The New England Patriots began their 2021 regular season with a 17-16 loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. While the Week 1 loss wasn't exactly the note Bill Belichick and company wanted to begin the year on, there were certainly some encouraging signs -- particularly under center -- that provide some optimism as they look forward to the 16 games ahead of them.
Before turning our complete attention to New England's Week 2 contest with the New York Jets, let's take a final look back at the season-opening loss and evaluate a handful of Patriots' performances. Below, you'll see which members saw their stock go up following Week 1 and who'll look to turn the tide as soon as this weekend.
Up: Mac Jones
All in all, you couldn't ask for a much better debut from Jones. The No. 15 overall pick completed 29 of his 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown with zero turnovers. Yes, there were some rookie jitters early, which nearly resulted in turning the ball over on the opening drive, but Jones settled down as the game went on and was able to put together some extremely impressive throws, like this perfectly placed ball on a wheel route to James White.
Jones was particularly strong against the blitz, completing 14 of his 18 throws for 112 yards (h/t Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald). In the fourth quarter, Jones was in a serious groove, completing 9 of his 11 throws for 53 yards to help New England move down the field. That's about as good of a first impression as you can make.
Down: Rhamondre Stevenson
Stevenson had himself quite the summer, but an early turnover got his NFL career off on sour note. On New England's second offensive possession of the day, Stevenson hauled in a short pass from Mac Jones and wound up fumbling the football with the Dolphins recovering in Patriots territory. The rookie back was essentially benched after that turnover, which then put a ton of work solely on Damien Harris' shoulders. Harris could be seen tapping out of various plays late in the game to get some rest, and you could argue fatigue was a factor in his game-losing fumble in the fourth quarter. Putting the ball on the ground was a serious issue for the Patriots in the opener, but Stevenson's proved to be a killer for what it meant the rest of the game.
Up: Adrian Phillips
It wasn't a particularly strong game by the Patriots secondary as it gave up a number of chunk plays down the field, but Phillips was a bright spot in that unit. The safety -- who finished with three tackles (two for a loss) -- was able to come up clutch on a number of occasions in the opener, particularly on the second defensive series in the third quarter.
After Miami opened the half up with a touchdown drive and the Patriots countered with a field goal to cut the deficit to 17-13, Phillips was instrumental in forcing a three-and-out to hand the ball back to the offense. He and Kyle Van Noy combined to tackle running back Salvon Ahmed for a three-yard loss to begin the defensive stand, and then he appeared two plays later with another tackle for a loss to force a 4th-and-15 punt. While the Patriots were unable to take the lead -- instead settling for another field goal on the next possession -- Phillips helped put them in a position to win the game.
Down: Justin Herron
Starting offensive tackle Trent Brown went down early with a calf injury, which thrust Herron in at right tackle to relieve him. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing for the 25-year-old, who was constantly getting beat by his defender, which left Jones vulnerable to a number of hits (took nine in the opener). Herron was even benched late in the game as the Patriots turned to Yasir Durant -- a 2020 undrafted prospect who arrived in a trade with the Chiefs on Sept. 1 -- due to his struggles. Fortunately, Brown's calf injury does not appear serious, so New England may not have to rely on the Herron-Durant combination at right tackle going forward.
Up: Nelson Agholor
Agholor and Jones had a good rapport in the opener, which is a great sign for a position group that is going to be under the microscope this season. The free agent addition caught five of his seven targets for a team-high 72 yards and a touchdown. Four of those five catches resulted in first downs.
Down: Bill Belichick, coaching staff
The Patriots led the Dolphins in time of possession, total yards and first downs; Jones threw zero interceptions; Nick Folk hit all of his kicks; and the defense even generated a turnover. And yet, New England still lost the game. That was thanks to a number of self-inflicted wounds, like four fumbles (two lost) and eight penalties for 84 yards. That has to fall on the shoulders of the coaching staff, and will need to be sorted out if the Patriots want to seriously contend for the division this season.
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The Mac Jones era in New England has begun following the stunning release of Cam Newton. How will the rookie fare this season and what does it mean for the rest of the Patriots' players? Download the CBS Sports app to find out! Plus, get insight from our resident Patriots insider, Tyler Sullivan. If you already have the CBS Sports app, make sure to pick the Patriots as your favorite team for up-to-the-minute news.