Most of the analysts and media don’t give Miami much of a chance of beating the New England Patriots this coming Monday night. Even my beloved wife picked the Pats over the Fins in our private football pool, and she hates them as much as I do. I guess a cash prize for the best win-loss record affects some people funny. Hmm! I, on the other hand took my Fins. I could not stand picking against them and see them win!
I suppose you can’t blame them. Miami was 1-7 at home last year and their two worst losses came at the hands of the Patriots. Consider too that the Fins have made many, many major changes with a shortened training period to implement them. The changes include a new OC in Brian Daboll, a new QB coach with Karl Dorrell being promoted from WR coach, two new running backs, including a true rookie and multiple new o lineman. Meanwhile the Patriots have had little or no turnover in the coaching staff and have only tweaked playing positions. Perhaps their biggest loss was the result of their own decision when they let Brandon Merriweather go.
It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t! Far from it. The Fins know they must improve at home this year and have had a long off-season to dwell on the embarrassing 1-7 record last yuear and the miserable beating they took last year on Monday night against these same Patriots. Consider too that despite having a 2-5 record, a Brian Daboll Cleveland Browns team dominated a 6-2 Pats team with a 34-14 win. If Miami hopes to start off by having a huge win at home against a division foe, they must have a complete team effort. While all aspects of the game will be important, I have identified what I believe to be the most critical five.
5 KEYS TO VICTORY!~
- Henne must play well: No doubt the most important part of the game for the Fins. Should Henne make poor decisions and turn the ball over, it will be a long night. The Fins are no where close to having a running game that can cover up poor quarterback play. A day with a completion percentage of 65% or better with no picks however, would give the Fins an excellent chance to win. All indications from the pre-season point that Chad can indeed be up to the task.
- The D needs to pressure Brady relentlessly: Did you see what the Detroit Lions did to the Pats a couple of weeks ago? I did; TWICE! Even though it was pre-season, it was still “starters vs. starters” and Detroit set the blueprint on how to beat New England. Detroit frustrated, sacked and confused Tom Brady the entire time Brady was playing. Even the best QB looks pedestrian under pressure and Tom Brady is no exception.
- The Fins O line needs to play well. The Dolphins O line must give the running backs a chance to establish at least some semblance of a running game to keep the D from blitzing us to death and stacking the box with 8, 9 or even 10 guys, as well as giving Chad an opportunity to go through his progressions and reads. This has been a major pre-season concern and will be closely watched by all Dolphin fans who seriously follow the team.
- Stop the short passes and slants: I read in a blog the other day that statistically, over 80% of Brady’s passes are 10 yards or less. I can believe that. The Fins D absolutely MUST prohibit the short passes and TE slants from beating them. This will be a big test for the new LB corp. It is no secert this has been a problem area for Miami in the past and only a fool would not expect Bellichick not to try and exploit it.
- Special Teams can’t lose it: The ST’s don’t need to run back a punt or kickoff back for a score to give Miami a chance to win. They don’t need to average 25 yards on punt returns and 35 yards on kickoffs. No! All they need to do is not lose the game, which by the way would be an improvement over last year’s MNF matchup.
Obviously there are many more things the Fins need to do and not do for a chance to win. They need to win the turnover battle, not give up the big play, keep penalties to a minimum and eliminate mental mistakes. I could go on all day, but the list of the 5 is a good start. If the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team can beat Russia, the Miami Dolphins can beat the New England Patriots.