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Patriots revert to old form, lose to Dolphins for second time this season

The Dolphins beat the Patriots for the second time this season.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

A week after upsetting one of the top teams in the AFC East, the Patriots were unable to deliver a repeat performance, losing to the Dolphins for the second time this season, 31-17, on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Patriots pulled within one score in the fourth quarter, but Miami (6-2) responded with a time-consuming drive capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to a wide-open Jaylen Waddle. Miami then made a defensive stand to seal the victory that included a sack and two near-interceptions.

The Patriots dropped to 2-6. Quarterback Mac Jones completed 19 of 29 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He had one pass intercepted.


“Offensively didn’t have enough production. It’s the National Football League against a really good team. They made some plays out there,” Jones said. “It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, we had it to a one-score game and couldn’t capitalize from the offensive side, either just trying to get the score tied up and just make it a game at the fourth quarter really is what you’re trying to do. It’s hard.”

Tight end Hunter Henry said the Patriots had a good week of practice and were ready to go after defeating the Bills last week, but mistakes were too much to overcome.

“We’ve just got to regroup and get ready to go again,” Henry said.

Dolphins speedster Tyreek Hill caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit 30 of 45 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns.

The Patriots had seven penalties for 45 yards. The Dolphins had three for 25 yards.

Two Patriots receivers left the game with injuries. Devante Parker was ruled out after suffering a head injury in the third quarter, and Kendrick Bourne left with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter.


The Patriots scored first when Jones found Bourne over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown pass on third down with 3:32 left in the first quarter. The possession began when Kyle Dugger’s interception gave the Patriots the ball at the Miami 30.

The Dolphins tied it at 7-7 on a 42-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Hill with 22 seconds left in the first quarter. Miami took a 14-7 lead with 6:10 left in the second quarter when Tagovailoa found Cedrick Wilson Jr. from a yard out.

Miami took a 24-10 lead midway through the third quarter when Raheem Mostert walked in for a 1-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play drive immediately after a fumble on its first possession of the second half led to a Patriots field goal.

The Patriots pulled within a touchdown, 24-17, midway through the fourth quarter when Jones hit JuJu Smith-Schuster with a 3-yard touchdown pass.

Next week, the Patriots face the Commanders at Gillette Stadium.

Below are updates, commentary, and analysis posted before, during, and after Sunday’s game.

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Send in your questions — 6:20 p.m.

What do you want to know about the Patriots after Week 8? Christopher Price is taking reader queries for his weekly Patriots mailbag.

Submit your questions here.

Jones credits Dolphins defense — 5:42 p.m.

The Patriots had an opportunity to showcase an improved offensive flow on Sunday after finally clicking in last week’s victory over the Bills.


There were times where the offense found a rhythm — resulting in an early touchdown for Kendrick Bourne and a long scoring drive in the fourth quarter — but Mac Jones and the Patriots reverted to their pattern of inconsistency in a 31-17 loss to the high-flying Miami Dolphins.

“I always talked about [how] every week is different and the game plan changes, and like I said, we just need a little bit more production from me and from everybody,” Jones said. “It starts with the quarterback, and I can be cleaner on my reads and all that stuff. You’ve got to be really sharp against a team with a really good offense.”

Read more here.

Instant analysis: The talent gap is obvious — 4:53 p.m.

The good news for the Patriots is that they are no longer embarrassing themselves as they did in consecutive blowout losses to the Cowboys and Saints. The offense is showing signs of life. Mac Jones is starting to rebuild a little confidence. The defense is holding tough and making plays.

But that only gets this team so far. The NFL is ultimately a players’ game, and Sunday’s loss was the result of a massive talent gap between the Patriots and the Dolphins.

Jones simply isn’t good enough to keep pace with Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ jailbreak offense, leading the Patriots to just 218 total yards. The Patriots’ offensive weapons aren’t good enough to break open plays against a shaky Dolphins defense that entered the game ranked 27th in points allowed (26.7 per game). The Patriots’ defense isn’t stout enough to slow down the Dolphins for 60 minutes, or to minimize Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who combined for 233 yards and two touchdowns on 15 catches.


Read Ben Volin’s full analysis here.

Two Patriots receivers injured — 4:20 p.m.

By Nicole Yang, Globe Staff

The Patriots lost two of their starting wide receivers, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne, to injury Sunday afternoon against Miami.

While trying to make a catch midway through the third quarter, Dolphins safety DeShon Elliott levied a hard hit on Parker. Elliott appeared to hit Parker’s helmet both on initial contact and on their way to the ground, but officials did not throw a flag. Parker remained on the ground before slowly walking off the field with athletic trainers.

The team ruled Parker out with a head injury. He exited with one catch for 14 yards.

Later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Bourne attempted to fight for a first down after making a 6-yard catch along the sideline but was brought down by Dolphins cornerback Eli Apple. Bourne grabbed the back of his right knee on the play and stayed down on the field. He eventually was able to make his way off with assistance from staffers.

The team immediately ruled Bourne out with a knee injury. He left with three receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Asked after the game for an update on Bourne’s status, coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t say.


“It happened a few minutes ago,” he said.

Losing Bourne for an extended period of time would certainly be a loss for the Patriots. Entering Sunday’s game, he led the team in targets (51), catches (34), receiving yards (370), and touchdowns (3). A serious injury would also eliminate any trade possibilities for Bourne, who is in the last year of his contract and previously garnered interest across the league.

If the Patriots are without Bourne and Parker for at least one game, their wide receiver room, already devoid of top-end talent, would be forced to turn to their younger players. Rookie Demario Douglas and newly signed Jalen Reagor would likely see larger roles. Rookie Kayshon Boutte and 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton will likely get playing time, after being healthy scratches Sunday. The same goes for veteran JuJu Smith-Schuster, who didn’t log a snap until Bourne’s injury.

The Patriots have no wide receivers on their practice squad.

Last gasp unsuccessful — 4:00 p.m.

Mac Jones escaped a would-be second interception when a bad throw hit the ground before it could be intercepted, but he couldn’t escape Jaelan Phillips unblocked coming off the edge for a sack on third down.

Jones did manage to get a throw off on a desperation fourth-down throw that also appeared destined for an interception before JuJu Smith-Schuster leveled Brandon Jones to jar the bar loose. It appeared to be a legal hit, but the Dolphins weren’t pleased as New England turned the ball over on downs to end the game.

Smith-Schuster was hit with an unsportmanlike conduct penalty in the aftermath of the play.

Waddle coasts in for 7 — 3:52 p.m.

Dolphins 31, Patriots 17 | 2:43 4th quarter

The defense kept the Patriots in the game for much of the afternoon, but it couldn’t stop the Dolphins throughout that drive, and the fear of Tyreek Hill was the X-factor. Hill went in motion on third and 1 and two Patriots went with him, while none went with Jaylen Waddle, who was as open as could be for a 31-yard touchdown.

Patriots find the end zone — 3:42 p.m.

Dolphins 24, Patriots 17 | 8:30 4th quarter

That was the Patriots’ best drive of the afternoon, largely out of no-huddle, shotgun looks: 81 yards on 13 plays, highlighted by a 17-yard gain from Ezekiel Elliott, a 16-yard strike from Mac Jones to Hunter Henry, a shifty 12-yard catch and run from Demario Douglas, and a gritty 7-yard run from Rhamondre Stevenson to get down to the 3-yard line. Bill Belichick decided to get bold on fourth and goal from the 3, and JuJu Smith-Schuster finally got involved, going in motion for an easy pitch-and-catch with Jones for his first touchdown as a Patriot.

Kendrick Bourne injured — 3:29 p.m.

Bryce Baringer is having another busy day as he punts it away for the fifth time today after another three and out, on another rough drive for the Patriots’ receiving corp — Kendrick Bourne went down and stayed down after a 6-yard gain on third and 9, and went to the locker room with what appears to be a right leg injury.

Bourne (knee) was ruled out for the rest of the afternoon.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming into the game for the Patriots.

Third-quarter analysis — 3:23 p.m.

By Chris Price, Globe Staff

Three quarters are in the books here in South Florida, and the Patriots trail, 24-10.

• New England’s 10 points this afternoon have come off turnovers. None of their points have come as the result of the offense driving the length of the field following a punt or kickoff. The offensive highlight of the quarter came on a Pharaoh Brown pickup over the middle that went for 24 yards — it tied for the longest play from scrimmage today for the Patriots.

• I had to check and make sure that JuJu Smith-Schuster was still in the building. The veteran receiver, who was activated today ahead of Tyquan Thornton and Kayshon Boutte, has zero targets. DeVante Parker was on the receiving end of a big hit over the middle midway through the quarter, one that could have been called a helmet-to-helmet hit.

• Anfernee Jennings forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, and while the Patriots couldn’t turn it into a touchdown, they did come away with three points. Chad Ryland made it 17-10 with 12:45 to go in the third quarter. The field goal from Ryland was his fifth straight dating back a few weeks, and makes him 9-for-13 in his NFL career. I still want to see him kick with a game on the line, but he’s certainly done well lately.

• That being said, the Miami offense made New England pay for not putting seven on the board. Tua and the Dolphins immediately put up another touchdown, going 77 yards for a score. Raheem Mostert walked in from the 1-yard line to cap the series, which made it 24-10.

Parker out for rest of game — 3:12 p.m.

The Patriots announced that DeVante Parker (head) is out for the game after that hit from Miami’s DeShon Elliott.

Another Patriots drive stalls — 3:09 p.m.

Mac Jones made his best throw of the day, a 24-yard strike into a tight window to Pharaoh Brown, but the Patriots drive stalled out again at midfield after DeShon Elliott popped DeVante Parker with a helmet-to-helmet hit that jarred the ball loose but didn’t draw a flag, and Jones couldn’t find Jalen Reagor on third down, leading to another punt.

Where is JuJu? — 3:02 p.m.

• Still no snaps for JuJu Smith-Schuster today. Not necessarily surprising given his underwhelming production this season, but why make Kayshon Boutte and Tyquan Thornton healthy scratches if you don’t plan to use Smith-Schuster? – Yang

Dolphins take two-touchdown lead — 2:58 p.m.

Dolphins 24, Patriots 10 | 7:35 3rd quarter

The New England defense simply couldn’t live with Miami’s passing attack on that drive. Tua Tagovailoa needed just four completions to pick up 67 yards, and despite an excellent tackle from Kyle Dugger to save a touchdown at the goal line, the Dolphins found the end zone as Raheem Mostert walked in from a yard out to double Miami’s lead and make it a 14-point game midway through the third.

Promising start to second half for Patriots — 2:46 p.m.

Dolphins 17, Patriots 10 | 12:45 3rd quarter

It’s New England’s defense that’s keeping this game alive, as Anfernee Jennings jumped on a fumble on the first play of the second half to set the Patriots up with excellent field position. New England couldn’t quite capitalize, as Mac Jones was sacked on third and 5 with DeVante Parker open across the middle — but seemingly not Jones’s first read — and Chad Ryland’s field goal brought New England back within a touchdown.

Halftime analysis — 2:33 p.m.

By Chris Price, Globe Staff

Two quarters are in the books here in South Florida, and the Patriots trail the Dolphins 17-7.

• Stats leaders: Mac Jones 9-for-13, 70 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Rhamondre Stevenson: 6 carries, 27 yards; Kendrick Bourne: 2 catches, 3 targets, 30 yards, 1 TD; Tua Tagovailoa: 18-for-26, 165 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

• A second-quarter touchdown and a field goal — the latter of which came after an ugly Jones interception — have allowed Miami to take a 10-point lead into the locker room.

• The pick came with New England driving with just under two minutes left in the first half, and the Patriots sitting at the Miami 23. Jones took a deep shot near the end zone, but Jalen Ramsey — in his first action of the season — picked it off and took it to the New England 40. Miami turned that into a field goal from Jason Sanders that made it 17-7 with 26 seconds left in the half. Credit the defense for keeping it 17-7 and not 21-7.

• For New England, the biggest sequence of the first half came just past the midway point of the first quarter when Tua stared down Tyreek Hill on a third-down pass attempt. (To be fair to Tua, when you have someone like Hill being covered by Myles Bryant, well … I’d take a long look there too.) Kyle Dugger slipped into the play and picked it off, setting up the Patriots’ offense with terrific field position.

• The Patriots then cashed it in with a three-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Mac to Kendrick Bourne, giving the Patriots their first lead on the road since Week 3 against the Jets. From the defense forcing a turnover and the offense taking advantage of the short field, it was a terrific display of complementary football for New England. All in all, one of the best sequences of the season.

• We did see one of my favorite plays on the second drive of the afternoon from New England, the bootleg-style rollout and pass from Mac to Pharaoh Brown. The Patriots picked up nine on the play. I understand you can’t call that more than a few times a game, but they almost always seem to pick up quality yardage on the play.

• Dugger was the defensive star of the first half for the Patriots, finishing with a sack and an interception. He was all over the place.

• We saw multiple man coverage matchups on Hill throughout the first two quarters, and the speedy receiver lined up at no less than a half-dozen different spots. (That’s not counting the times where he was in motion, which might one some sort of offensive cheat code.) He was mostly trailed by Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson, who did a very good job for the first 14 minutes and 38 seconds of game action. On Hill’s touchdown, it was Jackson in coverage, with some late help from Marte Mapu. (Jackson took an initial step forward, which was all the separation Hill needed.) A 42-yard lightning bolt that tied the game with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.

• Not breaking any news here, but Hill is such a complete receiver. He can fly past guys like he did on his touchdown catch, or sit in a zone and wait patiently for the completion like he did on a 14-yarder midway through the second quarter. He’s also a (mostly) willing blocker in the run game. You feel like you have him accounted for, and he still had five catches (four in the second quarter) for 74 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

• That second Miami scoring drive was ridiculous. The Dolphins wobbled their way down the field, taking 14 plays and going 53 yards over 7:53 to take a lead … thanks in part to a questionable DPI on Jackson. The Patriots did themselves no favors with some blown assignments, but it was a rough stretch for New England, which eventually yielded in the Miami heat, allowing a one-yard touchdown from Tua to Cedrick Wilson, Jr.

• The Dolphins were 3-for-3 on fourth down, with one conversion coming in the first quarter and two in the second.

• Not much notable when it came to New England’s special teams — Chad Ryland was successful on his first opportunity, while Bryce Baringer averaged 51 yards on his three punts, one of which landed inside the 20.

• The Dolphins will get the ball to start the second half.

Dolphins tack on 3 before halftime — 2:26 p.m.

The Patriots defense held up to limit the damage after Mac Jones’s interception, keeping the Dolphins to just a field goal to make it a 10-point game in the final moments of the first half.

The Patriots elect to kneel out the first half, and will go into the locker room trailing, 17-7, with the Dolphins set to receive the ball in the third quarter.

Jalen Ramsey snuffs Patriots drive — 2:14 p.m.

Signs of life from the Patriots offense: some hard running from Rhamondre Stevenson, who broke multiple tackles to pick up 11 yards to move well into Dolphins territory plus a pair of well-executed slants to Demario Douglas (13 yards) and DeVante Parker (14) for first downs.

That all came to nothing, as All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey — making his Dolphins debut — read Mac Jones perfectly to intercept a ball floated to the sideline and stop the New England drive in its tracks.

• That’s one more catch than I expected for DeVante Parker today. His 14-yard grab puts the Patriots at the Miami 37 as we hit the 2 minute warning. – Finn

Dolphins in front — 2:02 p.m.

Dolphins 14, Patriots 7 | 6:10 2nd quarter

That Dolphins drive was all about third-down chunk plays and fourth-down daring from coach Mike McDaniel. Tyreek Hill picked up 10 yards on a third and 14 at midfield and McDaniel kept the offense out there, with Tua Tagovailoa scrambling up the middle for 8 yards and a first down.

Once Miami got into the red zone, a Kyle Dugger sack forced another third and 14, Miami picked up 13 yards on a screen to Jaylen Waddle, and McDaniel went for it again on fourth and 1 and got it.

It seemed like New England’s defense had held firm when Tagovailoa overthrew Hill on third and goal, but J.C. Jackson was hit with a bit of a ticky-tack pass interference call, and Tagovailoa found Cedrick Wilson Jr. from a yard out to give Miami the lead.

• The Dolphins had more yards on that drive (75) than the Patriots have so far in the game (68). – Finn

• The Chargers version of J.C. Jackson showed up at the end of that series. – Finn

Penalties doom another Patriots possession — 1:44 p.m.

The penalty bug hit New England again, as a Kendrick Bourne hold put the Patriots at second and 18, a hole they couldn’t climb out of in another three and out. A false start on fourth down didn’t help, forcing Bryce Baringer to punt from his own 14 and the Dolphins will take over near midfield.

• Outside of the touchdown drive on the short field, New England’s offense hasn’t inspired much confidence today. They just went three-and-out for the second time today — and the drive included a fumble that fortunately went out of bounds and two penalties against the offense. – Yang

• Patriots defense did a nice job on Mostert in the first quarter, holding him to 6 yards on 4 carries. Jeff Wilson Jr., who has a been a Patriots nuisance in the past, got the Miami running game going a bit before the Hill touchdown. – Finn

The Patriots offense looks like it may require the use of a punter often today, so Bryce Baringer has to be better. He booted one punt 60 yards into the end zone. His other two have been a 49-yarder returned 12 yards to the Miami 36, and his most recent one, a 44-yarder returned 5 yards to the Miami 47. – Finn

First-quarter analysis — 1:38 p.m.

By Chris Price, Globe Staff

One quarter is in the books here in South Florida, and the Patriots and Dolphins are tied at seven.

• For New England, the biggest play of the first quarter came just past the midway point when Tua Tagovailoa stared down Tyreek Hill on a third-down pass attempt. (To be fair to Tua, when you have someone like Hill being covered by Myles Bryant, well, I’d take a long look there too.) Kyle Dugger picked it off, setting up the Patriots’ offense with terrific field position.

• The Patriots then cashed it in with a three-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Mac to Kendrick Bourne on a nice crossing pattern to make it 7-0 with 3:32 left in the first quarter. From the defense forcing a turnover and the offense taking advantage of the short field, it was a terrific display of complementary football for New England.

• We saw multiple man coverage matchups on Hill, but it was mostly Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson, who did a very good job for the first 14 minutes and 38 seconds of game action. On Hill’s touchdown, it was Jackson in coverage, with some late help from Marte Mapu. (Jackson took an initial step forward, which was all the separation Hill needed.) A 42-yard lightning bolt that tied the game with 22 seconds left in the quarter.

• Credit the Dolphins for being bold on their fourth-and-short attempt, as Tua found Jaylen Waddle for a 17-yard pickup.

• Christian Barmore had a big second-down sack that went for six yards, which was followed by the Dugger interception.

• Saw one of my favorite plays on the second drive, the bootleg-style rollout and pass from Mac to Pharaoh Brown. The Patriots picked up nine on the play. I understand you can’t call that more than a few times a game, but they almost always seem to pick up quality yardage on the play.

• On the other side of the ball, Miami’s Jalen Ramsey started at cornerback for the Dolphins, his first action of the year following offseason surgery. I don’t know if this is their usual approach, but it appeared that Ramsey was playing one side exclusively, and not following anyone. Regardless, it looked like the Patriots stayed away from him in the first quarter.

Tyreek Hill scores for Miami — 1:30 p.m.

Patriots 7, Dolphins 7 | 0:32 1st quarter

The Patriots just learned the perils of letting Tyreek Hill get a free release — the Dolphins’ electric wideout burned J.C. Jackson, despite some safety help from Marte Mapu, for a 42-yard touchdown over the top on a simple go route to tie the score in a hurry.

Patriots get a takeaway, convert it to points — 1:25 p.m.

Patriots 7, Dolphins 0 | 3:32 1st quarter

Kyle Dugger picked off Tua Tagovailoa, and it didn’t take long for Mac Jones and the Patriots to punish the Dolphins with good field position. Jones found Kendrick Bourne over the middle on third and 4, and Bourne took it 24 yards to the end zone to give New England an early lead in South Florida.

• The Patriots’ offense was looking like it was in pre-Buffalo mode before Bourne’s 24-yard touchdown catch – it had had just 28 total yards until that point. But Jones hit the big play when he needed it, which sure looks like real progress over the offense we saw through the first six games. – Finn

A tale of two offenses — 1:18 p.m.

The Patriots stalled out quickly again on their second possession, failing to convert on third and 4 from their own 38, and coach Bill Belichick isn’t feeling bold on fourth and 1, bringing out Bryce Baringer for another punt.

• The Dolphins had a fourth and 1 from their own 45-yard line on their first possession, went for it, and converted. The Patriots enter a similar situation — fourth and 1 from their own 40 — but punt. I agree with the decision, but it’s certainly reflective of the differences between these two offenses. – Yang

• Worth noting that no one scored in the Week 2 game until the Dolphins kicked a field goal with 3 minutes left in the first quarter. By halftime the Dolphins were up 17-3. It’s imperative that the Patriots offense wakes up here, because Miami is so capable of striking fast. – Finn

Patriots get ball first — 1:02 p.m.

The Patriots lost the coin toss and will receive the opening kickoff. The team has talked about the importance of starting fast — and has even considered taking the football if they win the toss — so we’ll see if they can score on the first possession and start out with a lead for the second straight week.

Demario Douglas received the first target of the game, which is a promising sign for his usage. The bad news is that the play registered a loss of four yards. – Yang

It’s a rough start for the Patriots offense, which lost four yards on the opening play and never got much going on a three and out to open the game. – Touri

Tale of the tape — 12:55 p.m.

Here are a few key team stats to keep in mind ahead of kickoff for Week 8 (NFL rank in parentheses):

Points scored per game: Dolphins 34.3 (1st), Patriots 14.4 (31st)

Passing yards per game: Dolphins 300.0 (1st), Patriots 208.9 (21st)

Total yards allowed per game: Dolphins 345.3 (20th), Patriots 311.3 (9th)

Takeaways: Dolphins 7 (T-22nd), Patriots 5 (T-last)

Chad Finn’s players to watch and prediction — 12:37 p.m.

Patriots player to watch: Kendrick Bourne. Not sure why it took so long, but the Patriots coaching staff has finally recognized that he is the most well-rounded and reliable receiver (the occasional late-game fumble excepted). Bourne has 16 receptions on 18 targets for 152 yards and a touchdown. Juxtaposed over a full season, that’s a rate of 136 catches for 1,292 yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s not going to maintain that pace, but it is evidence that the Patriots offense is at its best when he’s prominently involved.

Dolphins player to watch: Tyreek Hill. The obvious choice, but there’s an additional element of suspense around the Dolphins’ dynamic No. 1 receiver this week. He missed practice with a hip injury Wednesday, and while he assured the media Thursday that he is good to go, it’s possible that his usual jittery quickness is compromised. The Patriots have historically done a good job defending him at full health, but he still averages nearly a touchdown per game against them in his career. If he’s not quite right Sunday, perhaps a difficult task gets easier.

Prediction: Patriots 22, Dolphins 20. Before the win over the Bills, it seemed the obvious path for this team was lose often and land a high draft pick. Now, there’s a modicum of unexpected hope. The Dolphins are beat up, and I’ll give the Patriots a chance – a chance – at making it two in a row.

Pregame scenes — 12:24 p.m.

A few observations from player warmups and the pregame hours:

• Jalen Ramsey introduced last with the Miami defense, and he gets a huge cheer.

• Patriots offensive line in warmups: LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, RT Mike Onwenu.

Update: that OL combination also started on Oct. 1 vs. Dallas and Oct. 8 vs. New Orleans. The Patriots have used six combinations in eight games. Previously, we’d stated it would be the first time all season New England has had the same starting lineup up front in back-to-back games.

• Patriots receiver Jalen Reagor was out early working with the specialists/returners, then jumped into receivers’ warmup drills. Interested to see if he gets more chances this week. He’s certainly trending in the right direction.

• Jabrill Peppers and Demario Douglas are returning punts in warmups. Myles Bryant also joined the group.

• Trent Brown went over before warmups to share an embrace with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who’s on the sideline.


Ben Volin’s players to watch and prediction — 12:15 p.m.

Patriots player to watch: Quarterback Mac Jones. Nicole and Chris both made great choices, so I don’t want to miss the obvious. Jones already slayed one beast last week when he finally beat the Bills, and finally led a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive. Today Jones has another great opportunity against the Dolphins, against whom he is 1-4 career with the lone win coming late last year against the Dolphins’ backup quarterbacks.

Not to put too much emphasis on a Week 8 game, but the Patriots’ playoff hopes essentially ride on today’s outcome. Win and get to 3-5, and the season is very much alive. Lose and fall to 2-6, and it’s time to start scouting college draft prospects. The Patriots finally played with an early lead last week, and Jones was careful with the football, completing a lot of short passes and stepping up with a few clutch throws when needed. Jones will need a similar performance against the Dolphins to pull off the upset.

Dolphins player to watch: WR Jaylen Waddle, In the Dolphins’ Week 2 win, Waddle was the leading receiver with four catches for 86 yards, compared to five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown for Tyreek Hill. The Patriots have done a good job at minimizing opposing No. 1 receivers all season, and Hill is battling a hip injury on Sunday, making Waddle’s presence even more important. Waddle isn’t healthy, either, as he is dealing with a back injury that limited him in practice all week. In five career games against the Patriots, Waddle has 20 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns.

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20. I’m really tempted to pick the Patriots to pull off the upset, but the Dolphins’ speed and the Miami heat will be a little too much to overcome. Bill Belichick is 9-14 in Miami with the Patriots, including a 2-8 record the last 10 years.

Chris Price’s players to watch and prediction — 12:00 p.m.

Patriots player to watch: Jonathan Jones. The Tyreek Hill Eraser wasn’t available to the Patriots for the first New England-Miami game. He told me this week that he’s healthy and ready to go, which should mean good things for the Patriots.

Dolphins player to watch: Raheem Mostert. The Patriots dedicated their defensive efforts to slowing Tyreek Hill in the first matchup, and Mostert ran for a season-high 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If New England has to dedicate all its efforts to slowing Hill again at the expense of its run defense, it could be another big day for the back.

Prediction: I’m going to pick Miami, but I’m not all that confident about it. Last week was a pleasant surprise, but the Patriots haven’t done enough yet to earn the benefit of the doubt quite yet – maybe that comes with another divisional win this week. I still believe they’re capable of at least keeping it close. Miami, 27-24.

Rivalry history and last time they played — 11:45 a.m.

As AFC East rivals for more than five decades, the Patriots and Dolphins have squared off twice a year in the regular season since 1967, with Miami holding a 61-55 edge in the series (including three postseason games).

Miami dominated the matchup through much of the 20th century with its powerhouse teams of the 1970s and the Dan Marino-led squads of the 80s and 90s. New England wrested back control through its dynasty years after the turn of the century; the Patriots were particularly dominant through the 2010s, owning a 14-6 edge and only losing once in Foxborough for a decade, but the Dolphins have been back on top with a 5-2 record over New England since the departure of Tom Brady.

The two teams met in Week 2 this season, with Miami holding off a hard-charging New England team in the final minutes. The Patriots trailed, 17-3, after an underwhelming first half, but finally found some rhythm to strike for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter either side of a 43-yard Raheem Mostert touchdown for the Dolphins. Mac Jones and the offense had a chance to complete the comeback, getting to the Miami 33 with just over a minute to play, but the game ended on a chaotic fourth and 4 with a short pass to Mike Gesicki, a lateral to left guard Cole Strange, a scramble for the sticks from the lineman, and a replay review that deemed Strange short of the line to gain as the Dolphins escaped with a 24-17 win.

Inactives and gameday roster analysis — 11:30 a.m.

Here are the inactive lists released by each team.

Patriots: WR Tyquan Thornton, LB Josh Uche, OL Verderian Lowe, OL Calvin Anderson, WR Kayshon Boutte, QB Will Grier (emergency third QB)

Dolphins: WR Robbie Chosen, S Jevon Holland, CB Xavien Howard, DT Brandon Pili, QB Skylar Thompson (emergency third QB)

Nicole Yang’s analysis: After signing receiver Jalen Reagor, the Patriots have a bit of a number crunch with seven wide receivers on the roster because typically only five are active on game day. Rookie Kayshon Boutte was expected to be one of the two inactive wideouts, as he’s been a healthy scratch for every game after Week 1. But the fact that Tyquan Thornton was the other certainly does not reflect well on the 2022 second-round pick. Thornton only played three snaps last week. He brings downfield speed, but so does Reagor.

Chris Price’s analysis: Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson (illness), linebacker Josh Uche (ankle/toe) and offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (ankle) were announced as inactives on Friday and Saturday, while offensive tackle Conor McDermott was elevated from the practice squad.

McDermott figures to take the place of both Anderson and Lowe as the No. 1 backup offensive tackle. The 31-year-old McDermott, who is in his second stint with New England, was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 17.

Meanwhile. Uche’s absence will put more of the pass-rush responsibilities on the shoulders of Anfernee Jennings and Deatrich Wise, Jr. In addition, defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who has ramped up his pass-rush game as of late, will likely be asked to be more of disruptive presence along the interior. (For what it’s worth, both Wise and Barmore were both on the injury list this week — Barmore is dealing with a knee issue, while Wise has a shoulder.)

Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte has been mostly a healthy scratch since a Week 1 cameo against the Eagles. He’ll sit again this afternoon. It was interesting to hear Bill Belichick talk about Boutte and his situation this week, saying that the rookie receiver faces a real challenge for playing time because of who’s ahead of him on the depth chart.

“I feel like we have a lot of competition at that position,” Belichick said. “Everybody’s in it. The guys who perform the best play the most, the guys who don’t need to perform better.”

Tyquan Thornton is the other healthy scratch at wide receiver for the Patriots. That means New England’s full compliment of veteran receivers — DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith Schuster (back today after a concussion), and Jalen Reagor — are all OK to play, as well as rookie Demario “Pop” Douglas.

Among the notable actives is Smith-Schuster, who has been sidelined since Oct. 8 with a concussion he sustained in a loss to the Saints. In addition, three cornerbacks who didn’t play in the Week 2 matchup against the Dolphins — Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, and J.C. Jackson — are all good to go today against Miami.

Nicole Yang’s players to watch and prediction — 11:20 a.m.

Patriots player to watch: Demario Douglas. He was on the field for a season-high number of snaps last week, and continues to show he’s deserving of more. But will JuJu Smith-Schuster, now back after missing two games in concussion protocol, cut into his playing time? The answer should be no, but it will be interesting to see if the Patriots still choose to defer to their veteran option over the rookie. Douglas has proven on multiple occasions he’s an explosive playmaker, something the Patriots desperately need.

Dolphins player to watch: Tyreek Hill. He scared Dolphins fans by missing Wednesday’s practice with a hip injury but is expected to play. The Patriots had problems tackling last week against Buffalo, so Hill could benefit greatly if those issues persist. Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez played an important role limiting Hill in Week 2 — 5 catches for 40 yards, his least productive outing of the year — so we’ll see if Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson can step up in Gonzalez’s absence.

Prediction: Miami 30, Patriots 24. New England’s win over Buffalo last week was impressive, but the Patriots still have to show some consistency.

Patriots heavy underdogs today — 11:15 a.m.

The Patriots are once again significant underdogs, with the Dolphins listed as 8- or 8.5-point favorites at home at most sportsbooks, a similar line to last week’s matchup with the Bills. The moneyline has settled around +310 to take New England to win, and Miami’s explosive offense is keeping the total high at over/under 46.5.

Weather report — 11:00 a.m.

It’s looking like a warm day in South Florida, with temperatures in Miami Gardens, Fla., expected in the low 80s throughout the afternoon. There will likely be some cloud cover that may dissipate as the game progresses, but it doesn’t appear that the rain that had been forecasted for gameday at various points throughout the week will end up materializing Sunday.

Miami has some motivation — 10:52 a.m.

The Dolphins have decided that enough is enough with the narratives surrounding their football team. They are now going to take control.

The Dolphins and HBO announced last week that the team will be the subject of an in-season edition of “Hard Knocks.” The release date and number of episodes haven’t been announced yet, but Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said the filming will begin after the team returns home from its game in Germany in two weeks, meaning this Sunday’s game against the Patriots won’t be included.

McDaniel and his 5-2 Dolphins have been addressing a lot of narratives this year.

Last week in Philadelphia, McDaniel warned his players about the narratives that would emerge from their big game against the Eagles. Beat the defending NFC champs on the road, and the Dolphins would likely be crowned in the media as the best team in the NFL. But lose, and the Dolphins would face questions about their ability to beat teams with winning records.

Read more from Ben Volin here.

Dolphins may have Jalen Ramsey back — 10:00 a.m.

The Dolphins on Saturday activated cornerback Jalen Ramsey off injured reserve. Ramsey appears to be ready to make his 2023 debut, just three months after surgery on his left knee.

“Obviously, [he’s a] very talented player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday. when he was asked about the possibility of Ramsey playing.


Patriots injury report — 9:45 a.m.

Patriots linebacker Josh Uche and offensive tackle Vederian Lowe on Saturday were downgraded to out for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Dolphins in Miami.

Uche, who has been dogged by foot and ankle issues, missed last week’s win over the Bills with a foot injury. The 25-year-old has two sacks this season. Uche, who is in the last year of his rookie deal, remains the subject of trade rumors ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

In Uche’s absence, it’s likely that Anfernee Jennings and Deatrich Wise will be asked to do more when it comes to generating a pass rush.

Read more on the Patriots’ injury situation from Chris Price here.

Amin Touri can be reached at amin.touri@globe.com. Matt Pepin can be reached at matt.pepin@globe.com. Christopher Price can be reached at christopher.price@globe.com. Follow him @cpriceglobe. Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him @GlobeChadFinn. Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her @nicolecyang. Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.