FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The four-game Jimmy Garoppolo Era moves to the home stage when the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins in an AFC game on Sunday.
Garoppolo, who made his first NFL start in the first game of Tom Brady's Deflategate absence last Sunday night at Arizona, opened eyes all around the league play in leading the Patriots to their narrow opening win over the Cardinals.
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“It was a great night for him and for our whole offense,” Brady told Westwood One Radio on his weekly Monday Night Football interview. “I think one thing you realize as the quarterback is everyone being in sync and on the same page and the communication with your teammates is so critical.
“For us to go in there and get a win like that, it was great for, obviously, our offensive football team. The defense played great, special teams. It's such a team sport. Jimmy did everything he was asked to. It was a great way to start the season for our team.”
Garoppolo, who threw for 264 yards and a touchdown and had a 106.1 quarterback rating, has three home games left before Brady returns for the Oct. 9 game at Cleveland.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Garoppolo became only the fifth QB since the merger to debut with a triple-digit rating and lead his team to a winning drive in either the fourth quarter or overtime.
“The thing that makes it tough playing this team is (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels),” said rookie Dolphins coach Adam Gase. “He'll do a great job. He'll figure out a way that's best for them this week.
“He's not going to do something that either the quarterback or somebody else can't do. That's what makes them so tough to go against, no matter who is playing on Sunday. They're going to adjust to their personnel and figure out what's best for that team and for that opponent they're playing.”
The Dolphins, like the other two division teams besides the Patriots, lost their opener, falling to the Seattle Seahawks 12-10 in the first game under Gase.
They have lost seven straight games at New England, with some terrible numbers — like allowing 32 points per game.
Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, according to the Miami Herald, has thrown four touchdown passes, been sacked 22 times and been guilty of seven interceptions in his four losses in Foxborough.
Now, Tannehill's playing in a new system. And he did defeat the Patriots in Florida last year, with New England coach Bill Belichick on Wednesday referring to that game as the time “he killed us” and calling the 20-10 loss “sickening.”
“You definitely can see Tannehill in the games that he's played in the preseason and then (Sunday), he does have the ability to change plays, audible, move them around, check plays based on the looks and try to get them in the best play possible,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday. “He certainly has a good element of control over the offense and he's just going to try to, through the system, get them in the best position possible to stress the defense.”
The Dolphins produced only 11 first downs and 10 points and Tannehill was sacked five times in the loss to the Seahawks. They did march 86 yards for a late go-ahead score before Russell Wilson brought Seattle back.
While the world knows Brady won't be there Sunday, the status of several other Patriots, including tight end Rob Gronkowski — who missed the opener with a hamstring injury — was very much up in the air as game week progressed. New England was working with a rebuilt, on-the-fly offensive line (two rookies) Sunday but was able to keep Garoppolo mostly upright.
The Patriots were also missing the suspended Rob Ninkovich (four games) from the defense, with linebacker Dont'a Hightower missing practice Wednesday with a knee injury.
The Dolphins suffered a loss on their defense Sunday as tackle Earl Mitchell left with a concussion and a calf injury. The calf has him on injured reserve and set to miss at least eight weeks. Miami signed veteran linebacker Donald Butler this week, adding depth to the defense.
Defensive end Mario Williams (concussion) and wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) are hoping to play. And the Dophins will add running back Jay Ajayi back into the offense. Told he wasn't starting and would back up Arian Foster last week, Ajayi was left home by Gase, who says Ajayi will be back this week.
The Patriots enter this game 71-21 against their division since 2001.