In the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, the Patriots have been known for making great halftime adjustments, most often “winning” the second half. That script was flipped big-time in Miami Gardens, Florida Sunday, as the Dolphins blanked the Patriots in the second half and won going away, 33-20.
The Pats led, 20-10, at halftime but the Dolphins began chipping away in the third quarter. Caleb Sturgis drilled a 24-yard field goal, Mike Wallace hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill and Sturgis connected on a 22-yard field goal to take the lead away from New England by the time the fourth quarter began. A four-yard TD run by Knowshon Moreno with 3:29 remaining in the fourth and another Sturgis field goal closed out the scoring for the Dolphins.
The last time the Patriots lost a season opener, they lost just one game the rest of the season. The Pats were blown out in Buffalo in Week 1 of 2003, but ultimately wound up with a 14-2 regular season record and won the Super Bowl.
In the days following that initial loss, Pats coach Bill Belichick took plenty of heat for dumping popular safety Lawyer Milloy days before the season began. Belichick will no doubt have to drown out criticism this week as the Patriots’ offensive line looked brutal in their first regular season game since trading popular guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers. Tom Brady was sacked four times Sunday and the O-line looked all out of sorts in the second half. It remains to be seen if a 2003-like turnaround is on tap, but things will have to improve next week in Minnesota (1-0) if the Pats want to get back to the .500 mark.
A look at where the Patriots stumbled on Sunday:
• A solid fourth quarter drive never came. Down 23-20 with 14:02 left, the Pats went three-and-out with Tom Brady being sacked at the Pats’ own 27-yard line on third down.
• Down by 10 with 3:29 left, Brady threw three straight incompletions to “start” a drive and on fourth down he was sacked by Cameron Wake. Wake had two of the Dolphins’ four sacks.
• The Pats got a mixed bag performance out their returning and new faces. Rob Gronkowski played 38 of 86 snaps, but most came in the first half. “Gronk” had four catches for 40 yards and a TD. The Darrelle Revis-led defense registered an interception early (Alfonzo Dennard), but Knowshon Moreno (134 yards) ran wild on the unit.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS