Sunday, October 27, 2013

Four Point Stance: Dolphins at Patriots


Neither the New England Patriots or Miami Dolphins had a loss through the first three weeks of the season. Since, the teams have combined for a 2-5 record.

So, when the Patriots (5-2) welcome the Dolphins (3-3) to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, each team will be looking get regain control of its season by tallying a major division win.

Miami's situation rates a little higher on the desperation meter, as a fourth-straight loss would drop the team below .500 and complete the transition from early-season contender to fringe playoff hopeful. Meanwhile, New England looks to solidify its division lead heading down the stretch of the 2013 season.

When the Patriots have the ball:
New England head coach Bill Belichick is a master at exploiting an opponent's weakness, the biggest of which, in Miami's case, is the coverage abilities of its linebackers. Expect the Patriots to run their patently complex route concepts in the middle of the field with tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot receiver Julian Edelman, challenging the Dolphins' ability to adjust and disguise their coverages. While it's true Brady hasn't been his typically accurate self thus far this season, his receivers will give him large windows to throw into and the New England offense will have another big day at Miami's expense.

When the Dolphins have the ball:
Improved pass protection from the offensive line will be key if Miami is to pull off the upset, but just as important will be it's ability to generate a push in the running game. Tailbacks Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller each averaged 4.8 yards per carry or more last week as the Dolphins coaches displayed a renewed commitment to the run. Continuing that commitment will help the offense sustain long drives and open up big plays downfield, both of which will be much needed in a hostile road environment against a division rival.

Reshad Jones. Undoubtedly, Brady and the Patriots' offense will target the Dolphins linebacker trio of Koa Misi, Dannel Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler in the passing game. Strong safety Jones will be called upon to assist in the middle of the coverage, while being mindful of his deep coverage and run support responsibilities. How well Jones makes his reads and manages the workload can be the difference between a Miami win or a New England blowout.

The Dolphins have not beaten the Patriots on the road since 2008, losing by an average margin of 14.4 points in their past five games at Gillette Stadium. Overall, New England has won 16 of the past 21 matchups in the rivalry, but still trails Miami all-time, 45-50.

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