For the first time since 1999, Tom Brady was not a part of the New England Patriots organization on an NFL Sunday. The six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback begins the next chapter in his illustrious career in 2020, taking over as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback.

September 13, 2020 also marks the next era of Patriots franchise history, with Cam Newton assuming the role of starting quarterback. Newton, a former NFL MVP who led he Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl 50 appearance, has big shoes to fill. But he steps in to a winning culture with the same head coach that won six Super Bowls with Brady: Bill Belichick.

No one’s saying the Patriots are going to take a huge step back in 2020. But expectations are tempered as New England’s success had been tied to Brady for much of two decades. The Patriots should be right in the 2020 playoff mix, whether as the AFC East champion or one of the conference’s three wildcard position winners.

Those results remain to be seen after 17 weeks of football. But on Sunday, Newton and Belichick had one goal: beat the Miami Dolphins at home. The Patriots came into the game as 6.5-point favorites, a rather generous line for Miami, though the Dolphins did finish strong in 2019.

See Also: 2020-21 NFL Predictions: Standings and Super Bowl Matchup (Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun)

The Patriots opened the game with five straight runs, including two from Newton. New England would punt after picking up two first downs, with Newton going 1-for-2 and taking a 9-yard sack.

New England would find more success on their next drive, an 11-play, 80-yard drive culminating in a 4-yard Newton touchdown run. The quarterback appeared to mimic former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowksi’s signature touchdown spike celebration, followed by a “Wakanda Forever” pose, a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman.

Again, the ground game carried the drive, with eight rushes and just three passes. Newton did complete all three, including a 25-yard completion to tight end Ryan Izzo, as well as Julian Edelman’s 600th career reception (second in franchise history to Wes Welker’s 672 catches.)

Stephen Gilmore picked off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to stunt Miami’s next drive. The Patriots then suffered a three-and-out (with Newton taking a third down sack) before allowing the Dolphins to score a field goal on a 10-play drive.

The Patriots went three-and-out again after a Newton incompletion followed by two rushing plays. Adrian Philips picked off Fitzpatrick to get New England the ball back, but Nick Folk couldn’t connect on a 45-yard field goal with six seconds to go in the half.

After taking just a 7-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, Newton and the Patriots marched down the field to begin the second half. An eight-play, 75-yard drive started with back-to-back first down catches by Edelman, and ended with Newton’s second rushing touchdown of the day.

The Patriots took a 14-3 lead, but the Dolphins weren’t down quite yet. New England was knocking on Miami’s 1-yard line, but wide receiver N’Keal Harris had the ball knocked out by Dolphins defender Jerome Baker for a fumble out of the endzone, shifting possession to the Dolphins. Miami would capitalize with 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive followed by a successful two-point conversion attempt to cut the Patriots lead to 14-11.

In response, Newton took the Patriots 75 yards in ten plays (with a little help from some Dolphins defensive penalties,) and Sony Michel punched ball in with a 1-yard touchdown run to give New England a 21-11 lead.

Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins still wouldn’t go down without a fight. Miami had the ball on the Patriots’ 10-yard line with 1:28 to play, but an aggressive Fitzpatrick pass was picked off by J.C. Jackson, the veteran quarterback’s third interception of the day.

Newton picked up one final first down on the ground before kneeling out to end the game and claim his victory with the Patriots franchise.

Statistics

New England Patriots

  • Patriots quarterback Cam Newton completed 15-of-19 passes for 155 yards, with no touchdowns nor interceptions thrown. On the ground, Newton carried the ball a team-high 15 times for 75 yards (also a team-high) and two rushing touchdowns. Newton earned a 100.7 passer rating. He was sacked twice in the first half.
  • Running back Sony Michel was the team’s next most-used weapon, carrying the ball 10 times for 37 yards and a touchdown.
  • Julian Edelman (seven targets, five catches, 57 yards) and N’Keal Harry (six targets, five catches, 39 yards) were Newton’s go-to receiving options in Week 1.
  • Stephen Gilmore, Adrian Philips, and J.C. Jackson each had an interception of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
  • Derek Rivers had the lone sack of the day for the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 20-of-30 pass attempts for 191 yards, but was picked off three times with no passing scores. Fitzpatrick scrambled five times for 18 yards, took one sack, and earned a 44.6 passer rating.
  • Running back Myles Gaskin rushed the ball nine times for 44 yards, with spell running back Matt Brieda gaining 22 yards on five carries. Jordan Howard had eight carries for just seven yards (just 0.9 yards per carry) but scored the Dolphins only touchdown.
  • Davante Parker caught all four passes thrown his way for 47 yards. Preston Williams had two catches for 41 yards.
  • Jerome Baker and Christian Wilkins each recorded a sack of Patriots quarterback Cam Newton.

Next Week

The Patriots travel to Seattle to play Russell Wilson and the 1-0 Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 2. The quarterback matchup will be a rematch of two of the NFC’s best dual-threat quarterbacks of the last decade.

Miami will host their AFC East rivals, the Buffalo Bills, at 1:00 PM ET in Week 2. Josh Allen and the Bills handled the New York Jets with ease in Week 1.

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Header photo: AP Photo/Steven Senne

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