The Miami Dolphins are coming off a disappointing (and frustrating) loss on Sunday Night Football against the defending NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles and are coming home to take on a 2-5 Patriots team that could be shipping off talent prior to the trade deadline. Sounds like the perfect tune-up game before Miami heads to Germany to take on the Kansas City Chiefs, right? Well, not so fast because this Patriots team just played their best game of season while upsetting the Buffalo Bills.
Lets break down how they were able to pull off that win and where this Patriots squad could cause problems for the Dolphins.
Mac against the blitz
One of the big changes in this game was how the Patriot offense functioned against the blitz. Prior to this game, Mac Jones had struggled to stay upright and make plays when other teams brought pressure. The Dolphins went after Mac in week two and he was never really able to make them pay for it. Well, that changed last weekend and Jones made some big plays when the Bills brought extra rushers.
Mac Jones' QB rating against the blitz:— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 26, 2023
Week 1-6: 67.6
Week 7: 155.8
An anomaly or are the Pats getting healthy up front and improving on offense? In week 2, the Dolphins blitzed Jones on 31.9% of his dropbacks. Will be interesting to see Fangio's plan in this one. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/kvN6ViR2nX
Let me start by saying that I like to clown on Mac Jones as much as the next Dolphins fan. He makes weird faces while being tackled and has committed some dirty plays in his NFL career. With that said, Mac made some big throws last week. It was his best game of the season (in my opinion) and the offense had answers for the blitz all game long. The question is whether that is sustainable for this offense and quarterback.
Last week was their healthiest game of the season for the offensive line, so you have to wonder if the Patriot’s offense will be more respectable for the remainder of the year. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Vic Fangio plans to attack them. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some blitzes early to feel out how Mac responds. Hopefully, we don’t see a repeat performance against the blitz from him in this one.
Belichick’s defensive game plan
Belichick had a unique game plan for slowing down Miami’s offense the last time these teams faced off. We saw a lot of three deep safeties and Bill gave help over top of Tyreek Hill most of the contest. They’ll be down two of their standout players from that week two game (Christian Gonzalez and Matthew Judon) but are likely to implement a similar game plan this week. Let’s look at how Miami attacked that defense and where they had success.
Here are some ways that this Dolphins offense can attack New England if they deploy a similar defensive game plan. #FinsUp— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 27, 2023
Play 1: When they deploy this 3-deep safety/cover 4/ bracket Tyreek look, they leave holes in the middle of the field and flats. It's on Tua to be patient… pic.twitter.com/r6rxLAALm7
The Patriots will want to limit Miami’s big chunk plays. Through the air, those tend to come in two forms: deep inbreaking routes in the middle of the field and long plays over the top of the defense. The Patriot’s linebackers will get depth to cut off those inbreaking routes and they’ll have defensive backs over the top (especially over Tyreek). That will leave holes in the middle of the field, flats, and in the running game. Look for Miami to attack those areas and try to sustain longer drives to score in this one.
How shorthanded will Miami be?
Thursday was full of good news for the Miami Dolphins. While there was some concern that a hip injury could keep Tyreek Hill sidelined against the Patriots, he returned to practice and let reporters know that he would be active for Sunday’s game. They also have Jalen Ramsey inching closer to making his return this season. There have been reports that the Dolphins plan to play Ramsey against New England, even if this is news to him. Miami looks to be getting some key players back for the second half of the season.
While both of those players will be critical against any opponent, my eyes will be fixed on the interior of their offensive line (aren’t they always?). Connor Williams has gotten in two limited practices this week and is as important as any non-QB/Tyreek Hill player on this offense. They’ll also be replacing Isaiah Wynn, who will miss his first start of the season after landing on the IR. My personal hope is to see Williams at center and Rob Jones fill in at that left guard spot... he played a fantastic preseason and showed improvement in his second NFL season last year.
Would it shock you to learn that Miami's best offensive lineman last night was #65 Big Robert Jones?— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 12, 2023
Clean pass sets with no pressures/sacks allowed on 23 pass blocking snaps… and he MAULED dudes in the run game.
The best he's ever looked... my new Darkhorse for LG #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/VPlr8HJHZ2
Earlier in the week, it felt like everything was working against the Miami Dolphins in this game. Tyreek Hill missed practice for a “hip injury,” and the Patriots were coming off their best performance of the season. Even with those things working against them, I would have picked Miami at home. Knowing now that they’ll have Tyreek and maybe even Jalen Ramsey makes this feel like the quintessential get-right game. Though we still don’t know what this offensive line will look like, Tua and the Dolphins will take care of business at home, this time by two scores. Miami wins against a well-prepared Patriots team 27-17.