The New England Patriots started the post-Tom Brady era with a fine performance.
A strong rushing attack propelled the Patriots to a 21-11 victory over the rival Miami Dolphins in Cam Newton's debut Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Here are three takeaways from this Week 1 matchup.
1. Cam Newton's running ability is huge for Pats offense
We spent the last few months talking about Newton's ability to run the football as a big plus for the Patriots offense, and the initial results have been quite positive so far.
Newton's first carry of the game went for 10 yards. It didn't take him long to find the end zone, which came early in the second quarter on a 4-yard run for the game's first touchdown.
The veteran quarterback finished with 15 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns. These yards came on a variety of plays, too, including designed QB runs, RPOs and scrambles. The Patriots as a team ran for 217yards on 42 carries -- a solid 5.2 yards per rush.
Newton also completed 15 of 19 pass attempts for 155 yards with zero interceptions.
It's going to take a while for the Patriots offense to start firing on all cylinders. These were the first real game reps for the offense with Newton at quarterback due to the lack of a preseason.
The early returns are pretty encouraging, though. Newton's rushing ability and a healthy offensive line gives offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels so many options when calling plays and creating gameplans.
2. Stephon Gilmore, Pats' pass defense still really good
The Patriots ranked No. 1 in interceptions, opposing completion percentage and opposing QB rating, while finishing No. 2 in pass yards allowed last season. New England's pass defense looks poised for another strong campaign in 2020 based on Sunday's performance.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for just 191 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions, including this one by reigning Defensive Player of the Year award winner Stephon Gilmore.
J.C. Jackson ended the game with the Patriots' third interception of the day with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots run defense was solid, too, giving up only 3.2 yards per carry. New England allowed a league-low 14.1 points per game last season, and the unit is off to another strong start after giving up just 11 to the Dolphins.
Sure, the Dolphins don't have an elite offense, but holding any NFL team to two scores is a feat to be proud of, especially in Week 1.
3. Overcoming adversity
The Patriots could've gone up 21-3 in the third quarter but wide receiver N'Keal Harry fumbled at the goal line. The ball went out of bounds through the end zone for a touchback, giving the ball to the Dolphins. Miami drove down the field, and aided by two pass interference penalties on the Patriots, scored a touchdown (with a 2-point conversion) to trim the deficit to 14-11.
The Patriots needed to respond and they did in impressive fashion. The ensuing drive began with a Julian Edelman run for 23 yards, and 15 more were tacked on as a result of a Dolphins penalty for tackling the veteran wideout after he went out of bounds. New England kept picking up yards and eventually converted on a 4th-and-1 with a QB run by Newton. Sony Michel finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Pats a 21-11 advantage.
The game could have snowballed out of control for the Patriots after Harry's fumble and the Dolphins' first touchdown, but Newton and the offense gave the team a much-needed scoring drive to sway momentum back in its favor. It was a strong show of character and resiliency by the entire offense.