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Keys to the game: Dolphins vs. Patriots

I picked the Dolphins to beat the Patriots in Sunday's Miami Herald.

Simply, I think the loss of Rob Gronkowski is huge. I think Ryan Tannehill is playing well, as I predicted he would, in December. And I'm not sold on the New England run defense.


When the Dolphins pass the football: In three career games against the Patriots, Ryan Tannehill has not been very good. He’s completed only 51.8 percent of his passes, has thrown three interceptions, fumbled twice and thrown two touchdowns. He’s also been sacked 16 times which, obviously, is only not solely his fault. The point is if the Dolphins are going to overcome the Beast in the AFC East, Tannehill has to step up his game. The Dolphins expect the Patriots to match Aqib Talib against Brian Hartline and then double and roll coverages with Alfonzo Dennard (if available) and others to Mike Wallace. The problem for New England, the NFL’s No. 16 team against the pass, is that tight end Charles Clay has come into his own and is now a primary weapon in the passing game. Clay had two TD catches last week against Pittsburgh. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: The Dolphins plowed both the Jets and Steelers running the ball the last two weeks and they are much better against the run than the Patriots. Truth is, practically everyone is better against the run than the Patriots because they lost run-stuff Vince Wilfork, who is out for the year, and they are also ranked 31st in the category among all NFL teams. The question for the Dolphins is not whether they’ll be able to run the football but rather do they have the patience and will to stick with the running game. The answer to that question this year has been sometimes yes, sometimes no, so there’s no telling which version of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman will show up to Sun Life on Sunday. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Patriots run the football: If Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniel are smart, and they are, they will try to resolve their team’s 2013 penchant for sleepwalking through the first half of games by playing smash-mouth football against Miami. The Patriots are a good running team – a fact that gets lost in the giant shadow cast by quarterback Tom Brady. The offensive line is good and well coached. The stable of running backs is deep, assuming a couple don’t fumble and get benched for the whole game. And that is why the Pats are No. 13 in the NFL running the ball. The Dolphins are, shall we say, challenged in their run-stopping consistency. Teams have been able to find a soft middle often times this season. This despite the fact Randy Starks, Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick are all having solid seasons. ADVANTAGE: New England.

When the Patriots pass the football: The truth of the matter is the Patriots are lessened by the loss of Rob Gronkowski. Without Gronkowski in the lineup they score fewer points, throw for fewer yards, have less success on third down and in the red zone. And Gronk isn’t getting back in uniform anytime soon after blowing out a knee last week. Aaron Dobson also isn’t going to factor this game so Tom Brady will have to make due with mighty mites Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Kenbrell Thompkins, a South Floridian, is coming home but because he’s a rookie he does rookie things – which means he’s inconsistent. This group is not to be confused with the 2007 Patriots pass offense. The Dolphins are coming off a game where Ben Roethlisberger carved them up 328 passing yards and three touchdowns. But Brady doesn’t have the Steelers WR corps. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis has missed a field goal in six of the Dolphins last eight games. The Dolphins are a better kickoff return team, the Patriots are a better punt return team. Brandon Fields has the advantage at punter but the Patriots do a better job on kickoffs and punt coverage. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: Joe Philbin has yet to beat Bill Belichick so that is a problem at the moment for the Dolphins. Interestingly, both men handle the press more or less in the same manner, which is to say, they hate them. But that’s where the comparisons kind of end. Belichick has a lot more experience, regular-season success and championships. ADVANTAGE: New England.


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They play the public for fools...

The media is powerful. Ominously so.

I think I'll take 4 different reporters facts over yours!! LMAO!!

Posted by: YIKES | December 14, 2013 at 04:42 PM

You see how they got you already? You assume they are facts without having any clue where they got their information from. 3 of them for sure got it from the 1st one.

Don't be so gullible. Think and read at the same time, or else they will fool you time and again.

I'll leave you funny boys with one last thing for now....

Those that think they are smart, are stupid.

Have a nice day.

WHO cares who said or who gets the credit for drafting T-hill? Like it matters? Make up whatever fantasy you like. It's never stopped a lot of you before. We did draft him and that's what counts. That guy is our franchise QB and will be here for a very long time. Ross, Ireland and Philbin are not going anywhere either. If you don't like those realities either too bad.

That guy is our franchise QB and will be here for a very long time.

Posted by: TruthhurTs | December 14, 2013 at 04:53 PM

Many said the same thing about Jake Long.

That guy is our franchise QB and will be here for a very long time.

Posted by: TruthhurTs | December 14, 2013 at 04:53 PM

Many said the same thing about Jake Long.

Posted by: PainHurts | December 14, 2013 at 04:54 PM

Many said the same thing about Chad Henne, too.

Those that think they are smart, are stupid.

Posted by: True B Dat | December 14, 2013 at 04:52 PM

So... you KNOW you are stupid??

What is the difference in the game tomorrow? Charles Clay one of favorite players...that guy is tough as nails and fast enough to run away from defenders. Ask Polamulu...he made the HOF'er look bad a couple times.

Wallace said "He's broke about 35 tackles in the last three games, taking them on three at a time. Guys don't even need to block for Clay any more. He's like a bulldozer. Just give him the ball, let him go out and play."

7-6,that's what they are Eh?

Clay is 14 receipts away from the franchise record and like 100 yards away from that record. That guy is awesome and comes to play every week. I'd target him at least 10 times tomorrow... At least.

Belichek will take Clay out of the game.

brady will target Carroll all day long. He'll give up some big ones.

I would like to see Starks, Soliai, and Odrick play like their hair is on fire in this game. They are top tier DT's and the Pats o-line is a little banged up.

Brady doesn't deal with pressure up the middle well. I believe Carroll, Wheeler and at times the safeties are our weakest link. The D-line needs to help them out because in reality they should have a mismatch.

In their last meeting at NE the Phins were ahead at halftime on the scoreboard and in these three stats that I follow that relate directly with scoring. Red Zone Scoring,Takeaways,Points off takeaways.They were ahead in ALL THREE AT HALTIME and on the scoreboard they had a good lead.After halftime Belicheck did what hall of fame coaches do and made the right adjustments.
BTW the Dolphins have only had TWO games where they lost ALL THREE of these stats at the end of the game against NO where they lost by 21 points and against NE where they lost by 10 points.They finally had a game where they won ALL THREE against you guessed it the Jets and they won by 20.

Does anybody seriously believe that Miami can go to....ohhh lets see....Cincy....or Indy...hmmm NE.....gee Denver and win all these away playoff games??? I am as much a fan as the next Dolfan...but ahhhh lets be real here!

Posted by: Bill Arnsparger | December 14, 2013 at 01:34 PM

YOU ARE SUCH A LOSER Bill. You really are.

Does anybody seriously believe that Miami can go to....ohhh lets see....Cincy....or Indy...hmmm NE.....gee Denver and win all these away playoff games??? I am as much a fan as the next Dolfan...but ahhhh lets be real here!

Posted by: Bill Arnsparger | December 14, 2013 at 01:34 PM

YOU ARE SUCH A LOSER Bill. You really are.
Posted by: Youguysaretoads | December 14, 2013 at 06:54 PM


many of these so called 'real' bloggers are the biggest negative nelly's. this guy, phins78 and his gang of dumb losers.

...So here are some metrics for those who think we need a tight end. Or who think Charles Clay is not a "true tight end"...Malarkey.

There are 8 starting tight ends that have been on the field for more then 400 pass snaps. Of these 8. Only 2 have stayed into block more then Charles Clay.

Jermaine Gresham..430 pass snaps, 106 pass blocks.
Julius Thomas..425 pass snaps, 94 pass blocks
Clay 460 pass snaps. 76 pass blocks.
Martelus Bennett 487 pass snaps. 58 pass blocks
Garret Graham. 477 pass snaps, 58 pass blocks
Coby Fleener 499 pass snaps 40 pass blocks
Antonio Gates..489 pass attempts, 24 pass blocks
Jimmy Graham...446 pass attempts, 22 pass blocks
Tony Gonzalez..500 plus attempts. 13 pass blocks
Gonzalez' stats I might have erred on.. I didn't write them down, and couldn't remember exactly. Close enough to make my point.

My point being. I disagree with those who say this team lacks a true tight end. Some of these guys above are going into the HOF..Clay is more of an "all around guy" then some give credit for. Sure, the way Clay is used could be considered unconventional. Unconventional for offensive football played 15 years ago. Certainly in the mode of a conventional-modern tight end of today...

I'm not sure what some want as far as the position. We throw it a lot. Would you prefer our tight end block more rather then be out in routes? Or do you dislike the offensive formations? Would you rather see more 2 tight ends? All reasonable. I would say do not blame Clay, or make up excuses for Tanny that he doesn't have a true tight end..Simply not true.

Belichek will take Clay out of the game.

Posted by: Paolo | December 14, 2013 at 06:18 PM
No... all Belechick can do is scheme against Clay. Belechick stands on the sideline with a grimace on his face. He can't "take any player out of anything." And to the idea of "taking Clay out of the game" I would say this... Do you think NE is the first team who thought about doing that..? Look, coaches can tell a secondary what to expect and where to defend. But those player still have to go man-v-man and make a play. We'll just have to see if New England can do that while Wallace, Mathews and Hartline are running up and down the field like deer.

cant wait for this game. see if miami can finally get up and over the mountain. huge game

reese looking at reality instead of being bias doesnt make u any less of a fan. just how bill feels, could be right or wrong. i think 2014 is our year

brady will target Carroll all day long. He'll give up some big ones.

Posted by: Paolo | December 14, 2013 at 06:22 PM

There is no doubt Carroll will give up receptions. In today's NFL, the rules are written so that is a fact of life. However, trying to paint a player into a "He sucks" corner who has...
32 solo tackles
1 sack
11 pass defended
2 picks returned for 24 yards
and has only given up 2 Touchdowns to wide-outs ALL DAMNED YEAR... Is a stretch.

Yeah... Carroll will give up some receptions... But unless you wish to use a game played on the worst field in the NFL ON A GOOD DAY... as a bench mark as what to expect from Carroll week in and week out. Then I'll roll with him. He's not a shut down corner... but he hasn't allowed wide outs to do much at ALL unless you count a game played on ice in horrible weather. Carroll has come up weak against Tight Ends NOT wide outs.... And... DAMN!!!!.... Brady is fresh out of them MoFo's..... So lets line um up and see......

Belichek took Graham out of the game. He can take Clay out of the game. That leaves only Hartline to cover. Wallace takes himself out of the game by not going after the ball. He has been irrelevant.

They talked about the Steelers DC Lebeau last week too in glowing warm fuzzies...don't you think he schemed against Clay? What the Steelers ignored the guy?

Clay is a weapon that should be utilized a ton by Sherman. Sure maybe you can cover or double cover the guy but can you tackle him as well? He is fast, elusive, breaks tackles and can get open deep with great hands.

Yes Clay played great in really bad weather. Give him credit. Games like that in the snow are freak games. One great game does not make a star.

..It's a Breeze..Great post. What corners on any team shut down Tom Brady? It is all about pressure anyway. Back to your point. People act like our corners are the only corners that give up receptions,or yards. It is ridiculous.

So yes..Nolan Carrol, or any other corner on the Planet I going to get lit up if there is no pressure on Brady. If the defensve line does their job. Then the secondary has fighting shot. Brady is to experienced, to good to point the finger at the secondary alone and put all the blame on that group.

I think Dolphins win Tomorrow for sure it is there time Pats aren't that good and get a lot of help from the refs

The pats are low fruit on the tree so let's go pick us some GO dolphins

It is their time is what I meant go Fins

lets quit with the refs thing. just go beat them for once


dusty has it right, beat them no excuses. Who cares if they play a great half, means nothing if they don't win.

We haven't humiliated this team since Sparano surprised them with the WildCat. Then we beat the Jets with it. Funny thing is Rex mocked it as junk football but he has been using it ever since.

We are long over due to beat this team convincingly. Tomorrow's game will tell us if we deserve to be in the playoffs or not. SD just beat Denver. Can we beat NE?

game is just as big to pats, they can get homefield now or fall all way to 3 seed with a loss

That's a trait I just love in a player like Clay...breaking tackles, putting their shoulder into and dealing out some punishment. He made Polamulu look awfully bad last week and at least a few others on the Steelers.

Oh the refs...in spite of the Steelers willingness to take liberties with their "physicality". I also felt they played dirty not physical. Wallace is just one example when he speared Misi...and BTW..should have been more than a 10 K fine for that cheap/dirty shot. Hello Refs? WTH...was there a penalty called on that play? The very same guy that groped Starks. No penalty again. Don't say we have no room to complain about them...they have sucked in more than one case.

Truthhur, you are correct Steelers were playing dirty.
And to win tomorrow, have to put up points early and often to offset crooked refs.

Like to see a lot more 3-4 and blitz LBs. Never happen with Coyle though


I'm not so down on Coyle. Vernon in his second season is making a name for himself. Coyle is doing something right.

There have been various issues this season. But I say if Wallace caught even half the passes he dropped ,we'd have another 2 wins.

cocoa quit worrying about the refs, bad teams always say refs beat them

goes both ways every game truth. good teams win games regardless of refs. maybe we actually need to learn to play more physical

Paolo, not a Coyle fan. We have a lot better D than games show. Can't figure out why D line and backers don't get their hands up on pass plays. They've been taught to do that since grade school.

Dusty, you are right, good teams...perennial playoff teams usually play well enough to offset bad calls. We're not there yet tho. Close game...all it takes is one bad one

Well I think our offense has put too much pressure on the D. Too many 3 and outs.

Oh I agree that we need to outplay the refs. Not sure I agree "good" teams wins regardless of the refs. Good teams win because they are good. I don't feel there is a conspiracy or anything like that but they have been inconsistent, bad and at times flat out horrible. I try... mind you try and only complain about refs after a win. I hate to blame losses on them but they do tick me off.

What the Phins have to do is be steady for the whole game. You can jump on them early and maybe it helps but I don't think an early lead is the key to beat the Pats. You can't come out in the second half and score no points.

The key is we have to have a consistent fierce pass rush and overall good game from everyone for 60 minutes like we did vs. the Steelers.

We need to have an effective running game from Miller/Thomas AND Tannehill tommorow in order to give our D rest so that they can be firece with the pass rush. Move the chains, put together 3 or 4 long drives that end in points (hopefully TD's). SD beat Den because they did just that. Mathews had a great game, they killed in time of poss. and finished drives with TD's.....all while Manning sat on the sideline. That's the key to beat the Brady/Manning/Brees' types.

phillie, like most bloggers, only state the obvious.

Yeah, I usually don't say anything either but against the Pats? Come on man, refs have let them slide for years.

And yeah, I'd love to see Brady get hit in the mouth but rushing 4 will get us into trouble...Brady gets the ball out too fast. Have to be smart with the blitz.

The REAL keys to the game?

Which ever team has collectively the best bowel movements pre-game will win.

Hello Ms. Brady.... We coming to get U....

There's only one boss in this town, lol

There is one opponent standing in our way for a play off birth...


To refs, please no sorcery and witch craft. Have some dignity for once.

To sir William Wallace aka brave heat, no db in the league can run with u. SHINE!!!

To Clay, please run every over all day long.

To Sir Willi

great article on philbin, i've been rooting for JOE since he got here, even when a lot of you guys jumped ship i had his back, the man has gone through so much and the loss of his boy which is a terrible tragedy and more than a father should have to endure may have actually been a small blessing in disguise, after all, philbin is now here in miami, and he brought with him the culture from a football town where football is everything...playing in the cold? no problem, need an airial attack? no problem, need a championship mentality? no problem...you go JOE! and any dolfan who is NOT on board had better because joe is "the guy", if he was good enough to be greenbay's offensive coridinator(during the peak of the rodgers era) he is not only welcome here, he is a GOD send! he will go on to be the SECOND best coach the dolphins had ever fielded, after all, it'll be a difficult task to beat out the best coach to ever coach a proffesional championship football perfect team...JOE FINS!

the FINS will WIN today, and although the NFL can turn a sure thing on it's ears like no other, ponder this...the NFL has a knack for making handicappers look silly, a lot of anylists our picking MIAMI over new england(when was the last time that happened), gronk is out, we have the pass rush advantage mad probably the best in the league(and jordan is chomping at the bit), were at home, we are a hot team in december, the team is playing it's best football...let's face it dolfans, our team is on an all out roll! and that's what scares me but, alas, their is a fly in the ointment, and that fly is BRADY, so the NFL does not have a led pipe lock for miami to beat new england nad that is EXACTLY why miami will be able to win this game....miami 32 - new england 10

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