FOXBORO, Mass. — A driving rain forced Miami's Bruce Hardy into two costly mistakes Sunday, and the Dolphins lost their opening game to the New England Patriots.
Hardy's bad snap to punter Reggie Roby and his deflection of Dan Marino's pass over the middle led to two Patriot touchdowns as New England came back from a 21-7 deficit for a 28-21 victory.
Ronnie Lippett intercepted the tipped throw and ran 20 yards for the decisive touchdown, the first of his five-year career, with 7:52 left in the third quarter.
"I saw him juggle the ball," Lippett said. "I just came up to make the hit, but the ball was there."
"It was a good pass," said Hardy, a tight end who also handles the snaps on punts. "I thought I had it. I made that play 100 times before."
In the first quarter, Hardy's snap that skidded on the ground led to Tony Collins' four-yard run that tied the game, 7-7. Roby tried to pick up the ball and suffered a sprained right ankle and groin pull when he was tackled by Rod McSwain.
"I've been snapping the ball 10 years, and I've never made a play like that," Hardy said. "I didn't get a good grip on it."
Roby, who was expected to be sidelined about two weeks, was replaced by backup quarterback Don Strock, who never had punted in his previous 13 seasons.
Strock later almost led the Dolphins to the tying score when he replaced Marino at quarterback after the Dolphin starter was kicked in the face with 2:22 remaining. Marino had a swollen black eye and was expected to miss two practice days.
Strock took Miami from its 38 to the New England three, but a delay-of-game penalty moved the ball back to the eight with five seconds remaining. Strock's pass into the end zone to Fred Banks fell incomplete, and time ran out.
"Fortunately for us, in the NFL the official on the field is the one who keeps the official time, and he said time ran out," Patriot cornerback Raymond Clayborn said.
"I thought we had another opportunity," Miami Coach Don Shula said. "The officials didn't see it that way."
The Patriots had tied the score, 21-21, on Collins' seven-yard run just 50 seconds before Lippett's interception. Collins led all rushers with 95 yards in 22 carries.
Marino, who missed most of the exhibition season with a dislocated finger, threw three touchdown passes that gave the Dolphins a 21-14 halftime lead. Mark Duper scored on receptions of 9 and 25 yards, and fullback Ron Davenport had a 1-yard touchdown catch.
Marino completed 19 of 37 passes for 165 yards.
New England's comeback from the 21-7 deficit began when Steve Grogan threw a 17-yard scoring pass to Irving Fryar 1:48 before intermission. On the 66-yard drive, Grogan completed all four of his passes for 50 yards.
He started in place of Tony Eason, who has a groin injury. Grogan also was outstanding on the game-tying series, completing 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards.