What it means: It's time to pump the brakes on early-season talk about the Patriots, with the addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis, as one of the best defenses in the NFL. After playing a strong first half, the defense couldn't provide enough resistance in the final two quarters. That was surprising. The Dolphins scored 23 unanswered points in the second half, when they owned both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Stock Watch: The offensive line is down in this one. One of the big questions entering the game was how the Patriots would configure their offensive line after the surprising trade of Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins in late August, and it wasn't an inspiring performance. Four-year veteran Marcus Cannon, who didn't play a single series at guard in the preseason, played the entire game at Mankins' spot. The Patriots kept their starting tackles in place -- Nate Solder on the left side, Sebastian Vollmer on the right -- and then had Dan Connolly on the field for every snap at either center or right guard. First-year player Jordan Devey (right guard) and Ryan Wendell (center) rotated in to account for the fifth spot. Quarterback Tom Brady, playing with an injured calf, was battered in the game. The protection broke down too often. Ugly stuff.
Keeping track of Gronkowski: Making his debut after being held out of the preseason, Rob Gronkowski is off to a strong start to achieve his goal of playing in all 16 regular-season games this season. He was eased back into the mix, playing 38 of 86 snaps (including penalties) and catching a 6-yard touchdown from Brady in the second quarter. One thing that stood out: When the Patriots were in the red zone, they made sure Gronkowski was on the field.
Game ball: Linebacker Jamie Collins. On a day in which it was a challenge to find a player who was a difference-maker throughout, Collins forced a fumble and also had good coverage in the end zone when the Patriots needed a stop in the fourth quarter.
Stat of note: This snaps the Patriots' 10-game winning streak in season openers.
What's next: The Patriots travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings. The game will be the home opener for the Vikings, who beat the host Rams on Sunday.