Now that’s more like it.
After hearing all week about how they could potentially lose three in a row for the first time since the 2002 season, the Patriots responded the way we’re accustomed to seeing them respond on Sunday. And for that matter, so did the Dolphins.
Faced with with prospect of falling three games behind Miami, the Patriots broke open a close game with three touchdowns in the second quarter and never looked back, rolling to a 38-7 win over the previously unbeaten Dolphins.
Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns, while rookie Sony Michel carried the ball 25 times for 112 yards and scored his first career touchdown. The Patriots rushed the ball 40 times for 175 yards, with James White contributing eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.
“We just wanted to start fast and play a four-quarter football game, and I think we did that pretty good today,” said White.
Patriots 38, Dolphins 7 (2:42): Brock Osweiler, in for Ryan Tannehill under center, found Frank Gore for a 6-yard touchdown to break up the Patriots’ shutout. The drive took seven minutes and 10 seconds off the clock as the Dolphins marched 75 yards in 13 plays.
Patriots 38, Dolphins 0 (9:52): Tom Brady, searching for Phillip Dorsett, fired into the teeth of the Miami secondary. Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick came down with the ball for the Dolphins’ second interception of the day.
Patriots 38, Dolphins 0 (11:39): Another Dolphins drive, another three-and-out. This time, Ryan Tannehill completed a pass on first down, handed off for a 1-yard gain, then took a sack on third down.
Gronk leaves game with ankle injury: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski left Sunday’s game vs. the Dolphins in the third quarter because of an ankle injury. The team declared him questionable to return.
Gronkowski had been limited in practice throughout the week by an ankle injury, but it wasn’t serious enough to stop him from playing.
Gronkowski received some attention from a trainer on the Patriots bench before heading to the locker room. The trainer was working on Gronkowski’s right leg.
With the Patriots up by multiple touchdowns, they can afford to be careful with Gronkowski so it’s unlikely to see him return, especially on a short week coming up. The Patriots play on Thursday night this week.
— Nora Princiotti, Globe Staff
Patriots 38, Dolphins 0 (13:43): Sony Michel scored his first NFL touchdown, racing around the edge for a 10-yard score. The touchdown punctuated a 12 play, 90-yard drive for the Patriots — and a 25 carry, 112-yard outing for the rookie running back. Stephen Gostkowski popped over the extra point.
Patriots 31, Dolphins 0 (5:13): Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson picked off Ryan Tannehill on first down to cut another Dolphins drive short. Tannehill was searching for Albert Wilson on the deep route but found Jackson instead for his second turnover of the game. The Patriots took over at their own 10-yard line.
Patriots 31, Dolphins 0 (6:49): James White scored his second touchdown of the afternoon, reeling in a pass from an under pressure Tom Brady. The score capped a nine-play, 59-yard drive which began with a holding penalty on Patriots guard Joe Thuney that wiped out a 39-yard Brady to White connection.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 0 (11:50): The Dolphins matched the Patriots with a three-and-out of their own. Walt Aikens’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the punt gave Tom Brady a 15-yard head start.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 0 (14:09): The Patriots went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half. Ryan Allen sent a 44-yard punt into Miami territory after Phillip Dorsett dropped a deep-ball from Tom Brady on third down.
Halftime, Patriots lead 24-0
Here are some first half highlights.
The Patriots took a 24-0 lead into the break. A few stats:
Total yards: NE 272, MIA 75
Plays: NE 43, MIA 22
Yards per play: NE 6.3, MIA 3.4
First downs: NE 16, MIA 4
Third down: NE 6-9, MIA 1-6
Penalties: NE 5-47, MIA 7-47
Tom Brady: 13-22, 154 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 91.8 rating
Ryan Tannehill: 8-15, 68 yards, 65.4 rating
The Patriots were near-flawless in the first half. New England won the time-of-possession battle, keeping the ball for 19 minutes and 28 seconds against Miami’s 10 minutes, 32 seconds.
The sides tied in the all-important turnovers category, with one apiece, but Tom Brady made the most of Ryan Tannehill’s fumble and the Dolphins failed to punish Brady for his interception.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 0 (0:18): Phillip Dorsett capped a 15 play, 85-yard New England drive with an impressive shoestring touchdown catch. Tom Brady and company marched downfield, holding the ball for over five minutes before Dorsett’s 9-yard score. Stephen Gostkowski split the posts to pad the Patriots lead.
Patriots 17, Dolphins 0 (5:52): The struggling Miami offense went three-and-out for the third time.
Patriots 17, Dolphins 0 (7:36): James White burst free for a 22-yard touchdown. The Patriots capitalized on a Ryan Tannehill fumble, which came on the first play of the Dolphins’ drive. New England linebacker Kyle Van Noy recovered the football, then watched White scramble for six points on the next snap.
Patriots 10, Dolphins 0 (7:55): After a six play, 17-yard Patriots drive, Ryan Allen punted to Danny Amendola. The drive stalled when Tom Brady targeted Phillip Dorsett for a 13-yard gain on 3rd and 15.
Patriots 10, Dolphins 0 (10:47): Ryan Tannehill tried twice to emulate Brady’s deep completion on the following drive. The first toss drew a flag on Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but the second was simply incomplete and Miami punted once more.
Patriots 10, Dolphins 0 (12:01): Tom Brady aired it out to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 55-yard touchdown. With the score, Brady equalled Vinny Testaverde’s mark of touchdown passes to 70 different receivers. Stephen Gostkowski tapped the extra point between the uprights to extend the Patriots’ lead.
Patriots 3, Dolphins 0 (14:09): Cyrus Jones returned a Matt Haack punt 24 yards to the New England 33-yard line. A false start penalty on Laremy Tunsil had set back the Miami offense, which went three-and-out after the interception.
Josh Gordon has been in on eight of 19 offensive snaps through two drives.
Patriots 3, Dolphins 0 (1:28): Miami cornerback Bobby McCain ripped the football away from Tom Brady’s intended target, Phillip Dorsett, for an interception. The Patriots had earned one first down, via Rob Gronkowski, before the turnover on 3rd and 9 from the New England 47-yard line. The interception was the eighth of the season for the Dolphins’ defense.
Patriots 3, Dolphins 0 (3:15): Ryan Tannehill got a second chance of his own when Patriots cornerback Jonathon Jones was whistled for defensive holding on the second play of the drive. The Dolphins quarterback did not make the most of the opportunity, throwing three straight incompletion to bring out the punt unit.
Patriots 3, Dolphins 0 (5:28): Stephen Gostkowski’s 20-yard field goal gave the Patriots the first points of the game. New England drove 74 yards on the 13-play drive, moving the ball through Sony Michel on the ground and Josh Gordon in the air. The Dolphins’ defense held the Patriots three times from inside their 3-yard line to force the field goal.
Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 (9:55): After Tom Brady’s third down pass to Phillip Dorsett fell incomplete, the Patriots looked to have started the game with a three-and-out. (New England’s first three possessions against the Lions last week finished the same way.) However, a defensive holding penalty on Xavien Howard extended the drive.
Patriots 0, Dolphins 0 (12:05): The Dolphins punted on the opening possession. Ryan Tannehill found Kenny Stills downfield for a 22-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, but the drive stalled at midfield. Matt Haack’s 26-yard punt gave Tom Brady the ball at his own 24-yard line.
Danny Amendola was an honorary captain for the coin toss. The Patriots won and deferred. Dolphins will get the ball.
Pregame scenes and observations
Josh Gordon set to make his Patriots debut; Trey Flowers, Patrick Chung return on defense
By Jim McBride, Globe Staff
Receiver Josh Gordon will make his Patriots debut Sunday afternoon as New England looks to snap a two-game skid when it hosts the first-place Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
Gordon was acquired from the Browns after the Week 2 loss to Jacksonville, but a cranky hamstring issue prevented him from jumping right into the mix in Detroit last Sunday. The big receiver looked smooth and comfortable during the media windows at practice the last two weeks.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said recently he wasn’t worried about Gordon’s ability to pick up the offense, indicating the decision to activate him was solely based on health. If nothing else, Gordon’s addition could help prevent teams from double-teaming and clobbering Rob Gronkowski, a strategy that was employed by the Jaguars and Lions the last two weeks.
The Patriots also welcomed back key defensive figures Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung, who missed the loss in Detroit after suffering concussions against the Jaguars.
The Patriots inactives were cornerback Eric Rowe, tight end Jacob Hollister, offensive linemen Ted Karras and Cole Croston, and defensive ends Keionta Davis, Derek Rivers, and Geneo Grissom.
The Dolphins’ inactives were: quarterbacks Luke Falk and David Fales, receiver Devante Parkerm safety Reshad Jones, defensive end Andre Branch, linebacker Chase Allen, and tight end A.J. Derby.
Gronkowski was limited in practice throughout the week and listed as questionable with an ankle injury on the injury report.
Former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola doing some stretches as he prepares to face his former team.
John Simon, the six-year veteran out of Ohio State who was brought in Tuesday and signed officially the day after. Simon has spent his career oscillating between outside linebacker and defensive end, excelling when used situationally as a pass-rusher.
Simon played for the Ravens, Texans, and Colts before landing in New England. His most recent escapade came in Indianapolis, but the Colts cut him at the beginning of September.
Josh Gordon is active for today’s game.
Ryan Tannehill and his Miami teammates arrive at Gillette Stadium as one of three teams in the NFL still holding a perfect record.
The Dolphins beat the Titans, Jets, and Raiders to open their season. For Miami to move to 4-0, they’ll need to break a nine-game losing streak in Foxborough that dates back to 2008.
Tannehill, who has the fourth-best passer rating (121.8) in the league through three games, will look to Danny Amendola over the middle and Kenny Stills deep downfield against the Patriots defense. Stills is averaging 20.4 yards per reception this season to go along with his three touchdowns.
When Tom Brady has the ball, the Dolphins will turn to shut-down corner Xavien Howard and a defensive line that has provided stout run defense and a pass rush even without Ndamukong Suh. Miami has the third-best rushing defense in the league (3.3 yards per carry) and the top passer rating against (56.6).
Danny’s back: Danny Amendola returns to Gillette Stadium for the first time as a Miami Dolphin.
The veteran receiver, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with Miami in March, noted this week that his time in New England taught him things he’ll carry with him forever — including how to prepare for a game.
“I’m just using my preparation skills against them now,” Amendola said.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound slot specialist earned two Super Bowl rings and the Danny “Playoff” nickname during his days in Foxborough. While there will certainly be former teammates for him to greet Sunday, he’s focused on the task at hand.
“They have a lot of great people there,” Amendola said. “I can’t sit down and talk to all of them. I’m going to just focus on the game, and whoever I get to hit or handshake, that’s fine with me.”
Report: Gordon, Gronk expected to play
Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Rob Gronkowski will play against the Miami Dolphins, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Gronkowski was limited in practice throughout the week and listed as questionable with an ankle injury on the injury report. Schefter reports Gordon is expected to “play some” in his Patriots debut, provided the hamstring that sidelined him against the Detroit Lions last Sunday looks OK during warmups. Gordon was also listed as questionable alongside Gronkowski and nine other Patriots.