4:19 PM ET
Mike ReissESPN Staff Writer
- Covered Patriots since 1997
- Joined ESPN in 2009
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quarterback Cam Newton rushed for two touchdowns to help lead the new-look New England Patriots offense — powered by the ground game — past the Miami Dolphins 21-11 in Sunday’s regular-season opener at Gillette Stadium.
Newton’s 75 rushing yards on 15 carries were the most by a Patriots quarterback since 1977, when Steve Grogan had 81 rushing yards at the Buffalo Bills, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
His 15 rush attempts were the most ever by a Patriots QB in a game. And the Patriots overall rushed 42 times for 217 yards, both totals their most in a season opener under coach Bill Belichick.
“Cam’s been great for us. He’s earned everybody’s respect, really, daily,” Belichick said. “I thought he played well today. He ran the ball well, he led the team, made some good checks and adjustments.”
Newton had a 4-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, and added an 11-yard rushing score in the third. His ability as a runner led Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to introduce zone-read concepts never used with Tom Brady, who is more adept as a pocket passer.
To highlight the contrast, consider that Brady had 34 rushing yards all of last season. Even when excluding kneel-downs, Brady would have totaled just 46 rushing yards in 2019, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information.
Over the past 35 seasons, the Patriots had just three games in which quarterbacks had multiple rushing touchdowns, all by Brady.
Even Newton might have been surprised by how much the Patriots called his number as a rusher. His 13 designed rushes, the final one going for 11 yards to close out the game, were the second most of his career, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information (15 in 2014, Week 6 at Bengals).
“Getting a win like that isn’t necessarily pretty at times, but that’s good for the overall team character,” Newton said.
Still, Newton was effective when called upon to throw, finishing 15-of-19 for 155 yards, with no interceptions. The 19 attempts were the fewest by a Patriots starting QB since Jacoby Brissett in Week 3 of the 2016 season.
“This is the new normal, and I think it’s time for everybody, including myself, to realize this is what it’s like,” he said. “I think it hit me full-circle today; and for me to just kind of realize that I’m a New England Patriot.
“And I’m just going to embrace this whole moment.”
At the end of the game, CBS cameras showed Newton getting into a heated on-field exchange with second-year Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, and it later appeared that Miami rookie defensive lineman Raekwon Davis reached his hand toward the jewelry around Newton’s neck.
Newton, perhaps drawing on his college ties to Auburn, said of Wilkins, who attended rival Clemson: “You just have to realize who you’re talking to, and just keep everything in the game. I realized I was talking to a person that’s known for doing splits.”
That was a dig at Wilkins’ celebration following the 2016 national championship game when he did a split that went viral.
As for what appeared to be Davis grabbing for his chain, Newton said: “I still got my chain. I got two of ’em. They were reaching for my chain, though and I think that kind of got up under my skin. … I was just teasing with Coach, just letting him know that the College Park almost came out in me. Yet through it all, man, it was all fun and games; and it was expected.”