On Sunday, the Dolphins will look to do what only one team has been able to do since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots head coach - beat the Pats and send them to their second consecutive loss. That's right - since Belichick took over, the Patriots are 24-1 when they are coming off of a loss. Just this year, the Pats are 3-0 following a loss and have outscored their opponents by an average of 30 points. That number is skewed, of course, thanks to their 59-0 drubbing of the Titans. But still, their closest game this year following a loss was against the Falcons in which the Pats won by 16 points.
So no - this is obviously no easy task that the Dolphins face on Sunday and logic tells you that the Dolphins don't have too much of a chance. Luckily, games aren't won on paper - they are won on the field. And below you will find what I consider to be the three keys to a Dolphins victory.
Attack New England's secondary
No - the Dolphins aren't exactly loaded with talent at the receiver position. But at this point, what do we have to lose?
On Monday night, we saw the Saints regularly spread out New England's defense and just pick on their corners all game long. The biggest culprit was Jonathan Wilhite, who gave up completion after completion in that game. In fact, one of the biggest contributors to Pats Pulpit came onto this site and wrote of the Patriot secondary, "Brees picked it apart Monday night, throwing at CB Jonathan Wilhite like he wasn’t even there. In fact, it would have been better if he wasn’t because at least then there would have been an excuse."
Now we all know that these Dolphin receivers aren't even close in terms of talent to what New Orleans can throw at you. But what the hell? Let's go for it.
The last time these teams met, Chad Henne did throw for 220 yards. Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo each had good days. And Brian Hartline has continued to improve each week. In that game, the Dolphins did a good job of picking on New England's weaker corners. They threw at rookie Darius Butler 10 times, completing 7 passes for 76 yards against him. They threw at Shawn Springs four times, completing all four passes for 46 yards. Leigh Bodden was the guy who was most effective, allowing only three completions and just 4.1 yards per attempt in his direction. Bodden was especially good against Bess, allowing just one completion in five attempts to Davone.
Wilhite, meanwhile, didn't see too much of the field in large part because the Dolphins didn't use too many three or four receiver sets. I really hope to see - dare I say - more four receiver sets on Sunday. Spread out that defense, keep Ricky Williams in the backfield, and have Ted Ginn split out wide just running fly patterns all game in hopes of occupying one of the safeties.
What's the worst that could happen?
Mix up the defense
One of the things the Saints did so well against the Patriots was to mix up the defense and keep the Patriots on their toes. Following the loss, when asked about how the Saints were able to contain Randy Moss so well, Bill Belichick responded, "They did what they do. They played zone. They double-covered. They played man. They rushed. They did what they do and they did it pretty well."
There's something to be said about how important it is to not do the same thing over and over again. And we saw back in week nine that man coverage with minimal safety help is not the route to go against this Patriot offense. So I really hope that this isn't the plan of attack that Paul Pasqualoni dials up again.
What should the Dolphins do defensively? I'm no defensive coordinator so I won't try to talk like one. But I know for a fact that this defense has become too predictable. Countless times this year, the Dolphins have used the same boring blitz packages and same coverages in the secondary. Their blitzes have become predictable and their coverages have become tired and old.
I know that Sean Smith and Vontae Davis are only rookies, but would it kill them to play a little zone? Probably not. Sure - zone is harder to learn. But it would keep a veteran like Tom Brad on his toes.
Right now, I can sit at home and read the Dolphins' secondary before the snap just as well as a quarterback can. That, my friends, is a big problem. We've seen all of the good quarterbacks that Miami has faced just eat up this defense with simple pre-snap adjustments. Peyton Manning has done it. Tom Brady has done it. Drew Brees has done it. And now even Ryan Fitzpatrick has done it. Enough is enough. Be different. Take some chances. Grow a set.
Show a little emotion
Sometimes I can't help but wonder about this team and these players. Why was it on Sunday that Tony Sparano was showing more emotion on the sideline than his players were on the field? Did anybody else notice that?
I know - they were just the Bills. But I can't imagine that this coaching staff didn't drill it into their players' heads that any loss - even one to the Bills - would severely cripple their playoff chances. And yet, in a game the Dolphins had to have, these players on the field just looked uninspired for pretty much all of the second half.
Well I'll tell you what. If I don't see much more emotion and fire on Sunday in a game at home against the Patriots, we'll all have to start questioning the heart of this team - and of their supposed leaders.