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Cam Newton, Stephon Gilmore, Patriots

3 biggest takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 1 win against the Dolphins

The New England Patriots began the 2020 season on a winning note, defeating the Miami Dolphins 21-11 at Gillette Stadium. Here are three takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 1 victory.

3. Cam Newton is still an effective runner

Injuries limited Cam Newton to just two games played in his final season with the Carolina Panthers, leading many to wonder if the 31-year-old quarterback would scale back his rushing attempts. In his highly-anticipated New England debut, Newton put those questions to rest by darting for a team-high 75 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns.

Newton’s 75 yards on the ground were the most rushing yards for a Patriots quarterback since Steve Grogan gained 81 yards in 1977.

2. Patriots could be a run-heavy offense

It’s only one game, so it’s important not to overreact with the Patriots’ run-first offensive approach. With that said, head coach Bill Belichick always plays to the strengths of his personnel. Newton is a dual-threat quarterback, an asset Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will capitalize on. New England utilized run-pass option (RPO) plays all afternoon with Newton. He kept the Dolphins guessing on defense by using option reads, designed runs and play action.

Newton was effective when he did throw, completing 15-of-19 passes for 155 yards with a 100.7 passer rating. But the game plan clearly called for runs over passes. The Patriots ran the ball 42 times, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

Sony Michel rushed for 37 yards and a TD on 10 carries. Rex Burkhead (32 yards), J.J. Taylor (28 yards) and James White (22 yards) all got carries out of the backfield, while receiver Julian Edelman added 23 yards on the ground on his lone rushing attempt.

The offense will certainly not be this run-oriented in every game. Newton had 13 designed runs—the second-most of his career. That will be tough to replicate, especially when the Patriots play better caliber teams than the Dolphins. But the Week 1 win offered a glimpse at one of the ways New England can succeed with Newton under center.

1. The Patriots’ defense looks elite

As previously noted, this was game 1 out of 16 so knee-jerk reactions are likely to be made. But if Sunday was any indication, the Patriots’ defense will be among the league’s best yet again. The Patriots were the NFL’s top-ranked defense last season, yielding the fewest yards and surrendering the least points.

Stephon Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, shined in his first contest of 2020. He intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the second quarter.

As a team, the Patriots collected three interceptions and held Fitzpatrick to 191 yards passing. He completed just 20-of-30 passes with a brutal 44.6 passer rating. The Dolphins accumulated only 269 total yards and their 11 points were the second-fewest scored among all NFL teams thus far in Week 1.

The Patriots travel to Seattle to play the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks next week, which will offer more of a challenge to the defensive unit. But so far, so good for the Patriots, who look to be the best defense in football for the second consecutive year.