FOXBORO, Mass. — You easily could’ve argued the Patriots were the better team in last week’s season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the kind of story we’ve seen written far too many times in the post-Tom Brady era.

But there was no such excuse-making Sunday night. New England got flat-out beaten by a better team, with the Miami Dolphins leaving Gillette Stadium with a 24-17 victory in a game that didn’t feel that close.

The Patriots shot themselves in the foot early and often with penalties, poor pass protection and turnovers ruining multiple promising drives. But it ultimately was a masterful eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive by the Dolphins at the end of the first half that was the point of no return for New England. Tua Tagovailoa, now 5-0 against Bill Belichick, needed just 1:38 to lead his team to the end zone and a 17-3 halftime lead.

The Patriots made it a 17-10 game in the fourth quarter when Mac Jones hit Hunter Henry for a six-yard touchdown. A Christian Gonzalez interception then gave the Patriots a chance to tie the game, but the offense went three-and-out and Miami responded with a quick touchdown.

Story continues below advertisement

New England fought back again, with Jones orchestrating a nine-play, 59-yard drive capped off by a 5-yard Rhamondre Stevenson touchdown run. Jason Sanders then missed a 55-yard field goal attempt on Miami’s next drive to give the Patriots one last chance with great field position and just over two minutes left. But a near-miraculous fourth-down play came up inches short after review, with New England’s drive stalling just outside of the red zone. Game over.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Jones, who was sacked three times and pressured throughout, finished the game 31-of-42 for 231 yards and one touchdown to go along with one bad interception. DeVante Parker led the team with 57 receiving yards, while Stevenson added 50 yards on the ground.

Story continues below advertisement

Tagovailoa played a great game, completing 21 of 30 passes for 249 yards and one TD to go along with a pick. Jaylen Waddle paced Miami with four receptions for 86 yards with Raheem Mostert rushing 18 times for 121 yards and two scores.

New England actually picked up more first downs than Miami (23 to 22) but the Dolphins gained 388 total yards, 100 more than the Patriots.

Here are three studs and three duds from the Patriots’ Week 2 loss to the Dolphins:

ST Brenden Schooler
No notes.

Story continues below advertisement

QB Mac Jones
We wanted to put him in the “duds” section for that awful third-quarter pass that got picked off by Xavien Howard. DeVante Parker deserves some of the blame, too, as he ran an alarmingly soft route, but it was just a bad decision by Jones. Still, the third-year quarterback made a lot of good throws in this game and deserved a better fate in the first half. He wasn’t great, but he was more good than bad and stepped up in the fourth quarter.

TE Hunter Henry
Jones’ favorite target turned in another solid game, catching six balls for 52 yards and a touchdown. When New England’s offense needs a big play, Henry is about the only pass-catcher they can bank on to deliver.

Honorable mentions: Christian Gonzalez, Myles Bryant, Kyle Dugger, Hunter Henry

Story continues below advertisement

No Matchup Found

Click here to enter a different Sportradar ID.

Offensive line
We still think this group will round into the AFC East’s best if it can stay healthy. But right now, the Patriots’ inability to run block or protect Mac Jones with any consistency is a big issue. Cole Strange had a particularly tough time in his season debut, with his first-half holding penalty and allowed sacks, both killing drives. Calvin Anderson also had a tough time at right tackle.

This is a bit unfair, as the Patriots were without cornerbacks Jack and Jonathan Jones and lost Marcus Jones early in the second quarter. Still, Tagovailoa was able to carve up New England’s defensive backs without much issue, especially on the back-breaking touchdown drive that ended the first half. It wasn’t a disaster — Tyreek Hill posted just 40 yards (and a touchdown) — but it wasn’t good enough.

WR Demario Douglas
The rookie looked explosive when he was involved, but Douglas’ brutal fumble in the first quarter sucked the air out of the stadium and the Patriots never recovered. Douglas could be a big part of this offense, but he won’t get many opportunities if he makes those kinds of mistakes.

Story continues below advertisement

Honorable mentions: Front seven, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Davon Godchaux, Jahlani Tavai

Featured image via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images