Patriots 20

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Dolphins 33

(1-0, 1-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, September 7, 2014

Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL 

1 2 3 4 T
NE 10 10 0 020
MIA 7 3 13 1033

Top Performers

Passing: T. Brady (NE) - 249 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: K. Moreno (MIA) - 24 CAR, 134 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Edelman (NE) - 6 REC, 95 YDS

Patriots-Dolphins Preview


Nearly a decade has passed since the New England Patriots last held the Lombardi Trophy, and with Tom Brady closer to 40 years old than 30, it's unclear how big of a window the franchise has remaining to win another title during his tenure.

Brady, though, should be more familiar with his receiving corps this season thanks to a number of returners and the Patriots appear to have gained a suitable substitute for tight end Rob Gronkowski in case he's not ready for Sunday's opener at the Miami Dolphins.

New England (12-4) is coming off its 11th AFC East title in coach Bill Belichick's 14 seasons and reached the conference title game for the third straight year. However, the Patriots again fell short of the ultimate goal with a 26-16 loss to Denver.

Brady, who turned 37 on Aug. 3, opened last season without his top five pass catchers, including Gronkowski, who would play in only seven games. This year, Brady could have his top nine receivers back depending on Gronkowski's health.

"The more we're on the same page, the better we're going to be," Brady said. "Offensive football is about anticipation and about having a lot of trust and confidence in one another. I think we built on that."

Gronkowski underwent knee surgery in January and missed the final five games, including two in the playoffs. He didn't participate in any of the four preseason contests, but on Monday proclaimed himself ready for the season opener.

The next day, Belichick wasn't ready to commit, saying "With all due respect to Rob, I'm glad he feels the way he does. We'll have to make the decision that we feel is best for the team and we'll do that as we go through the week."

Gronkowski practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, while Brady returned to practice Friday after a one-day absence that the team attributed to a calf injury.

Adding perhaps further intrigue, the Patriots acquired tight end Tim Wright from Tampa Bay on Aug. 26 for six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins. Wright had 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season, and made four catches for 43 yards in New England's final preseason game.

The Patriots also brought in receiver Brandon LaFell, who had a career-high 49 catches in his fourth season with Carolina in 2013.

"We certainly have some new players, some new additions who are doing different things," Brady said. "Different guys are playing some different spots. But everyone's kind of got to find a role for themselves, and then we go out there and let it rip and see where we're at."

Those additions could help Brady top 4,000 yards for a fourth consecutive season and improve on last year's 87.3 passer rating -- his lowest in a full season since 2003.

The loss of Mankins, though, might not aid Brady's chances of staying upright more in 2014. He was sacked 40 times, one shy of a career high and 13 more than in 2012.

Ryan Tannehill could empathize after enduring a league-high 58 sacks last season, which was also a franchise record. After a tumultuous 8-8 season, the Dolphins beefed up the offensive line and brought in former Philadelphia quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to run the offense.

Lazor, who aided second-year quarterback Nick Foles' rise with the Eagles in 2013, replaces Tannehill's former coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman.

"It could be really good," center Mike Pouncey said. "You've seen it last year with the Philadelphia Eagles. They obviously had one of the best offenses in the NFL. We're hoping to go out and do the same thing with our offense. We've got the playmakers to do it."

Branden Albert, a Pro Bowler in 2013 for Kansas City, is installed as the new left tackle and first-round draft pick Ja'Waun James is expected to anchor the right side. The Dolphins, though, likely won't get Pouncey back from hip surgery until at least the end of the month.

In an NFL investigation of Miami's bullying scandal last season, Pouncey was named as one of three offensive linemen who harassed Jonathan Martin along with Richie Incognito and John Jerry. The other three players are no longer with the team, but the Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option on Pouncey's contract in April.

Pouncey was also served with a grand jury subpoena following a 27-17 loss in New England on Oct. 27 as part of the investigation of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, currently awaiting trial on the first of three murder charges.

Defensively, the Dolphins won't have lineman Dion Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, for four games because of a PED suspension. Starting safety Reshad Jones will also miss the first four contests after failing a drug test.

Darrelle Revis will make his debut on New England's defense and try to help secure Belichick's 200th career regular-season victory. The Patriots signed the five-time Pro Bowler on March 12, days after losing Aqib Talib to Denver.

Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork are hoping for healthier seasons after playing a combined 10 games because of a torn pectoral and a torn right Achilles, respectively.

New England had won seven in a row over Miami until a 24-20 road defeat Dec. 15 that allowed the Dolphins to clinch their first non-losing season since 2008. They went 11-5 in that campaign and made their only playoff appearance in the last 12 years. 

Passing Leaders

T. Brady60.84057248
J. Edelman100.04710
R. Fitzpatrick62.035292013
J. Rosen53.256715

Rushing Leaders

S. Michel2479123.77
R. Burkhead653024.63
R. Fitzpatrick542434.54
M. Walton532013.80

Receiving Leaders

J. Edelman100111711.26
J. White726459.05
D. Parker72120216.79
M. Gesicki5157011.25

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

Total YardsNE
Yards PassingNE
Yards RushingNE
Yards AllowedNE
Pass Yds AllowedNE
Rush Yds AllowedNE

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

New England leads 19-9
Dec 15, 2013NE 20, @MIA 24
Oct 27, 2013NE 27, MIA 17
Dec 30, 2012NE 28, MIA 0
Dec 2, 2012NE 23, @MIA 16
Dec 24, 2011NE 27, MIA 24
Sep 12, 2011NE 38, @MIA 24
Jan 2, 2011NE 38, MIA 7
Oct 4, 2010NE 41, @MIA 14
Dec 6, 2009NE 21, @MIA 22
Nov 8, 2009NE 27, MIA 17
Nov 23, 2008NE 48, @MIA 28
Sep 21, 2008NE 13, MIA 38
Dec 23, 2007NE 28, MIA 7
Oct 21, 2007NE 49, @MIA 28
Dec 10, 2006NE 0, @MIA 21
Oct 8, 2006NE 20, MIA 10
Jan 1, 2006NE 26, MIA 28
Nov 13, 2005NE 23, @MIA 16
Dec 20, 2004NE 28, @MIA 29
Oct 10, 2004NE 24, MIA 10
Dec 7, 2003NE 12, MIA 0
Oct 19, 2003NE 19, @MIA 13
Dec 29, 2002NE 27, MIA 24
Oct 6, 2002NE 13, @MIA 26
Dec 22, 2001NE 20, MIA 13
Oct 7, 2001NE 10, @MIA 30

Research Notes

How much Gronk will we get in Week 1? If last season is any indication he will be eased back onto the field. He was on the field for fewer than two-thirds the Patriots offensive snaps in each of his first 3 games last season after returning from injury.
Tom Brady had a Total QBR of 32.2 Sunday, his fourth lowest in a divisional game since the start of the 2010 season. Brady has posted a Total QBR under 40 four times in divisional games since 2010, and they have all been in the last two seasons.
Tom Brady was pressured (under duress, hit while throwing or sacked) on 13-of-37 dropbacks in the 2nd half (35 percent). Brady was pressured on 21 percent of dropbacks last year, fourth lowest in the league. The Patriots traded veteran guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers on Aug. 26.
Knowshon Moreno had 24 rushes for 134 yards on Sunday, including 50 yards after contact. The Patriots have allowed at least 50 rush yards after contact in a game to 3 players in the last 3 seasons, 2 of which were Knowshon Moreno (Week 12 of 2013, 79 yards after contact).
Knowshon Moreno (MIA): 134 rush yds, most by a Dolphins rusher in season opener since Lamar Smith in 2000 (145); most by a Dolphins rusher vs Patriots since... Lamar Smith in 2001 (144)
The Dolphins have three turnovers. The Patriots have won 61 straight regular season games in which their opponent had three or more TO. Last loss was 2001 to the Rams in Week 10.
Tom Brady was 2-of-18 for 65 yards on throws at least 15 yards downfield. Brady missed (over or underthrown pass) on 11 of his 18 attempts (61 percent). Brady missed on 41 percent of deep throws last year. Brady was 0-for-12 in the 2nd half on throws at least 15 yards downfield. Brady's 16 incompletions on throws at least 15 yards downfield is the most by a quarterback in a game since the start of Stats & Info's data set (2006).
Tom Brady was 4-of-12 for 40 yards and a touchdown targeting Rob Gronkowski, tied for the second-lowest completion percentage targeting Gronk in his career.
Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a 6-yard touchdown. Brady's red-zone QBR with Gronkowski last year- 84.7 (would have T-3rd) Brady's red-zone QBR without Gronk last year- 59.3 (would have been 24th)

ESPN Stats & Information