By Paul Burton

FOXBORO (CBS) – The New England Patriots executed well in its 21-11 home win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but Opening Day at Gillette Stadium was unlike anything ever drawn up in a playbook.

There was no traffic down Route 1, no tailgating and no fans in the stadium.

“It’s my 14th Opening Day game, and it’s unlike any other,” said Vice President and General Manager of Patriot Place Brian Early.  

There was a strong police presence, and COVID-19 signs were posted everywhere. Restaurants were open at Patriot Place as fans enjoyed the fresh air while social distancing and wearing masks.  

Looking into the stadium and not seeing it packed with fans, it’s sad,” Patriot fan Paula Pofert said. “But I think we’re all just happy that at least we get to have football.”

At kickoff, a quieter crowd filled The CBS Sporting Club.

“We sold out here, obviously in a socially-distanced way, which means we don’t have all the tables filled. But this is as close to the action as you can get,” said Early.

The fanfare was back, and people could not wait to witness Cam Newton take the helm in a post-Tom Brady era.

“It’s definitely different, but we’re really excited to see Cam,” said Pofert.

Newton delivered in the opener, rushing for two touchdowns and completing 15 of 19 passes for 155 yards in his first game with New England.

While there were no tailgaters and not a lot of people around Patriot Place, the fans that were around the plaza said they cannot wait to back the stadium again.

“If we’re fortunate to have people back in October, even having 16-, 17-thousand people in the stadium, that will give an energy that is different than today,” said Patriots fan Ryan Mangino.

The hope for Patriots fans is that despite the current restrictions, Sunday’s win over Miami is hopefully a sign of great days ahead.

Paul Burton

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