The Patriots have a stiff challenge this week as they travel to Sun Life Stadium to face the Miami Dolphins. The winner of this game will be one game behind the division-leading New York Jets. Even though it’s early in the season, that ‘s significant. The Jet’s have gone 3-0 in the division so far, so if the Pats hope to catch them, they’re going to need to pull out a win against a tough Dolphins team. In addition to getting a win against a division rival, the Patriots desperately need a quality win on the road. The Pats haven’t had a quality road win since Nov. 3, 2008, when they beat the Dolphins 48-28. If the Pats want to be considered as a top-tier team, tehy’re going to need to get some quality wins on the road. They can take that first step tonight in Miami.
Here are 5 keys to a Patriot victory:
1. Get the tight ends involved early and often. Miami has been dreadful defending against tight ends. Lucky for the Patriots, they have three quality tight ends, including two rookies who are excellent pass-catchers. In spreading the ball around, Tom Brady should find the tight ends open early and often.
2. Get the running game going. Last week, the Patriots got their running game going, mostly behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and were able to control the clock at the end of the game and put the Bills away. Against the 22nd-ranked run defense, the Patriots should try and do the same. Long drives will go a long way in protecting the defense.
3. De-claw the Wild Cat. Miami will certainly try and get its running game going, and part of that includes its Wild Cat package. Stopping that early on in the game will force Miami away from its trickery and into a more conventional offense. The defense must be stout against the run to prevent long drives and give its prolific offense more time with the ball in its hands.
4. Prevent big plays in the passing game. Brandon Marshall gave the Patriot defense fits last year in Denver. Aside from Marshall, now on the Dolphins, Davone Bess also had success against the Patriots last season in his rookie year. The Patriots must prevent the big play by keeping safeties over the top in coverage, which also means that the safeties must be disciplined. If you check out this video on NFL.com from the show Playbook on NFL Network, you will see that the safeties haven’t been disciplined in maintaining their coverage responsibilities. Playing disciplined football on defense will help prevent big plays, keeping the crowd out of the game and the defense from giving up chucks of points.
5. Use the “Us against Them” motivation. Most of the experts are picking Miami to win this game, including all of the experts featured in the Patriots’ own newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly. Bill Belichick made sure the players knew the prognostications of doom, and they seemed to gain a measure of motivation from the naysayers. This is old school Patriot motivation, and maybe it can work tonight.
I must say, count me in on those prognosticators of doom. It’s going to be tough to right the ship of road game woes in a place that the Pats struggled in even during the Super Bowl years. My heart says New England but my gut is telling me Dolphins, 30-24.