It’s been said before. The Miami Dolphins have no chance against the New England Patriots. In fact, it seems as though it’s a repeated yearly. The Patriots are the juggernauts of the AFC East and the Dolphins are still the bumbling team from Southbeach who can’t turn a corner let alone climb the ladder out of the basement of the division.
Yet for every naysayer comes a close game and even a victory from time to time, shocking the media and the fans alike. Over the last few years those time have seemed to be few and far between. Perhaps because the Dolphins are more irrelevant by years end in terms of the playoff chase or the battle for the division. It’s growing old and tiresome and this year so far is only moderately different.
The Dolphins rode a 1-4 opening 2012 season to a 3 game win streak that put them in the passenger seat for the playoffs. Then the were thrown from the vehicle and landed on a three game skid. While the team bounced back last week against Seattle, that juggernaut Patriot team is heading back to Miami and once again fans are hearing, “the Dolphins have no chance in this game”. Once again the Dolphins are facing incredible odds.
The Dolphins opened the weeks odds at +6 and now are at +8.5. Ask most people and they will say it should be a lot more. Truth be told, know one knows what Dolphins team will show up. The brutal defensive unit that will make NE a one trick offensive pony or the ten yard cushioned corner protection on wide-receivers that will be picked apart by veteran Tom Brady.
The Dolphins have a recent history of not stopping the TE and while they won’t face Rob Gronkowski, this generations Tony Gonzalez, they will face another tough challenge in keeping Aaron Hernandez at bay. Do they have the defensive personnel to do that? With one person? If they can’t, they will have to double up coverage leaving Wes Welker one on one or Brandon Lloyd paired with Jimmy Wilson who likely will fill in for the Dolphins personal “Flagman” Nolan Carroll.
Stop the three of them and deal with Julian Edelman or Danny Woodhead out of the back-field. In other words, the Patriots have more than enough offensive firepower to make Sunday a long day for fans. Yet for all the power they have they tend to fail quickly when Tom Brady can’t stand in the pocket, comb his hair, text his supermodel wife, and throw the ball at will. Which is why the combination of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon must be spot on come this weekend.
The key to winning this game, or even keeping it close it to rattle the cage of Tom Brady. Hit him before he throws the ball, hit him while he throws it, hit him just after he throws it. Just hit him. And then hit him again. Tom Brady is by far at his best when he can move around and wait. He is just as good when teams blitz him leaving receivers open for the dump. The trick is not to confuse Brady with silly blitz schemes. The trick is to confuse his outlet receivers.
Brady’s success is paramount to the supporting cast around him. Take the outlet of the play and Tom will go down. Take the first read away on a blitz and he will make mistakes. You don’t beat Tom Brady by knocking him all over the place. You beat him by taking away his safety net. Do that, and you can knock him around all day and force him to make mistakes.
The Dolphins will have an uphill battle defensively for certain but offensively they may find and opportunity to play a little “Wanny-ball”. Control, control, control.
Ryan Tannehill should find opportunities against a defense that while improving still has lapses in coverage. A receiver will inevitably be left uncovered and Tannehill needs to find that receiver. The Dolphins will be able to use a more balanced attack provided the defense does their job. The Dolphins lack the ability to match NE score for score and a shootout will not likely unfold on Sunday.
Attacking the Patriots with smart passes and a solid running game will keep the chains moving the Patriots offense off the field. The Dolphins and Tannehill don’t nee to match Tom Brady’s 10-15 yard pass completions. They need to pick up first downs. Whether by 5 on first, 3 on 2nd, and 2 on third or they need to move those chains. The line must be controlled by the Dolphins front. If they don’t, the running game will be stagnant.
Vince Wilfork is having another Pro-Bowl type season and over the last two weeks he has taken over the Patriots line of scrimmage defensively. His presence is allowing the other players on the line to step up and as a result the disruption by Wilfork has made New England’s defense look much better. For Miami, their running game will have to start off tackle to wear down the big man in the middle from pursuit. Running directly at him will not serve to disrupt the flow of the game for the Patriots. Wear them down methodically and then run it down their throats.
The entire game is dependent on the preparation of the team and the belief that they can go out and win. A victory puts them back into a more realistic hunt for a playoff spot. A loss and they are pretty much on the outside looking in leaving fans to wonder if the first year of Joe Philbin will reach .500 by week 17.
On the other side of the field sits a team who has put up over 45 points the last two weeks including a 59 point outing against the Indianapolis Colts that shook the rookie Andrew Luck. The Patriots have put 52 points against the Bills and 45 against the Rams. Last week they embarrassed the Jets with a 49 point outing. If the Dolphins play like they did against the Colts…the Patriots will put up another 45 plus point game.
The odds are not in Miami’s favor but they haven’t been the last few seasons they have faced them either. The Dolphins have won only two games out of the last 10 meetings and this week won’t be any easier. Still, the Dolphins only need to keep this one close and then dig deep and find a way to win in it in the end.