NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 1 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 17, New England Patriots 16

Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Trailing by a point with under four minutes to go, Mac Jones nearly led the New England Patriots offense to a game-winning score, but a fumble by Damien Harris on the Miami 8-yard line ultimately cost them the game. The Miami Dolphins proceeded to milk the clock to secure a 17-16 victory in Foxboro.


Click here for more PFF tools:

Rankings & ProjectionsWR/CB Matchup ChartNFL & NCAA Betting DashboardsNFL Player Props toolNFL & NCAA Power Rankings


New England Patriots

Quarterbacks

Mac Jones provided flashes of Tom Brady for the Patriot faithful, throwing for 281 yards and posting only one turnover-worthy play on 40 dropbacks. Jones wasn’t forcing the ball down the field, finishing with 6.5 average depth of target, but he got the ball out quickly with an average time to throw of 2.37, fifth-fastest among quarterbacks in Week 1 pending the Sunday and Monday night games. 

Mac Jones passing by depth
Target Depth Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns
9 yards or less 22 26 154 1
10-19 downfield 4 6 76 0
20+ downfield 3 4 79 0
Running Backs

The Patriots' inability to take care of the football ultimately cost them the game. New England running backs lost two fumbles, one of which came in the red zone on a potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Damien Harris, who coughed up the ball in the fourth, played well prior to that mistake, rushing for 100 yards on 23 carries. James White remained the third-down back for the Patriots, catching six passes for 49 yards out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

New addition Nelson Agholor led the team in receiving yards with 72 and caught the lone Patriots touchdown of the game. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith played nearly the same amount of receiving snaps, with each finishing with 31 yards.

Player Routes Run Target Reception Yards
Jakobi Meyers 42 9 6 44
Nelson Agholor 42 7 6 71
Kendrick Bourne 27 4 3 61
Hunter Henry 26 3 3 31
Jonnu Smith 20 5 5 42
Offensive Line

Trent Brown left the game after seven snaps and did not return, which left his replacement, Justin Herron, in a tough spot. Herron started the rest of the game at right tackle, allowing three pressures and earning a 37.5 pass-blocking grade. The rest of the offensive line played admirably, not allowing a sack and helping the running backs achieve 44 yards before contact.

Defensive Line

The highlight from the Patriots defensive line came in the fourth quarter when Matt Judon hit Tagovailoa as he threw, forcing an interception. While the unit combined for 13 total pressures, no Patriots lineman had more than two in the game.

Linebackers

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Ja’Whaun Bentley were the only Patriot linebackers to receive snaps, but they played their part. Van Noy played only seven pass-rush snaps but sacked Tagovailoa once and earned a 83.1 pass rush grade. 

Secondary

With no Stephon Gilmore, there was plenty of reason to be concerned about the Patriots secondary. J.C. Jackson allowed a team-high 68 passing yards but, like the rest of the unit, played better as the game progressed. Jalen Mills made a touchdown-saving play, deflecting a pass in the end zone toward the end of the first half. Despite a rocky start for Jonathan Jones, he pulled down a circus, tip-drill interception in the fourth quarter.

Miami Dolphins

Quarterbacks

Tua Tagovailoa didn’t play a perfect game but looked composed and in better control of the offense compared to last year. He finished the game 16-of-27 for 202 yards with two touchdowns, one of which came on his only rush attempt of the game (minus kneel downs). However, there still remains a level of uncertainty around Tagovailoa, as he completed only three passes beyond 10 yards.

Tua Tagovailoa passing by depth
Target Depth Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns
9 yards or less 13 14 113 1
10-19 downfield 1 9 23 0
20+ downfield 2 4 66 0
Running Backs

The Dolphins running game was almost non-existent until the final drive, as the team called only 17 designed rushing plays for running backs. Myles Gaskin led the team with nine attempts for 49 yards and was the only running back to force a missed tackle. Malcolm Brown received three of his five carries on the final drive and converted a first down late to help close the game out.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle played the majority of the receiving snaps and were the main targets for Tagovailoa. Each was targeted six times and caught four passes, with Parker leading the team in receiving yards with 81.

Waddle did have a crucial drop but made up for it later in the drive with his first career touchdown from 4 yards out.

Offensive Line

Pass-protection can be tough when facing a defense like the Patriots, and that proved true for the Dolphins. Every starting offensive lineman allowed at least one pressure. Jesse Davis was the only starter to earn a pass-blocking grade above 70.

Player Pass-blocking grade Pass-blocking snaps Pressures allowed
Robert Hunt 60.4 29 1
Liam Eichenberg 65.5 29 2
Solomon Kindley 35.2 29 2
Michael Deiter 61.0 29 2
Jesse Davis 76.6 29 2
Defensive Line

The Dolphins sacked Jones on the opening drive of the game but failed to get to him again despite causing 19 pressures as a team. Andrew Van Ginkel played just 14 pass rush snaps but recorded a team-high four pressures.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker was the only linebacker to play nearly every snap but didn’t have the best day stopping the run or in coverage, with both grades ranking among the worst on the team. Baker had the difficult task of guarding James White out of the backfield and allowed six receptions, the most of any Dolphins defender.

Secondary

While the Miami secondary is usually known for intercepting passes, today they were known for forcing fumbles. Eric Rowe and Xavien Howard each forced a fumble in the game, with Howard forcing the game-sealing turnover on Harris.

Both played well in coverage. Howard allowed a 4-yard completion the only time he was targeted, while Byron Jones forced an incompletion on one of his two attempts.

Player Coverage grade Targeted Receptions allowed Yards allowed
Xavien Howard 64.9 2 2 11
Byron Jones 75.3 2 1 7
Jason McCourty 73.4 4 3 33
Eric Rowe 69.0 6 5 39
Nik Needham 64.5 4 3 17
Jevon Holland 77.3 0 0 0
Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
Sponsor

NFL Featured Tools

  • Power Rankings are PFF’s NFL power ratings based on weekly player grades in each facet of play. These power rankings are adjusted based on coach, quarterback and the market each season.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF predictions and real time spread, moneyline and over/under lines for each NFL game.

    Available with

    Elite
  • PFF's Player Props Tool reveals betting opportunities within player prop markets.

    Available with

    Elite
  • PFF's exclusive metrics provide matchup previews, position rankings, grades, and snap counts.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NFL player performance data.

    Available with

    Elite
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr