FOXBORO, Mass. – Xavian Howard was one of the best NFL players due to turnover in 2020. He was back on Sunday to help the Dolphins take a win earlier this season.
“Every game I feel I have to do something for the team and make the ball attack. My mindset was to get the ball out,” said Howard, who led the league in interceptions in 2020. “We needed it and it was important. That’s why I made it possible.”
Tua Tagovailoa threw a forward touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle in the third quarter and Howard recovered with New England driving Damien Harris in the fourth, helping the Miami Dolphins to a 17-16 win over the Patriots on Sunday.
It was Miami’s second consecutive win over the Patriots. Tagovailoa led the Dolphins to victory in the second meeting between the teams last season.
Tagovailoa finished 16 of 27 for 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and also had a 3-yard TD run to lead a new offense that kept the Patriots’ rebuilt defense estimate, no. -Huddle and empty backfield shaking in formations. DeVante Parker caught four passes for 81 yards.
While the offense had its moments, which included going 2 for 2 in the red zone, Tagovailoa said it should be better than 4 out of 11 (36%) on third down.
“I think the defense gave us a lot of opportunities and we have to use them,” Tagovailoa said.
The Miami victory spoiled the debut of New Englander Mack Jones, the first rookie quarterback to debut for the Patriots since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Jones was 29 of 39 for 281 yards and a touchdown. Harris ran 23 times for 100 yards, but had a costly stop to end New England’s hopes of a comeback. New England rumbled four times that day, losing two.
“Definitely not good enough for me to begin with,” Jones said. “We lost, so it’s not good enough.”
Miami took a 17-10 lead on a 3-yard touchdown from Tagovailoa to Waddell in the third quarter.
The Patriots made it 17-13 in the fourth when they ate more than five minutes to drive the Dolphins 15 inside. But it stopped there and Nick Folk’s third field goal made it 17-16 with 10:36.
On his ensuing drive, the Dolphins were facing third and -7 on their 43 when Tagovailoa was thrown out of the pocket and heavy a pass towards the edge. The ball was tipped over by Jonathan Jones and the ball was returned midway to the Patriots, with only eight minutes left.
New England reached Miami 11. But the next game, a run of 2 yards by Harris, ended with the ball losing to Howard’s hit. Howard retrieved it and the Dolphins captured their 9. They were able to run the clock.
“He’s a great player. We needed a great game there,” said Miami coach Brian Flores.
Tagovailoa took advantage of the absence of cornerback Stephen Gilmore to complete several deep passes in the Patriots secondary. The 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year started the season on the physically unable to perform list and will miss at least the first six games.
Jones was efficient for most of the game, spreading the ball to multiple receivers and finding soft spots in the Miami defense for chunk plays. The penalty hurt the Patriots, however, negating the big advantage and forcing the offense to settle for field goals.
New England was penalized eight times for 84 yards.
Dolphins: DT Raikwon Davis went limp early in the first quarter with a knee injury.
Patriots: OT Trent Brown walked into the first quarter with a right calf injury.
Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissette made two big appearances on Sunday. He picked up the third and -1 to survive a drive in the second quarter and set up a field goal. Then he did it again on the final drive of the day to Miami to help the Dolphins run off the clock.
“He’s done it before. We used it today and he helped us,” Flores said.
To move on
Harris led the Patriots with three 100-yard rushing games last season and distinguished himself as the team’s top choice during the preseason by showing his ability to break long runs and move chains into shorter yardages.
After being traded late after a fourth career 100-yard effort, he said he was ready to turn the page.
“It’s just a tough game,” he said. “It’s part of the game. I won’t let this mistake define myself.”
Dolphins: Host Buffalo next Sunday.
Patriots: Visit the New York Jets next Sunday.
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