NFL: Patriots try to extend Miami mastery without Brady
New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo made a triumphant debut as an NFL starting quarterback as Tom Brady began his four-game “Deflategate” ban, but the Patriots must try to sustain that momentum Sunday against Miami.
The Patriots come home after a 23-21 opening victory at Arizona to face a Dolphins squad that has lost seven consecutive times when visiting New England and dropped its opener 12-10 to Seattle last weekend.
“For us to go in there and get a win like that, it was great,” Brady said. “Jimmy did everything he was asked to. It was a great way to start the season for our team.”
Brady is serving a suspension imposed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in having balls for a playoff game underinflated, one that had been intended for last season before Brady took the matter to court and won an appeal, only to lose when the NFL also appealed and won.
The bottom line from New England’s opener was no Brady proved to be no problem as Garoppolo threw for 264 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start. The Patriots’ offensive unit was also missing tight end Rob Gronkowski and two starting blockers.
The Patriots also have home games against Houston and Buffalo before Brady returns when New England visits Cleveland on October 9.
Miami, seeking a first win under new coach Adam Gase, has allowed an average of 32 points in its losing streak at New England as well an average of an interception and three sacks against the Dolphins in each loss at the Patriots.
But Patriots coach Bill Belichick still recalls a 20-10 loss last year at Miami in which Ryan Tannehill “killed us” in what he termed a “sickening” defeat.
Two second-week games feature unbeaten teams with Kansas City at Houston and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh.
The Texans will try to stop Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, who had 14 catches for 234 yards and two touchdowns in two Chiefs’ victories over Houston last season, one of them a 30-0 playoff rout.
“Very tough matchup,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s got really good size combined with really good athletic ability. You’re never going to have a guy on him in man-to-man coverage that is as big as him.
“You have to figure out ways to cover this guy and mix it up on him.”
The Bengals’ trip to Pittsburgh is also a rematch of a playoff game from last season, one Cincinnati squandered thanks to a fumble and two late penalties to set up a Steelers’ winning field goal.
That stretched Cincinnati’s playoff win drought to 25 years, but a 23-22 victory by the Bengals over the New York Jets in their opener has given new hope to the long-suffering squad this week.
“Against Pittsburgh last year we fought ourselves out of a big hole in a playoff game. But in the end, we lost,” Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “(Last Sunday) was the same kind of game, and we won.
“We don’t worry about last year. We move on and hopefully get better.”
Seattle will visit Los Angeles in the first Rams home game after moving from St. Louis following last season. The Rams had been based in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1994.
Sunday’s other games include Tennessee at Detroit, Dallas at Washington, New Orleans at the New York Giants, Baltimore at Cleveland, San Francisco at Carolina, Tampa Bay at Arizona, Jacksonville at San Diego, Atlanta at Oakland, Green Bay at Minnesota and Indianapolis at Denver.
On Monday, Philadelphia plays at Chicago.