FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — Quarterbacks are changing again for the undefeated New England Patriots, but head coach Bill Belichick was not ready to disclose his game plan at the position Sunday night.
“We’ll just take it day by day,” Belichick said after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady’s stand-in during Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension, suffered an injured right shoulder late in the second quarter of a 31-24 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Garoppolo could miss six weeks according to multiple reports. The typically closed coach didn’t touch projections for Garoppolo’s return and what the team might do without him.
“We’ll do whatever we think is best for the team,” said Belichick, who has to prepare his team (2-0) for a Thursday night home game against the Houston Texans, meaning the Patriots were likely to work the phones to find a veteran backup.
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Initial tests revealed no broken bones for Garoppolo.
The Patriots almost blew a 31-3 lead and had to intercept a last-second pass (their fourth takeaway of the day) in the end zone with two seconds left to seal the win.
Garoppolo had made three first-half touchdown passes when he got hurt. He was taken down after a scramble by linebacker Kiko Alonso. The pass was completed for a first down but Garoppolo, who appeared to have also been limping slightly just before the play, got up slowly. He went to a knee as the training staff worked on him and grimaced when his shoulder was touched inside his shoulder pad.
“It sucks, but it’s part of the game,” said wide receiver Julian Edelman, a college quarterback and the likely emergency replacement if Jacoby Brissett got hurt — and caught seven passes. “It’s terrible. It’s unfortunate. Jimmy was playing his tail off.”
Garoppolo hit his first eight passes and was 18 of 27 for 234 yards when he went down with 4:02 left in the first half. In two games (of his proposed four-game stint) he 42 of 60 for 498 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brissett made his NFL debut and was 0 of 2 — both passes to Edelman seemed catchable — before a Stephen Gostkowski field ended the first half. Brissett then led the team on a touchdown drive on the first drive of the second half, with LeGarrette Blount scoring on 9-yard touchdown run.
Brissett hit six of his last seven and finished with 92 yards.
“I don’t think the moment was too big for him,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater.
Citing “both quarterbacks,” Belichick said, “We got a lot of good performances from a lot of different people.”
But the Patriots’ defense made it interesting.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 389 yards and helped the Dolphins (0-2) cut their deficit to seven with 6:06 left. The power running of Blount led to a failed 39-yard field attempt by the usually reliable Stephen Gostkowski with 1:04 left.
Miami marched 42 yards to the New England 29 but Duron Harmon picked off Tannehill’s fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Tight end Martellus Bennett caught five passes for 114 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown and a powerful catch and run that featured a stiff arm against cornerback Byron Maxwell, and a touchdown. He was clearly limping near the end of the game but Belichick noted Bennett had a big game, especially blocking on outside runs.
Blount ran for 123 yards and a touchdown and Danny Amendola caught two touchdown passes and had four catches.
The win was the eighth straight for the Patriots at home against Miami.
Tannehill, 0-of-2 passing in the first quarter, rallied and finished 30 of 39 for 364 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He is 0-5 at Gillette Stadium and was working for the entire second half without injured running back Arian Foster.
“We can’t be an almost team,” said Jarvis Landry, who caught 10 passes for 133 yards in the loss. “That (stuff) is over.”
The Dolphins lost starting running back Arian Foster to a hamstring injury and head coach Adam Gase indicated it could be a long-term absence. Rookie Kenyan Drake scored a touchdown for the Dolphins and running back Jay Ayaji saw his first action of the season.
NOTES: TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) missed his second straight game while New England LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) was also inactive. … The Patriots honored a Red Sox great before the game — David Ortiz coming out of the tunnel wearing a Tom Brady No. 12 jersey but quickly added a No. 34 presented to him by Patriots owner Robert Kraft — with “Big Papi” on the back. … Dolphins RB Arian Foster, WR Kenny Stills and S Michael Thomas kneeled on the Miami sideline during the national anthem. All New England players stood and TE Martellus Bennett and S Devin McCourty, who raised fists into the air after the anthem Sunday night in Arizona, did not do it again. … The Patriots honored new team Hall of Famer Kevin Faulk at halftime.