Ryan L. Fox
Well everybody, after a 2020 of uncertainty and change, the familiar sounds of grunts and pads smashing against each other echoed throughout Gillette Stadium. Football was back in Foxborough as the New England Patriots were back in business for the NFL 2020 season. However this would mark for the first time in 20 years that the Patriots organization would not have Tom Brady on their team as he left the team in free agency this past offseason.
In their first game in the post-Brady era, the team welcomed in their AFC Divisional rival Miami Dolphins. Yes, the same Dolphins that came to Gillette in Week 17 and knocked the Patriots out of No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff down to the No. 4 seed.
With revenge on the mind and looking to start the 2020 season on the right foot, the Patriots and Dolphins squared off on a sunny, brisk Sunday in September.
There was some rust in the 1st quarter as both teams got out of the gates slowly.
But towards the end of the 1st quarter, the Patriots were able to genrate a sustainable drive that continued into the 2nd quarter, thanks to the arm and legs of QB Cam Newton. The Patriots capped off their drive with a 4-yard run by QB Cam Newton to the right side as K Nick Folk booted the XP through the uprights to make it 7-0 with 13:11 left in the 2nd quarter.
After surviving an interception on the previous offensive possession, Dolphins QB Ryan Fitpatrick got the Dolphins offense driving into New England territory for the first time in the game. However they had to settle for a 46-yard field goal by K Jason Sanders to make it 7-3 with 3:53 left in the quarter.
The Patriots had one more chance to add more points before going into halftime after the defense picked off another Fitzpatrick pass. Unfortunately for them, Folk's 45-yard attempt went wide right as both teams ended up going into halftime with the score being 7-3.
After taking receiving the kickoff to open up the 2nd half, the Patriots were able to methodically move down the field against the Dolphin defense. The drive ended on another Cam Newton touchdown run, this time from 11 yards out as Folk's PAT made it 14-3 with 10:14 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Patriots got the ball back again and again they moved down the field on the Dolphins. But unlike the previous drive, they weren't able to cash in. Instead, WR N'keal Harry fumbled on what would have been a 9-yard yard pass to the Miami 1 as the ball went out of the endzone for a touchback.
That turned the game's momentum in favor of the Dolphins. Fitzpatrick drove the offense down the field as the drive was capped off with a RB Juan Howard bowling his way over the goalline for the touchdown. Then rather going for the PAT, the Dolphins elected to go for the 2-PT conversion. Fitzpatrick ran it in himself to make it a 14-11 game with 10:31 left in the game.
The Patriots then responded to the Dolphins' touchdown with a scoring drive on their own. Relying on the ground game (and 2 Dolphins penalties), the Patriots marched down the field as RB Sony Michel capped the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Folk booted the PAT through to make it 21-11 with 5:23 left in the game.
The Dolphins tried to draw close but Fitzpatrick was picked off for the 3rd time. This time it was by Patriots CB J.C. Jackson in the endzone to kill the Dolphins' last chances to win. The Patriots simply ran out the remainder of the clock as they got the 21-11 victory.
It wasn't the blowout victory that many Patriots fans were accustomed to in years past. However it was the team's first win in the post-Brady era and it showed two things: the Patriots were going to be fine without Brady and Cam Newton is back.
Notable Patriots Players Statistical Standouts
QB Cam Newton - 15 for 19 for 155 yards for a QB Rating of 100.7, 15 carries for 75 yards (5.0 ypc) and 2 TDs
WR Julian Edelman - 1 carry for 23 yards, 5 catches (on 7 targets) for 57 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore - 4 tackles (3 solo, 1 assist) and 1 INT
S Adrian Phillips - 9 tackles (8 solo, 1 assist) and 1 INT
A Whole New Looking Offense
It was interesting to say the least to see another starting quarterback under center for the Patriots that was not a back-up/placeholder (i.e. Matt Cassell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett) for Tom Brady. So when Cam Newton took to the field as the starting quarterback, those watching and covering got a sense that things were going to be different in 2020 than it has been during the past 20 years. The question that was on everybody's mind was how the Patriots offense was going to act with Cam under center.
As the game went on, you saw could see that there was a difference between how the the Patriots offense moved under Cam than it did under Tom Brady.
With Brady, it seemed more spread out with multiple receiver sets. With Newton, the offense seemed to rely more on a 2-Tight End formation, which led to more running plays and more play action pass. But the biggest difference was the fact that this Patriots offense incorporated more of QB keeper runs with Cam Newton than it ever did with Brady.
On the Patriots first 2 touchdown passes, you would have seen Brady either drop back to pass to Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski or dump it off to James white in the flat for the score. Instead, you saw Cam run a bootleg to the right side and be able to outrun a defender or simply use his gargantuan body to bowl his way into the score.
Not to mention that when he drops back to pass, you're seeing Cam spreading the ball out to his receivers where as Brady would just settle for only a selected few. Not to mention that Cam would tuck it and run if the opportunity presented itself while Brady would simply throw the ball in the dirt and then yell at the wideout for not running the right route while in the huddle.
So this will be an interesting to see how the Patriots offense is going to look under Cam than it did under Brady. Say good bye to seeing the Pats beating teams by 20 points or more every week. Instead, say hello to a more hard fought, 'earn every yard' kind of offense.
Football is Back
It was good to see football back in action after months of uncertainty and doubt due to COVID-19 concens. For almost the entire offseason, there were many who thought that due to the close interactive nature of football (i.e. players tackling each other, coaches interacting with players in huddles) and that there were many calling for the 2020 NFL Season to be postponed.
However the league made strides into making sure that it was safe work environment for their players, coaches, referees, on-field crews, and others by having multiple testings, social distancing partitions in the locker room, little to no interaction with media members, masks being worn on the sidelines, and limiting fan access into stadiums with some teams having no fans in the stadium at all.
To try to replace the noise of fans, teams resorted to pumping in crowd noise. But let's be honest, it looked a little awkward to see an empty stadium but have almost the same volume as it would be on a normal game day. I also had to check to see if it really was a game being played instead of a glorified scrimmage.
I guess this is going to be the new norm going forward for the remainder of the season until the CDC and the powers-that-be deem it safe for stadiums to return to full capacity.
Numbers Numbers Numbers!
2 - The number of touchdowns QB Cam Newton has in his Patriots career
60 - The number of career rushing touchdowns by Newton, extending his current NFL record of QB rushing touchdowns
6 - The number of plays that the Dolphins offensive ran in the entire 3rd quarter (compared to 20 by the Patriots)
18 - The number of first downs the Patriots got while running the ball (out of 28 first downs for the game)
130 - The difference between the Dolphins and the Patriots in terms of rushing yards (87 for the Dolphins and 217 for the Patriots)
.810 - The winning percentage of the Patriots (17-4) in home openers under coach Bill Belichick
.762 - The winning percentage of the Patriots (16-5) in Week 1 under coach Bill Belichick
604 - The career number of receptions by WR Julian Edelman, making him the 2nd Patriots receiver in franchise history to have 600+ career receptions (Wes Welker, 672)
Fox Fist Bump
Well, it's more of a virtual 'Fox Fist Bump' due to social distancing. Nevertheless, the first Fox Fist Bump of the 2020 season goes to Patriots QB Cam Newton.
In his first game ever in a Patriots uniform, Cam looked like a natural out there. He was almost perfect throwing the ball (15-for-19) and just bullied the Miami defense when he ran the ball. Heck, he lead all rushers with 75 yards and was the difference maker (2 rushing TDs).
Although it was against the Dolphins, Cam still showed that he still got game
The Meatball of the Game
If there is one thing that puts a hair across Bill Belichick's ass is costly turnovers and WR N'Keal Harry had one of those in today's game. His fumble in the 3rd quarter not only killed a Patriots drive that would have ended in a touchdown but it gave the Dolphins life as they went to score on the ensuing possession. Way to start off the year Harry, way to start off. You sir, are the Meatball of the Game.
Play of the Game
Welcome to New England Cam
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