Tony Sparano is an excellent coach and part of what makes him such is knowing his team's strengths, of which there are many, and weaknesses, of which there are many.
Sparano then has to highlight the strengths and disguise or minimize the weaknesses.
When it comes to facing the New England Patriots Sunday, one weakness that Sparano is hoping to address s stopping the big pass play. He doesn't want to see footballs sail over the top of his defense. He doesn't want to see Randy Moss on the end of long Tom Brady passes.
And he doesn't want to see receivers or tight ends catching short passes and breaking tackles to turn the routine into highlights.
Unfortunately, Sparano has seen a lot of those kind of plays from his defense already this year. So the coach is somewhat concerned.
"Let’s see, we are last in the league when it comes to giving up big plays," Sparano said Friday. "[Randy Moss] is a big play specialist and made about three of four of them in our game last time. So I am pretty concerned."
Although the Dolphins have showns some improvement the last week against the big play, they did give up a 25-yard completion to Braylon Edwards, a 28-yard catch and run to Thomas Jones and a 53-yard catch to Jerricho Cotchery. Miami has surrendered a total of 17 pass plays of 25 yards or more this season. The only game the Dolphins haven't yielded a big pass play was the opener against Atlanta.
"We know that, right now as we are fixing things and getting better, that the big play is something we have to fix," Sparano said. "If you look at us right now on defense, I don’t know if you guys know this, but our defense right now, of course rushing defense is one of the better ones, top five in the league or whatever. Third down defense we are top in the league right now. When you are looking at those kind of things; you don’t get it run on you and you are pretty darn good right now at getting off the field on third down."
But there is that big-play issues.
"The big play is what it comes back to in several situations," the coach said. "These two or three big plays. We talk about it last week, [three] plays for 100 yards -- that's 100 of their 250 yard passing. It is a different day if you are looking at however many yards they rushed for and a 170 yards passing.”
The Dolphins hope that different type of day, against big plays at least, comes Sunday.