The New England Patriots have a “next man up” philosophy, whereby the team is greater than the individual and if one man goes down the next one steps in and steps up. Now, after all these years mired in mediocrity or worse, Miami can say the same. Many fans looked at this game as a must win for the Dolphins, calling for no excuses if the Dolphins couldn’t get it done. Miami responded in a very unexpected way, managing to win in a fashion that gives the Patriots no excuses for losing despite some glaring holes on the Patriots side of the ball due to injuries.
The Patriots fans will point to missing folks like Gronkowski and WilFork. Wideouts Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson were out, and Jerod Mayo is on IR along with Sebastian Vollmer. That is a shame, and appeared to offer up plenty of excuses for New England if Miami beat them. In spite of that, Miami found a way that makes any excuses seem ignorant if you look a little deeper.
So New England was without Wilfork, their big run stuffing defensive tackle? Paul Soliai left the game early and didn’t return. The Patriots lost Gronkowski? Miami has been without their truest tight end since the preseason when he was lost to a vicious hit at the knees. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins? They aren’t half the difference makers at wide receiver that Brandon Gibson was for Miami, and he’s been done for the year for quite a while. New England was without Vollmer, and lost Solder again in the second half? Miami is without Incognito and Martin, and Nate Garner is nursing injury.
Add to that, Miami lost their top four cornerbacks this week. Dmitri Patterson and RJ Sanford were placed on IR, and both Carroll and Grimes went down with injuries. Jamar Taylor, the rookie who would be fourth on the depth chart, was a late surprise on the inactive roster before the game, leaving Miami to share time for three players at the perimeter that should spell disaster against a Tom Brady led offense with Edelman and Amendola on the field. By the most critical points in the game, Miami was left with realistically their sixth, seventh and eighth options at the perimeter. Who were the desperation options on the perimter? The following breakdown shows what Miami was left with:
- Jimmy Wilson – a safety and nickel corner who hadn’t seen action at the perimeter since his rookie season
- Will Davis – a rookie in his first real game action
- Michael Thomas – a signing this week at safety from the 49ers practice squad, who never took a single snap outside of scout team in practice for Miami. His social media pages still had him in his 49ers uniform on the cover at the time he made the interception, and many Dolphins players admitted they had no idea what his name was until the game was over.
Miami did a fantastic job of beating the Pats at their own game, not only in regards to the “next man up” philosophy, but also in terms of playing “bend but don’t break” defense. They distributed the ball to ten different targets on offense, and Tannehill outdueled Tom Brady in the passing game, as he has with so many quarterbacks this season. Miami won the turnover battle on the day, and capitalized on the key mistake when it finally occurred after overcoming an early mistake of their own.
Miami was aggressive, but controlled, and showed the Patriots that they needed to be on the lookout for a young team with room to grow. I’m excited not only for the “now” aspect, but also for what this means for the future.
This win was awfully reminiscent of what we’ve seen from the Pats over the past 10 years… minus the assist from the officiating crew.