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How to Win: Week 2 Edition, New England Patriots

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Yawn. This game should be a piece of cake.

Hannover 96 v 1. FC Koeln - Bundesliga Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

This is how most of us felt after the game last Sunday against the Seahawks, but it’s time to put it behind us.

A distracted team is a well-oiled failure.

But it’s time to get real and figure how to put the game plan together, to find a way to highlight our strengths and mask our weaknesses. How might we do that in Foxborough this Sunday?

I’m going to take a stab at it, and I’d love for you to add your personalized tweaks down in the Comments section. Or tell me I’m stupid, and do the exact opposite of what I suggest. Like Joe Philbin.

The Patriots proved last Sunday that no matter who is on the roster, they consistently churn out a hard-to-beat product. I look for this game to be close going into the 4th, but it’ll be a monumental effort to win in Foxborough.

Offense

Rushing: David Johnson in Week 1 vs. New England got most of his yards on one semi-fluky play that netted him 45 yards. Most of his runs averaged about 3 yards a clip. Just like Seattle, it might take a little imagination to matriculate the ball on the ground, but in the interest of being balanced, it is a necessary evil.

We cannot go one-dimensional against the best coached team in the NFL. A “straight ahead” approach attacking the A and B gaps (inside and outside the guard) will work better than trying to get outside the tackles, in my opinion - Jamie Collins is simply too fast and covers too much territory for outside runs to have any consistent production.

This is a game we simply cannot win if we put the ball on the turf. Ball security is crucial in this divisional game.

Passing: Considering the beating Tannehill took last week, offensive line communication will be paramount towards any sustained offensive success for the Dolphins.

The Patriots defense is simply too “solid” for many explosive plays to happen. It’s going to be a matter of turnovers - but yet - the Patriots were -2 in turnovers at Arizona and still won. The Arizona Cardinals were held to 21 points, despite having the most yards/game and the 2nd highest scoring team in the league last year (and losing no one from the high-scoring team).

The key is patience, in my opinion. Take what the defense gives you. With Tannehill being able to adjust at the line of scrimmage, changing into better plays should help us stay on the field. Work the short and intermediate routes - and hope we can cure our case of the dropsies. Seize the opportunity - cough Kenny Stills cough - if a chance should present itself.

If they play single high safety like they did last year, I believe we’ll take some shots down the field. DeVante Parker’s ability to play would help that department.

Ryan Tannehill has struggled mightily playing on the road in the AFC East. Might a new trend start this Sunday?

Defense

The key is getting to Garoppollo. But how? He’s only going to take 3 steps most of the time and get the ball out. Here’s where I’m hoping film study comes in handy in terms of jumping routes. Our defensive transition towards more press and less “off-man” will help affect the timing of the Patriots short passing attack. I’d love to see Isa Abdul-Quddus and Reshad Jones playing near the hashes a la the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. (Here’s a Phinsider article I did about the Denver Broncos highly risky, but effective defensive game plan during the AFC Championship Game.)

Just like if Tom Brady were there, they are going to target the slot WR, RB’s and TE’s on most passing plays. Vance Joseph orchestrated an unbelievable game plan against the Seahawks, and I trust that he’ll have a method for controlling the short passing game and disrupting timing routes, but this almost instrumentally depends on the interior of the defensive line creating some kind of discomfort.

The Patriots offensive line appears to be the weak link of the offense (and perhaps the team in general) and it’s eerily similar to the situation we found ourselves in last Sunday: if we can control the line of scrimmage, we have a chance at slowing down this vaunted attack. I look for Suh and Phillips to have huge roles in the game plan; Warmsley will have a chance to make plays, too.

Intangible

Communication. I believe the Patriots defense will exercise more exotic looks to confuse Tannehill, and his ability to adjust protection and put us in better plays will be confounded by the noise at Gillette Stadium. Communication will be vitally important on offense, but defense as well. We can ill-afford to allow Chris Hogan to run down the sidelines wide open like the Cardinals defense did on Sunday night.

If we’ve seen any narrative play out over and over with the Patriots, it’s they simply don’t beat themselves - and we tend to beat off ourselves.

If we can play turnover-free football and avoid the shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot penalties, I have every belief this game will be close in the 4th.

Control the line of scrimmage. Get to Garoppollo. Avoid costly penalties and turnovers.

What are the most important ingredients to get a W this Sunday?