Hard running by Knowshon Moreno and a Dolphin defense that improved as the game progressed powered Miami to an opening-day victory over division rival New England.
Miami burst out of the gate before slowing in the first half. Undrafted rookie Chris McCain, who later brought Tom Brady down in the backfield, blocked a punt after a Patriots 3-and-out that the Dolphins recovered at the Patriot 15. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill then tossed a touchdown pass to Lamar Miller coming out of the backfield at 11:46 of the first quarter.
The Patriots answered with an 80-yard drive, highlighted by a Julian Edelman end around and catches by Rob Gronkowski, that culminated with a Shane Vereen touchdown from the two.
The Patriots forced a turnover on the next Dolphin drive. A Jamie Collins stick on Mike Wallace led to a Jerod Mayo fumble recovery in Dolphin territory at the 35. The Patriots converted the turnover via a 47-yard Stephen Gostowski field goal to put the Patriots up 10-7 with 47 ticks remaining in the opening quarter.
The Patriots stopped another Dolphin drive with a turnover to start the second. Alfonzo Dennard picked off an underthrown Ryan Tannehill pass to Mike Wallace over the middle at the Patriot 6 at 12:56. Tom Brady dramatically improved his field position with a 45-yard bomb to Edelman that pushed the Patriots from their own 20 to the Dolphin 35. A depleted Dolphin linebacker corps helped Stevan Ridley push the Patriots inside the ten with an eleven yard run. Brady then hit Rob Gronkowski, again taking advantage of Miami linebacker problems, on a slant in the end zone at the 8:37 mark to put New England up 17-7.
Miami finally got back on the board at the two-minute warning with a 38-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal to shrink the deficit to seven. Stephen Gostowski answered with six seconds remaining in the half to put New England up by ten again.
Miami dominated the second half but not before some early struggles.
Miami moved the ball at ease into New England territory until a familiar culprit, turnovers, ended the drive. Logan Ryan hit Lamar Miller low on a breakout run that resulted in a loose shoe and a loose ball quickly pounced on by new Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis. But the Pats couldn’t capitalize.
Buoyed by Patriots penalties and Knowshon Moreno, the Dolphins drove inside the Patriot ten-yard line to start the second half. But a bend-but-not-break New England defense forced a Sturgis kick.
Miami forced at much-needed momentum shift at the 8:59 mark of the third quarter with a Cameron Wake strip sack of Tom Brady. Louis Delmas recovered. Knowshon Moreno quickly went to work. Tannehill hit Mike Wallace on a touchdown pass to stalemate the game.
The Fins held the Pats to a three-and-out, enjoying great position near midfield after the punt. A holding call negated a Lamar Miller touchdown. Miami settled for a Sturgis field goal. Moreno added an insurance touchdown before another Cameron Wake strip sack ended New England’s hopes deep in their own territory. Sturgis added another field goal with less than three minutes to play.
The Dolphin defense sacked Brady four times, holding New England’s offense to no points in the second half. The loss marks the first for the Patriots in their opening regular-season game since their 31-0 2003 humiliation to Buffalo.