Miami Dolphins (1-13) at New England Patriots (14-0)
So we talked a little bit about what I think the Dolphins should do on offense yesterday. Now we turn our attention to how the Dolphins might try to contain this New England offense; an offense that put up 443 yards and 49 points in their first meeting back in October. Now we all know this is an offense that wants to throw the ball. But last week, due to the elements, New England decided to run the ball. And they did so effectively, with Laurence Maroney picking up 104 yards on 26 carries. That just goes to show the world that the Patriots don't run the ball because they can't; they simply choose not to run the ball because they'd rather put it in the air and score some points.
So how will the Patriots attack the Dolphins on Sunday? Considering the weather, despite being cold, will not be a factor, I think the Patriots will look to get back to that high scoring offensive attack. And I think that Bill Belichick wants his team to step it up after a very unimpressive offensive week last week. And I also think that this Patriots team really wants to bury the Dolphins in this game. They're aware the Dolphins have had some late season success against them the past few years and I'm sure that doesn't sit well with that group of players in New England. But you know what? I think that this "destroy Miami" mentality that many think Belichick and the Pats have is actually going to hurt them on Sunday.
Assuming my belief is accurate and the Pats want to throw the ball all around the field on Sunday against this Miami pass defense, how can the Dolphins look to stop them? The most important thing, of course, will be the pass rush. And that is why it is imperative that Jason Taylor be healthy enough to play. He's the guy that gives Tom Brady nightmares. We've seen time and time again that when these two teams play and the Dolphins can get pressure on Brady and smack him around a bit, then he tends to get flustered, force things, and struggle. That's exactly what the Dolphins have to do: hit Tom Brady early and often. And I don't care if a couple of those hits are late hits (though no helmet-to-helmet hits or any other "dirty" hits). The Dolphins need to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. And it can't be all Taylor. Some of the young, hungry guys need to step up their play and show the new boss (Parcells) what they can do. Guys like Matt Roth, Quentin Moses, and Rod Wright need to really come to play on Sunday.
But pressuring Brady is only half the problem. The other half is containing these wide receivers. And Randy Moss is the centerpiece of this air attack. We saw in the first meeting that just putting two guys on Moss doesn't even contain him, as he was even making touchdown catches with his elbow. Now we had a good diary that was started earlier this week about defending Moss, which can be viewed right here. And I think that "monkeyboy" brought up a very good idea and is what I want to see on Sunday. This idea on how to defend Moss is to still use a bracket double coverage, with one guy deep over the top and the corner underneath. But rather than usual double coverage, the idea is to assign one guy to play the ball while the other guy plays Moss himself. To explain it better, the proposal is to have the corner play the ball when it's in the air while the safety (who was bracketing Moss over the top) plays Moss's body and hits Moss right as the ball arrives. The idea here is that one or two of these kinds of hits might mess with Randy's head. And in reality, the only player who can slow down Randy Moss is Randy Moss. So getting inside his head by just absolutely pounding him whenever he goes for the ball is a good way to frustrate Randy. And this goes for linebackers, too. If Randy is running a route across the middle, I'd be all for a linebacker just absolutely laying the wood to Moss while he runs his route and even if the ball isn't in the air yet. It'll rattle Moss and is well worth the 5 yard penalty for whatever they would call it ("defensive holding" perhaps, or "illegal use of hands" maybe?). Screw it. Even if the ball is in the air, I'd still let my linebacker take a shot at him over the middle one time. The "pass interference" penalty would be worth potentially getting inside Randy's head.
As for the other 2 top receivers that New England has, I'd have to just take my chances and hope some Dolphin defenders can make plays. With Wes Welker, though, I do have one idea. Since he usually works the middle of the field, I'd tell a linebacker that any time Wes works the middle, to take a couple of shots at him. And sometimes, I'd even try putting a linebacker on him right at the line so he cantry to get a good, physical jam on Welker, especially on those 3rd and short plays where Wes excels. I know he's a former Dolphin, and was well-liked, but I'm all for a linebacker just destroying that 5'9 little munchkin. Again, I'd gladly sacrifice a penalty in order to make a statement early on in this game.
So as you can see, a lot of my strategy (basically all of it) is to be as physical as possible with the Patriot offense. But that's how I think you can really have an effect on this kind of offense. You must get inside their heads. And that's why I'd love to see Moss and/or Welker take an "accidental" shoulder right into their gut on the first play from scrimmage for NE regardless of where they are on the field. Let them know early on what they are in for. Then let's see how this Patriots' offense responds knowing that the Dolphins are not looking to make a play on the ball, but rather to make a play on their body.
So there. That's my crazy gameplan for playing defense against the Patriots. The way I see it, every other NFL defense that has played NE has failed to stop them. But none of them have tried to simply kick the living sh*t out of New England's players. So why not have the Dolphins try this technique out? After all, they have nothing to lose and eerything to gain.