 163 receiving yards, 73 came after the catch, per Pro Football Focus. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's accuracy was on display again, particularly on the momentum-seizing 42-yard strike to Waddle for the first passing touchdown of the season.
The NFL's current eighth-highest rated passer, Tagovailoa also posted the eighth-best completion percentage over expected on the weekend (2.9 percent) and the sixth-highest yards per pass attempt at 8.2. His net yards per attempt were 7th-best and he was one of nine quarterbacks without a turnover.
Among qualifying receivers, Hill's 3.03 yards per route run ranked fifth on the weekend while Jaylen Waddle's 2.46 mark in that category ranks 10th. Both players hit high speeds of over 20 MPH with the ball in their hands, both top-10 times in Week 1.
2. Scheming it up
Part of Hill and Waddle's dynamic nature is compounded by their usage within the offense designed by Head Coach Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins staff. And the coaching staff was able to get them involved not just on pass plays but also in the running game.
On a day where the Dolphins' backs had just 43 yards via the ground Hill, Waddle and Cedrick Wilson Jr. added 20 yards on three rush attempts. Factor in the 18 yards Hill gained on a screen pass and Miami had 38 yards in non-traditional running plays.
The running backs also found some extra yardage, theirs coming in the passing game. Chase Edmonds made four catches, three of them for clutch first downs. Raheem Mostert's lone catch saw the slippery back evade two tackles before chewing up 16 yards. That gave the 1-2 punch a total of 56 receiving yards on the day.
Check out the top 25 photos from the Dolphins' Week 1 win over the New England Patriots, presented by Broxel Pay.
3. Brandon Jones leads defensive effort
Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer earned a game ball on the Dolphins postgame radio show for the gameplan he devised.
Brandon Jones' strip sack came behind a stunt by Melvin Ingram. New England's left tackle peeked inside as Ingram ran around a sturdy pick set by the dominant defensive lineman Zach Sieler, freeing up a run from Jones around the arc. Jones arrived right on time and produced the first touchdown of the season as the fumble he forced by Patriots QB Mac Jones was palmed by Ingram while crossing the goal line.
Jones finished the day with 11 total tackles, a sack, forced fumble and pass breakup. Xavien Howard was targeted only once in the game and the pass was intercepted by Jevon Holland after Howard tipped it; a microcosm of their abilities with Howard running routes for the receiver and Holland's range to cover sideline-to-sideline. Rookie Kader Kohou forced a fumble and made three tackles within two yards of the line of scrimmage.
Boyer pushed all the right buttons showing pressure but backing out, disguising his blitzes and coverage, and shuffling his front seven in an ideal position to make several plays. Emmanuel Ogbah was a force against the run.
The Miami defense had it cooking behind Boyer to the tune of three takeaways, 271 yards allowed and just seven points from the opposition – tied for the second-lowest output of Week 1.