MIAMI GARDENS — Jalen Ramsey’s first game with the Miami Dolphins was celebrated in the best form possible.
Ramsey, after a three-month recovery from a meniscus tear in his left knee, got his first interception with his new team, and the Dolphins got a well-rounded divisional victory.
The Dolphins topped the Patriots, 31-17, Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle both surpassed 100 yards and the defense held the Patriots to a mere 218 total yards of offense.
Miami (6-2) swept the season series with New England (2-6). The Dolphins, who remain atop the AFC East, have now won six of seven in the rivalry with the Patriots for the first time since 2002. They have won 16 of their Past 18 home games.
Tagovailoa, who went 30 of 45 and threw an interception to go with his three touchdowns, improved to 6-0 against New England and coach Bill Belichick. He extended his record streak of wins against Super Bowl-winning coaches to 11 and will put it on the line again next week against the Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) and Andy Reid.
“You get a great litmus test of where you’re at as a football team,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said, “when you have a division game, and then on top of that, you’re going overseas the next week, and on top of that you have (HBO series) ‘Hard Knocks’ the week after.
“That is leading the league in potential distractions. I knew we were going to find out a lot about our team today, and I could care less about what their record is. That is a tough team to go against.”
Hill had eight receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. It was his 12th 100-yard receiving game with Miami and put him over 1,000 yards for the season, making Hill the first player to accomplish the feat eight games into a season in the Super Bowl era and keeping him on pace for his goal of a 2,000-yard season.
Waddle had seven catches for 121 yards and the late touchdown to seal it. Sunday was the first time the Dolphins had two receivers exceed 100 yards in the same game and the first time the Patriots allowed one pass-catcher to reach triple digits.
Ramsey made his big play late in the first half with his team leading, 14-7. With the Patriots driving in Miami territory, he baited Jones into his first throw his way, easily intercepting it and going 49 yards on the return.
“I’ve been telling the whole team for a couple weeks that I was going to get a pick my first game,” Ramsey said. “It comes from the preparation that I put in and the team around me. It’s not just me. I worked really hard during the week to prepare myself to feel like Jalen Ramsey, and it’s just a product of it.”
After the game, McDaniel teased that Ramsey should’ve returned it for a touchdown — something Ramsey said himself in his media session.
The Dolphins’ ballyhooed offseason acquisition flashed the different things he can do earlier in the half, too, forcing a fumble on Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott. The play, however, was negated due to a New England holding penalty the Dolphins accepted.
“The hype is real when it comes to someone like Jalen Ramsey,” Tagovailoa said.
Miami converted the Ramsey interception into points, a short field goal from Jason Sanders, with 26 seconds left before halftime.
The Patriots got back within a possession early in the second half. They turned the Dolphins over on a fumbled exchange between Tagovailoa and running back Raheem Mostert into a field goal.
But Miami was able to extend its lead later in the third quarter. Mostert punched in a 1-yard score after tight end Durham Smythe got the Dolphins down near the goal line. Waddle, dropping a long pass during the series, later redeemed himself with a 23-yard reception.
With 8:30 remaining, the Patriots cut the two-touchdown deficit in half, 24-17, scoring a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 with Jones throwing to an open JuJu Smith-Schuster in the flat.
The Dolphins responded by consuming 5:47 on the ensuing possession, capping it with a 31-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Waddle. The Patriots keyed in on stopping the run on third-and-1 and kept their eyes on Hill, whose motion to the outside freed up Waddle. Hill had a key third-down catch to extend the drive.
“For them to make that play, those are what big-time players do in big-time games,” McDaniel said. “Tyreek was in jet motion, and they tried to go in and out on the fly. Long story short, it was (Cover)-zero, and Tua hung on to the ball longer than he usually does because he saw it all.”
The two teams had a scuffle late as Dolphins safety Brandon Jones had a would-be interception broken up by a hard hit from Smith-Schuster that was flagged.
Miami took a 14-7 lead in the middle of the second quarter on a 14-play, 53-yard drive that consumed 7:25. It was capped by a Tagovailoa touchdown pass from a yard out over the middle to Cedrick Wilson Jr. He was set up at the 1-yard line by a J.C. Jackson pass interference in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 6.
The Dolphins, down a touchdown early, tied New England late in the first quarter when Tagovailoa threw a perfect deep ball for a 42-yard touchdown to Hill, who ran right past Jackson and safety Marte Mapu.
Hill, after elaborate celebrations in his past several home games, ran directly to the bench after his long touchdown.
“I’m just tired of these fines, “Hill said. “The NFL, they fine me so much. They’ve been finding small ways to fine me.”
But Hill did participate in Mostert’s touchdown celebration later, a speed-walking race with Hill pretending to go to the ground injured as Mostert won. Hill said he was upset Waddle didn’t do a celebration they had planned following his final score.
The Patriots scored first Sunday as Jones found Kendrick Bourne crossing over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown on third-and-4, beating Justin Bethel, Miami’s dime defensive back Sunday with Xavien Howard out.
New England was set up with prime field position off Tagovailoa’s interception, which appeared to occur due to miscommunication on Hill’s route as Patriots safety Kyle Dugger ended up with the ball. Miami was backed up for third-and-15 because of a Christian Barmore sack on the previous play, surrendered by right guard Robert Hunt before he left injured.
“It was not a good read,” Tagovailoa said of the interception. “I think they did a really good job disguising what they ran.”
The Dolphins next travel to Frankfurt, Germany, where they will practice in the week leading up to their game against the Chiefs, who loss on Sunday to the Denver Broncos, 24-9.