For the first time in 22 years, the New England Patriots are 0-2 to begin the NFL season.
Bill Belichick's group failed to bounce back from its Week 1 loss to the Philadephia Eagles as it dropped Sunday night's showdown vs. the Miami Dolphins, 24-17. Miami now owns sole possession of first place in the AFC East while New England sits alone in the cellar.
It was an efficient, albeit underwhelming night for Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. The third-year signal-caller completed 31 of his 42 passes for 231 yards, but notched only one touchdown with one costly interception. Miami's defense put constant pressure on Jones while limiting big plays. And while Jones put together a couple of impressive drives in crunch time, it was too little, too late for New England's inconsistent offense.
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The Patriots defense utilized a "bend, don't break" approach against Tua Tagovailoa and the explosive Dolphins wideouts. It proved effective for a while as Tagovailoa was limited to short completions, but Miami eventually broke through. Tagovailoa finished 21-for-30 for 249 yards, one touchdown, and a pick. Star receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill combined for nine catches, 126 yards and one TD.
Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert had 18 carries for 121 yards, including a 43-yard run that proved to be the dagger.
The Patriots had a chance to tie it late in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-4 with a minute to go, they appeared to earn a first down on a wild last-ditch effort by Mike Gesicki. The ex-Dolphins tight end pitched it to guard Cole Strange, who appeared to extend the drive with a first down. But upon further review, Strange was just short of the marker and Miami escaped Foxboro with the victory.
The Pats will look to tally their first win of the campaign next Sunday when they visit the 1-1 New York Jets. First, here are our takeaways from their Week 2 defeat.
More self-inflicted wounds
Early miscues were the story of the Patriots' Week 1 loss to the Eagles. This time, costly errors in the first quarter and late in the third that shifted the momentum in Miami's favor.
The Pats offense started to click during its second drive late in the first quarter. But after Jones connected with Demario "Pop" Douglas for a 10-yard catch and run, Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb stripped the rookie wide receiver from behind to force the turnover.
It's the second straight week the Patriots have turned the ball over with a fumble on their second drive of the game. A whopping 20 of their points allowed through the first two weeks of the season have been off turnovers.
The fumble may have landed Douglas in Belichick's doghouse until further notice. The sixth-round pick out of Liberty wasn't seen on the field offensively after his error.
Down 14 late in the third quarter, Jones led the Patriots just outside the red zone when disaster struck again. Jones tossed one up to DeVante Parker but it landed in the hands of Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.
Whenever the Patriots offense took a step forward, it took two steps back. It won't get any easier next week on the road against a tough Jets defense.
Offensive line woes are glaring
The Patriots' offensive line got reinforcements Sunday night as guards Strange and Michael Onwenu returned after missing Week 1. Unfortunately for New England, the unit's performance still left plenty to be desired.
The group still wasn't completely healthy as starting left tackle Trent Brown was inactive due to a concussion and replaced by Vederian Lowe. Pass protection, as a result, wasn't ideal.
Jones was constantly under pressure and sacked four times. Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel's fourth-quarter sack moved the Patriots back 10 yards to their four-yard line where they punted. Jones was hit seven times in total.
The run game was an even bigger issue for New England. The o-line failed to give Rhamondre Stevenson and the rest of the Patriots' backfield any room to work with. As a group, Patriots running backs notched 88 yards on 25 carries (3.5 YPC). They also averaged only 3.5 yards per attempt against Philadelphia last week. That won't get the job done.
Christian Gonzalez steps up for shorthanded secondary
The Patriots went down another cornerback as they lost Marcus Jones in the second quarter to a shoulder injury. They already were missing both Jack Jones (hamstring) and Jonathan Jones (ankle).
That left Myles Bryant and rookie first-rounder Christian Gonzalez as the starting corners against Miami's dangerous wideouts. Although it wasn't a perfect performance from the duo, it held its own despite the difficult circumstances.
Gonzalez had the defense's highlight of the night early in the fourth quarter. With the Patriots trailing by seven, the Oregon product came up with a clutch interception for the first of his NFL career.
The Patriots weren't able to capitalize on Gonzalez's gift, but the 21-year-old's gutsy performance should give fans something to hand their hats on going forward.
Brenden Schooler's block a bright spot
Along with Gonzalez's pick, a special teams highlight was the bright spot in an otherwise deflating Patriots defeat. Brenden Schooler came out of nowhere to block Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders' field goal attempt late in the third quarter.
The play gave New England much-needed momentum, but the offense again failed to capitalize as Jones tossed an interception on the ensuing drive. That was the theme of the night for the Patriots as they didn't convert after Schooler's block, Gonzalez's INT, or Sanders' missed fourth-quarter field goal.