The Dolphins captured victory in Foxboro, marking the first opening day victory under Head Coach Brian Flores. Becoming just the third team to beat the Patriots in a season-opening game since 2004 (losses in 2014 to Miami and 2017 to Kansas City) required the Dolphins to do something else that occurs with miniscule frequency – forcing not one, not two, not three…but four New England fumbles.
Miami extended its league-leading takeaway streak to 23 games (dating back to 2019) in the first quarter. Knocking the football free once per quarter is even more impressive considering no NFL team has a lower fumble rate over the last decade than the Patriots.
Eric Rowe put his hat on the ball, jarring it loose and into the waiting arms of Zach Sieler. The first ball on the carpet was the result of an effective corner blitz by Byron Jones, who would later team up with Jevon Holland for the third New England fumble of the game. The Dolphins propensity to create takeaway opportunities is neither a coincidence nor a fluke – it's the result of meticulous training on that critical element of the game.
Well, I would say it’s one of those things that we work with all of our guys as a group. We start practice every day with the tackling/turnover circuit. The unique thing about that is all of our coaches coach all of our players. As we go through the circuit, which I’m sure you guys have seen out at practice, it could be a number of guys that are coaching different techniques. Obviously it’s something that we believe in very strongly. Our players believe in it. They work at it tremendously hard. We were able to see some production from that on Sunday.
The final fumble, Xavien Howard's fourth quarter strip and scoop, flipped the win probability metrics from a 70.7 percent advantage for the home team, to a 64.4 percent chance of a Miami victory. It also created an opportunity to put the game on ice with the four-minute offense. The result: a well-executed march sparked by a first down strike from Tua Tagovailoa to DeVante Parker. After that throw, Miami's win probability jumped another 10.4 percent (up to 74.8) as the Dolphins crept out of the shadow of their own goal post.
The 13-yard completion got Miami out of the blocks while the offensive line and backs took the Dolphins through to the finish line. Prior to three Tagovailoa kneel downs, Miami rushed for 13 game-sealing yards on four carries when everyone in the building knew what was coming.
"I thought specifically at the end of the game, when we needed some first downs running the football, to run the clock out, it was good to see us finish the game with the ball," Head Coach Brian Flores said. They knew we were going to run it, we knew we were going to run it, and we were able to pick up a couple of first downs there, so that's always good."
The execution of the offense complemented a rejuvenated vertical attack that saw Tagovailoa hit the longest pass of his career (36 yards to Jaylen Waddle) and another 30-yard dime to Parker.
"That really comes from practice quite a bit," Godsey said. "In that look, (Devin) McCourty was tilted over to where (Mike) Gesicki was on the single receiver side. That put the three receivers in a one-on-one situation where the longer it travels, the more accurate we've got to be because the ball hangs up in the air for everybody to see what angle it's coming down. Jaylen did a good job of adjusting to it. It was a big play. It was a play that got us eventually for some points. It changed the field position and it was a tough throw. It was an inside fade is really what we call it. It was good to see that ball get connected."
Completing the complementary effort was the effort of the Miami special teams unit. Coordinator Danny Crossman said two newcomers lived up to expectations developed by past tape.
"I think some of the guys that have played in other places and have some experience from around the league, who we had evaluated as guys that could help like (Brennan) Scarlett and players like that; they came in and did what we expected them to do," Crossman said. "Duke Riley and the guys that have some experience performed at a level that we had anticipated they would. Those expectations are based on past experiences."
Now, it's onto Buffalo for the home opener at Hard Rock Stadium.
"I think one thing to take into consideration when you're looking at Buffalo is they're very much a game plan oriented offense," Boyer said. "One week they could look different from the next. They're going to attack what they perceive to be your weaknesses. In a given week, their game plans can look different and varied. Obviously they're a very talented group. They're very well coached. Brian Daboll is one of the best coordinators in the league. I would expect that we'll see some different stuff than they showed in the Pittsburgh game."