The Miami Dolphins (5-7) will be facing the New England Patriots (10-2) in the Week 14 edition of Monday Night Football. The game will be in Miami, as the Dolphins have already faced this squad in Foxboro earlier this season.
That contest ended in victory for New England with a score of 35-17. However, the Miami Dolphins had their chances to get back into the game but squandered them. Most notably, backup quarterback Matt Moore (who started the game) threw an interception to cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the endzone. It was on this play that many fans were outraged with wide receiver DeVante Parker’s effort.
To them, it seemed as though he didn’t put enough effort in to win the 50/50 ball. After review, those claims seem to be true. Parker saw the apex of the ball and saw Gilmore jumping the pass but just watched as the interception unfolded instead of putting a body on Gilmore to prevent the drive-killing turnover. With that said, that brings us to our first key of the game:
When life gives you lemons
In order for the Dolphins to pull off an upset win they will have to take advantage of every opportunity presented to them. The aforementioned endzone interception was a perfect example of a wasted opportunity for the Dolphins.
Another wasted opportunity came on special teams. The Dolphins played well on defense to begin the game, and forced New England to set up to punt deep in their own territory. The Patriots ended up executing a fake punt that earned them a first down. Nobody in the stadium saw that coming at all, especially not the Dolphins.
This perfectly executed fake punt led to a momentum spike for New England. They went on to march right down the field right after that for a touchdown on the opening drive. Miami’s defense clearly thought they were going to get off the field and once that was no longer the case they could not get back into the game mentally. It’s either that or rookie defensive coordinator Matt Burke was also unprepared to call get his defense in the right positions for the rest of that drive.
Lastly, another wasted opportunity came on special teams. Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola muffed a punt return and it led to a scrum. Dolphins safety Michael Thomas recovered the ball, but officials ruled the play dead earlier and awarded possession to New England. They claimed that the Patriots gained possession of the ball first, but that is impossible to tell since there was a dog pile scrum for the ball. The Dolphins were the team that very clearly came up with the ball, but there was no use in challenging the play. This was yet another blown opportunity by Miami to get into and possibly win this game.
Putting a body on Brady
Another key to winning this game would be to harass Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In the last outing he was hit and hurried many times, but only sacked once. If the Dolphins are to earn a victory they cannot let Brady sit back in the pocked comfortably. When this happens defenses get torn apart on short and intermediate passes.
Blitzers will have to get home or else that’s one less man in coverage that Brady and Co. has to deal with. Burke will have to be smart with how and when he decides to bring pressure. Blitzing Brady is high risk-high reward.
On the other end, if Burke decides to play soft coverage the Dolphins will get picked apart in coverage. Miami’s secondary has struggled all season long. It is now Week 14 and there are stretches during games where they consistently give up explosive plays due to lack of communication and understanding of where they are and aren’t supposed to be.
Do your job
The last key to the game if the Dolphins hope to win has to do with this simple saying above. It is a saying that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is fond of. “Do your job” is scripture in New England. The Patriots are famous for being nearly flawless in execution week in and week out.
For the Dolphins to win the game, they will have to match that. Time and time again this season head coach Adam Gase has mentioned that players are not doing their jobs. He has stated that players are freelancing and not where they are supposed to be. That won’t cut it against New England or against most teams for that matter.
Miami will have to play disciplined on defense, execute perfectly on offense and not be careless on special teams. Penalties will have to be kept to a minimum. There have been far too many drives killed for the Dolphins this season due to penalties.
If the Dolphins can manage to play smart, fast and passionate in front of their home crowd they might be able to upset an excellent New England team that will be without star tight end Rob Gronkowski. It is also worth noting that the Dolphins are 3-2 over the last five years when at home versus the Patriots. Look for Miami to add another to the win column in hopes of finishing the season strong and keeping their slim playoff chances alive.
- Isaih Battiste is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Dolphins. He covers the Miami Dolphins 365 days a year. Be sure to follow @FPC_Dolphins on Twitter and check us out on Facebook!