FINALLY the New England Patriots will be taking the field and kicking off the regular season against the Miami Dolphins. The Pats line up in less than an hour to try and keep pace with Buffalo and the Jets to stay atop the AFC East. Yeah, I know, it’s only been one week but you don’t want to fall behind…ever. The Dolphins will be a tougher opponent than I think most are giving them credit for, so this is not a lock by any means. Tom Brady traditionally struggles down in South Florida, and the Fins field a formidable but underrated defense.
Here are my 3 Keys to Victory for the Pats:
1. Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. That pass rush we saw in the first two preseason games needs to resurface tonight. A formidable pass rush will rattle Chad Henne into mistakes which the offense can then capitalize on. When Reggie Bush is on the field, the Pats need to keep him bottled up with a quicker, stouter player (S Josh Barrett come s to mind) as he will surely be Henne’s outlet route.
2. Maintain a balance on offense. Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Stevan Ridley need to be as prominent in the game as Tom Brady. This will keep Cameron Wake off Brady and slow down the Dolphins’ overall pass rush. If there’s one thing teams should have learned from last season and this preseason, it’s pressuring Brady works. Maintaining a strong running game will help alleviate that and then Brady can say “Hello” to his deadly play-action fakes.
3. Take some shots downfield. If the Dolphins are smart, they’ll mix their pass rush with sitting on the short- to intermediate- routes in zone coverage. I’m not sure if the Pats have a legitimate field-stretcher, but they need to take some shots down the field to show that they’ll go that way and shake off the coverage from the shorter routes.