New England Patriots

Patriots Drop Opener Despite Sharp Debut for Jones

The Patriots lost two fumbles in the game, including one on a potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter

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Mac Jones went 15-2 as a starter at the University of Alabama.

Though almost no fault of his own, Jones is halfway to that loss total as an NFL quarterback following a 17-16 setback to the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Gillette Stadium in the season opener for both teams.

Driving late in the fourth quarter and trailing by a point, workhorse running back Damien Harris fumbled at the most inopportune of times for New England at the Miami 11-yard line, giving the ball back to the Dolphins for the duration.

The turnover, one of two on the afternoon for the Patriots, detracted from a fine debut for Jones. The 23-year-old rookie completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards, throwing the first touchdown pass of his career to Nelson Agholor on a 7-yard strike in the second quarter.

"I think we can get better," Jones said after the game. "That's just how we have to look at it. Definitely wasn't good enough, starting with me. So we've got to watch the film. We lost, so it's not good enough."

The fumble marred an otherwise sterling afternoon for Harris, who rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries. In reaching the century mark, he became the first Patriot to top 100 yards on the ground in a season opener since Shane Vereen in 2013.

Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, on the other hand, who lost the ball on the very first carry of his career, did not receive another touch after his blunder.

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Agholor had a solid debut for New England on offense, leading the team with five receptions for 72 yards on top of his touchdown.

The Patriots punted on their first offensive series after receiving the ball to begin the game, a set which included the first drop back of Jones' career -- he was sacked for a 13-yard loss by Springfield, Massachusetts native Christian Wilkins -- as well as his first completion, a dump off to James White on third and long.

Miami drove 10 yards for a touchdown in response, which was followed by Stevenson's lost fumble.

The Patriots would get on the scoreboard courtesy of a Nick Folk 27-yard field goal and go ahead briefly on the Agholor touchdown reception, but the Dolphins tied the score at 10-all at the break on a Jason Sanders 48-yard field goal.

Miami took the lead for good on the opening drive of the third quarter, which culminated in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Jaylen Waddle.

Folk kicked two more field goals in the second half from 42 and 33 yards but was denied a chance for a potential game-winner with the Harris fumble.

"One mistake won't define me," Harris said.

Jones vs. Tagovailoa was a battle of former teammates for the Crimson Tide, as the latter played under Nick Saban at Alabama before being drafted fifth overall by the Dolphins in 2020. Tagovailoa went 16 for 27 for 202 yards Sunday, in addition to the touchdown pass to Waddle and an interception from Jonathan Jones.

New England is on the road next week against the New York Jets, who dropped their season opener against the Carolina Panthers, 19-14. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium.

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