By Mike DeVito
- Be Emotionally Ready
New England never has many issues when it comes to taking things one game at a time, but any other team would have to be worried about a “trap game” tonight in Miami. Both teams are coming off of their most complete game (all three phases) of the season, the Patriots win at Buffalo and Miami’s beat down of the Broncos. Though the trap could be set for the Patriots with their week 15 clash at Pittsburgh looming next Sunday and it could be easy to overlook a Dolphins team that they thrashed, 35-17 in Foxboro, just two weeks ago. All the intangibles are in Miami’s favor however, no Gronk for the Patriots and South Beach has been a house of horrors for Brady over his career, (more on that in a minute). This is Miami’s Super Bowl and the Patriots have to be ready to match that type of effort.
There was a lot of yapping and scrapping between these two teams when they met Thanksgiving weekend, with wide out Kenny Stills and DB Bobby McCain taunting the Patriots and namely Tom Brady. McCain, who did manage to intercept Brady, was eventually ejected for throwing a punch at Danny Amendola. This makes two weeks in a row that the Patriots have been engaged in the extracurricular activities after last week’s skirmish up in Buffalo that led to Gronkowski getting suspended for tonight’s game. Bill Belichick teams have always been highly disciplined and generally rise above stuff like this, but if teams think they can get under the Patriots skin, then they’ll do whatever they can to try and get an edge against the defending Super Bowl champs.
- Offense – Screen game and tight ends
The last time these two team played Brady took a lot of hits. Cam Wake and Ndamukong Suh are legit issues that need to be handled and the best way to slow down the pass rush is the screen game. It was working for New England last week against an aggressive Buffalo pass rush, but the Pats were able to keep them off balance with their ability to get the ball to running backs in space outside of the hash marks. With the multiple uses for Rex Burkhead and the emergence of Dion Lewis as the primary back between the tackles and a big James White game always lurking, the Patriots could turn the Dolphins greatest defensive strength against them with short dump offs and down field blocking.
Last game between these two teams, Gronk was incredibly productive but with him out, I would use undrafted rookie tight end Jacob Hollister as a pass catching target. Miami can’t have much if any film on Hollister and Dwayne Allen hasn’t asserted himself as much of a pass catching threat this year. (Plus Allen’s blocking could be of paramount importance with Marcus Cannon missing yet another week.) Miami’s linebackers have struggled to cover tight ends this season, which could benefit a player like Hollister looking to make the most of this opportunity.
- Defense – Stop the Dolphins big three (Kenyan Drake, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills)
Kenyan Drake had 120 yards on the ground last week, good for 5-yards per carry and a TD. The offensive line for Miami seems to be gelling a bit when it comes to run blocking. The best way to beat TB12 is to keep the ball away from him and Drake’s production on the ground can help keep Brady on the sidelines instead of the pocket. Watching Bill Belichick’s mic’d up from the first meeting between these two teams, one thing was evident: he was concerned about where Jarvis Landry was on every play. Landry is versatile in that he can play as a possession receiver, but can make things happen after he catches the ball.
- Miami is no vacation for Tom Brady
Tom Brady is 21-9 against the Dolphins, which for most quarterbacks would be dominant, but for Brady it’s the most losses he has against any team. Digging deeper into the numbers though it gets worst, Brady is 14-1 against Miami in Foxboro, meaning that his record in South Beach is 6-7. That represents Brady’s only locale with a losing record, in a place he’s made more than 5 starts in his career.
The same was said about Denver, where Brady had struggled most of his career, but back to back wins at Mile High have even up Brady’s record against the Broncos on the road to 4-4. Brady would love to even his record at Miami, just like he did earlier this season at Denver.
Mike DeVito is a Maine alum and veteran of 9 season in the NFL with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. Mike is a guest host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live on DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.