The Pats suffered a tough loss last week, falling to the hated New York Jets, 30-27 in overtime. The talk of Foxboro has been the bizarre penalty call that helped the Jets get the victory. But it is time to move on from ‘PushGate’, and focus on the game at hand, which happens to be a big one for New England. Because of their loss to New York, the Patriots now find their AFC East lead trimmed down to one game, making every divisional contest from here on out, a big one.
The Dolphins were one of the surprise teams of the NFL through three games, winning all three, which could possibly set up a tough two team race for the AFC East crown. However they have dropped their last three contests, leaving them at a dismal 3-3 mark, and they now find themselves looking up at not only the Patriots, but the Jets as well.
Unless you have been living under a rock over the past month and a half, you probably know about the struggles of the New England offense. They are going through a bit of a transition period on the offensive side of the ball, making their numbers drop significantly. The Pats currently rank 20th in the league in passing yards, which can be attributed to a number of different players. I think that you have to start with the quarterback, as despite being one of the greatest of all time, Tom Brady hasn’t been up to par thus far in 2013. The offensive line started out decently, but over the last three games they have allowed Brady to be sacked 11 different times. Obviously, anytime your offensive line doesn’t give you time to make the correct decisions, your unit will struggle. Lastly, the Patriots are dealing with an entirely new group of wide receivers, and it will take some time for them to gel with each other. I have seen a decent amount of improvement from Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, but there is still a lot of work to do.
With this being said, I think that this is a perfect week for this unit to put together a season defining performance. The Dolphins pass defense is seventh worst in the NFL, and when you factor in the return of Rob Gronkowski, I think that this week could be something special for New England.
Despite having the talented Cameron Wake rushing the passer, Miami is a measly 20th in sacks, which bodes well for a struggling offensive line. If Brady is given the time, there are a lot of matchups that I feel he could exploit when facing this Dolphin defense. As I mentioned before, Gronk made his 2013 debut last week in New York, coming up with eight catches for 114 yards (although on ‘Gronk Spikes’). There is nobody in the NFL that can cover him, so he will definitely be a viable option for the struggling Brady come Sunday. The Dolphins top corner, Brent Grimes, is a very good man coverage cornerback, but his size can be an impediment to his game at times. He stands at 5’10, which could present the 6’3 Aaron Dobson with some unique opportunities. Dobson showed last week that he is beginning to adjust to the NFL, as he found himself open throughout the contest. If he can continue this upward swing, he may find himself in the end zone on more than one occasion this Sunday. On the other side of the field, the Dolphins trot out veteran Dimitri Patterson, who has come up with two interceptions and three passes defended in five games played this season. He is a solid corner, but I believe that guys like Kenbrell Thompkins, Austin Collie and Julian Edelman can get open against him. They all have proved throughout the year that they have the necessary skills to separate against the defense, now it is just about improving their rapport with Brady, and getting some results.
We do not currently know if Danny Amendola will be on the field for the Pats this Sunday, but he did return to practice yesterday, which is a good sign towards his return from a scary head injury. If Amendola does play, I think the Patriots will have a huge advantage in the slot, as he will be matched up with Patterson for the majority of the game (he is the one that usually moves in the slot when Miami goes to a nickel look). Amendola is an extremely talented receiver (when he’s healthy), and more often than not, he will make the opposition look bad, no matter who the cornerback is.