Defense, turnover-free Tagovailoa lead Dolphins past Patriots

UPI News
UPI News

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa efficiently utilized his stellar offensive weaponry and the Miami Dolphins defense forced three turnovers and scored in a victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Tagovailoa completed 23 of 33 passes for 270 yards and threw a 42-yard touchdown toss to Jaylen Waddle in the 20-7 season-opening triumph at Hard Rock Stadium.

"You see what the defense was able to do for us," Tagovailoa told reporters. "They were the momentum changers for us, with the interceptions and turnovers they had."

The win also resulted in Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel's first career victory as a head coach.

"It was a very cool moment," McDaniel said. "Against my wishes, they showered me in Gatorade and made it about me, which I know for a fact, that it's not. The team coming together and the direction we are going in, that's why you get in team sports."

Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill totaled a game-high eight catches for 94 yards. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones completed 21 of 30 passes for 213 yards, a score and an interception.

Jones also sustained a back injury during the setback, but did not leave the game.

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard intercepted Jones on the game's first drive. The Dolphins turned the turnover into points with a 43-yard Jason Sanders field goal with 4:05 left in the first quarter.

A sack by Brandon Jones midway through the second quarter led to more Dolphins points. The Dolphins safety hit the Patriots quarterback as he dropped back to pass, forcing a fumble.

Dolphins linebacker Melvin Ingram scooped up the loose ball and scored on a 2-yard return.

The Dolphins lit up the scoreboard once again when Tua Tagovailoa connected with Waddle for their long touchdown. Waddle ran 20.8 mph on that play, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

The Patriots finally found the end zone on their first drive of the second half. Jones ended that 15-play, 92-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ty Montgomery.

Sanders made a 49-yard field goal on the next possession to push he Dolphins lead to 13 points at the end of the third quarter. Neither team scored over the final 15 minutes.

"It's obviously a disappointing start here," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It was really a pretty even game.

"Two big plays, 14 points really skewed the game. We moved the ball and couldn't get enough points when we got into their territory."

The Dolphins will face the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 18 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Patriots will battle the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. Sept. 18 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.

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