FOXBORO -- The Patriots are 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 2001. New England put up another fight after falling into an early hole but once again came up short, falling to the Dolphins 24-17 at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
The Patriots had a chance to tie the game on their final drive, but came up inches short of keeping their final drive alive on a wild lateral play. Cole Strange was ruled just short of the first-down marker after getting a lateral from Mike Gesicki, and New England's chances at a comeback ended.
The New England defense did its best to keep Tua Tagovialoa and company in check, keeping the QB to just 249 yards through the air, but the Patriots' offense still couldn't keep up. Mac Jones completed 31 of his 42 passes for 231 yards, a touchdowns and an interception, while the New England ground game mustered just 88 yards on 25 carries.
"Not too much to say after that one. Tough loss. Gotta learn from it and just keep working harder, and move on," Bill Belichick said after the defeat.
"We need to be a lot more disciplined," a frustrated Hunter Henry said at the podium. "We have lost two close games, fought back and had a chance. But we're putting ourselves in positions too early in games, turning the ball over on their side of the field. That is big. It's tough to put our defense behind the 8-ball; we have to be better offensively."
New England's second offensive possession ended with a fumble for the second straight week on Sunday after rookie receiver Demario Douglas coughed it up after making a catch over the middle. The Patriots now have three turnovers in their two first quarters this season.
The Dolphins took over at their own 27-yard line, and marched 73 yards down the field on 11 plays, capped off with an 8-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert to give Miami a 10-0 lead.
The Pats had to punt away their next possession, but then the defense forced a three-and-out. Mac Jones and company were able to get to the Miami 31 but no closer, and settled for a 49-yard field goal from rookie kicker Chad Ryland to make it a 10-3 game. It was Ryland's first career make on his first career attempt at the NFL level.
The Dolphins added another touchdown just before halftime with a surgical eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown from Tua to Hill, putting Miami ahead 17-3. Tagovailoa carved up the New England secondary on the drive, hitting the likes of River Cracraft and Braxton Berrios for big gains before connecting with Hill for the score. The Pats walked off the field to halftime boos for the second straight week.
The Patriots got a spark in the third quarter thanks to special teams, when Brenden Schooler raced from the edge and blocked James Sanders' 49-yard field goal attempt.
The Patriots didn't get any points off that though, as Jones was picked off by Xavien Howard at the Miami 3-yard line.
But after the New England defense forced another three-and-out, the Patriots offense finally found the end zone. Jones and company embarked on an 8-play, 58-yard drive that included an 18-yard scramble by Jones on a third-and-15. Two plays later, the quarterback snuck one in to Hunter Henry for a six-yard touchdown, making it a 17-10 game with 11:21 on the clock.
New England had the ball back three plays later when rookie Christian Gonzalez picked off Tua's deep pass to Hill, coming down with the jump ball for his first career interception. It gave the Patriots the ball at their own 14-yard line.
But the offense couldn't muster anything on that free possession, as Jones was sacked on second-and-10 when right tackle Calvin Anderson allowed Andrew Van Grinkel a clear path to the QB. It set up a third-and-20, and Jones' deep pass to Mike Gesicki flew over the tight end's head downfield for a three-and-out by the Pats' offense.
After the Patriots punted back to the Dolphins, Miami needed just one play to find the end zone: A 43-yard touchdown run by Mostert to make it a 24-10 game.
That's when the Patriots' offense put together its best drive of the game. It took New England just 3:20 to march 75 yards down the field, with Jones going 6-for-8 on the drive. He had a nice 11-yard connection with JuJu Smith-Schuster, hitting the receiver with a running throw down to the Miami 2-yard line. Stevenson finished off the drive on the next play with his first touchdown of the season, making it 24-17 with 5:25 left.
Miami was looking to kill clock and add to their lead when they got the ball back, but only accomplished one of those. After taking three minutes off the clock and getting to the New England 37, Sanders missed his 55-yard field goal attempt wide left, giving the Patriots one final chance to tie the game.
But after picking up a first down, Jones was sacked by Bradley Chubb, setting up a second-and-18. His pass to Henry fell incomplete, and after hitting Mike Gesicki for a 14 yards on third down, the Pats faced a fourth-and-4.
Jones hit Gesicki short of the first-down line with his fourth-down pass, but the tight end lateralled to Cole Strange, who made a strong push to the line. Strange was initially given the first down, but the call was reversed after a booth review and the Patriots ended up turning the ball over on downs.
The Patriots nearly pulled off a comeback against the Eagles in Week 1, and nearly did the same in Week 2. But the Patriots came up short in both instances, and are now 0-2 to start a season for the first time in 22 years.
Miami improves to 2-0 with the win and sits alone atop the AFC East. The Pats hit the road for their next game, as they'll face the 1-1 New York Jets in New Jersey in Week 3.
Now the focus is on fixing these mistakes that have doomed the Patriots the last two weeks -- and not letting things spiral out of control.
"Stay positive and stay together, try to find solutions to our issues and problems," Mac Jones said after the game. "Arrive early, stay late, and really grind with each other."
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