MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Joe Philbin prefers simple messages. Not even trailing New England by 10 points at halftime of the season opener could get the Miami coach to change his tone.
"The plays are there," Philbin simply said.
His team repeatedly proved him right.
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Knowshon Moreno rushed for 134 yards and a big fourth-quarter touchdown, Ryan Tannehill threw for two scores and the Dolphins dominated New England after halftime in a 33-20 win on Sunday. The Dolphins outscored New England 23-0 and outgained the Patriots 222-67 in the second half, and that stat includes 37 meaningless yards on the game’s final drive.
"We knew what was killing us," Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. "Ourselves."
Once Miami stopped beating Miami, New England had no answers. The Patriots lost their opener for the first time since 2003, and they don’t hold at least a share of first in the AFC East for the first time since Week 3 of 2012.
"They took away everybody in the second half," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said.
Brady threw a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen had a rushing touchdown for New England, which endured a most uncharacteristic freefall. The last time the Patriots were outscored by 23 points or more in the second half was Nov. 30, 2008 against Pittsburgh — 94 games ago.
"We need to do a better job than we did today," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It’s as simple as that."
Moreno now has 358 yards on the ground in his last two regular-season games against New England, the first being a 224-yard effort in Denver’s loss at the Patriots last season.
That one, he tried to forget. This one, he’ll savor.
"Did you see that man out there?" asked Dolphins center Samson Satele, one of five new starters on Miami’s offensive line. "He’s a crazy dude. You give him a little crease and away he goes."
Moreno rushed for 91 yards after halftime. The Patriots rushed for 28.
"An all-around great game," Moreno said.
For much of the first half, that was not the case.
Rookie linebacker Chris McCain had a blocked punt on the game’s first series, setting up a Tannehill-to-Lamar Miller touchdown pass — the first time Miami’s opening offensive sequence of a season resulted in a TD throw since Dan Marino and Mark Duper connected in 1992.
But the Dolphins would turn the ball over three straight times later in the half, New England would grab a 17-7 lead, and extended the margin to 20-10 at the break.
"We made a statement as a team," McCain said. "We had three or four turnovers and we were down, but we knew we could do something. We had to calm down, get our poise and come out and ball. We came back real well and shut them out in the second half. That’s unheard of. With Tom Brady out there you expect about 35 points."
When the Patriots are up 10, you can expect a win as well. They were 16-1 in their last 17 games with a double-digit halftime lead. But on Sunday, an 89-degree day that felt like 99 when factoring in the humidity, New England wilted.
"They just played better," Gronkowski said.
Brady finished 29 of 56 passing for 249 yards. Tannehill completed 18 of 32 passes for 178 yards.
Tannehill hit Wallace for a 14-yard score midway through the third to tie the game, Caleb Sturgis added one of his four field goals to put the Dolphins on top, and then Miami sealed it late.
Helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty and a pair of third-down completions by Tannehill, the Dolphins went 85 yards in about 6 minutes to put the game away. Moreno barged in from the 4 with 3:36 remaining to push the lead to 30-20, and the outcome was academic from there.
"Nobody else gave us a shot," Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "Just glad we got this win."