Curran's Patriots - Dolphins preview review

Curran's Patriots - Dolphins preview review
October 27, 2013, 8:00 pm
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FOXBORO – You make your own breaks, it’s said. And the Patriots needed to do that on Sunday after putting together a weak 30 minutes to start and falling behind 17-3. A four-minute stretch in the third quarter saw the Dolphins lead evaporate – touched off by a missed field goal – into a tie game. A strip sack of Tom Brady that backed them out of field goal range got waved off when a Dolphins player was called for batting the fumble and the Patriots turned that break into a touchdown. Then they turned up the defensive heat and gave Miami its fourth loss. The Patriots are 6-2 and taking off a reeling Steelers team next week before their bye. Ugly as it's been some days, the Patriots keep putting away the wins.
Uh-oh. The Dolphins – like the Jets and Bengals – can bring that pressure without committing extra rushers because they have very good defensive tackles – Randy Starks and Paul Soliai with Jared Odrick in the mix as well and the redoubtable Cameron Wake at one defensive end, Olivier Vernon at the other. The work last week of center Ryan Wendell, left tackle Nate Solder and the backs in blitz-pickup was worrisome. Miami knows it has to get heat on Tom Brady to have a fighting chance. Miami has had problems with tight ends and Rob Gronkowski figures to be better this week than he was in New York where he showed some rust. Hard to expect much from Danny Amendola after missing only a game with what looked like a brutal concussion, but Julian Edelman should have a good day and against a Dolphins secondary that is average, the outside receiver contingent should be better off than it was last week. It all starts with the protection though. If it’s there, Miami gets carved up.
The pressure was there early. Not to the same extent it was in the last few weeks, but the Dolphins were able to get Tom Brady moving around in the first half. And then it kind of went away. Odrick had a good game. Cameron Wake was kept pretty quiet despite Sebastian Vollmer going out and being replaced by the somewhat inconsistent Marcus Cannon. Not a good game from Logan Mankins, it seemed. The Dolphins – like the Jets last week – did a nice job on the slot position, allowing just five completions to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola combined. Tom Brady had another off game – 13 for 22 for 116 yards with a pick and a touchdown pass. The Patriots ran the ball very effectively, though – 37 carries for 152 yards – especially after halftime when Ridley got in the mix. The Patriots are 3 for 23 on third down over the past two weeks.  
Everybody’s been screaming all week down there that the Dolphins have to run the ball. Actually, not everybody. The people who watch the Dolphins with regularity. Which is a lot less than everybody. Anyway, Miami is a throw-first team. Ryan Tannehill’s low this season for attempts was 34. His high is 40. Meanwhile, the Dolphins lead back Lamar Miller hasn’t had more than 70 yards all season nor more than 15 carries, despite the fact he’s going at 4.3 per attempt. Given the Patriots depleted defense, Miami is in a good spot to quiet the critics by going after the interior on the ground. The Jets ran it 52 times last week (albeit, several of those in OT while positioning for field goals). The Dolphins may do the same. If they choose not to, they have a nice complement of outside receivers with which to test the Patriots secondary that had a rough game last week against Geno Smith. Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and H-back Charles Clay are Tannehill’s main weapons. Wallace is a burner but the other three are more consistent threats. The Dolphins can’t protect Tannehill worth a damn and imported Bryant McKinnie this week to help shore up the offensive line. If the Patriots bring blitz pressure, they’ll need to be on the lookout for Tannehill running the ball. This is a tough test for the evolving Patriots defense as it finds itself without Wilfork, Mayo and Tommy Kelly.
The Dolphins ran 73 plays to the Patriots 59. They possessed the ball 10 minutes longer than New England which helps explain why they were able to set highs for the season in passing attempts by Ryan Tannehill (22 for 42 for 192 yards) and rushing attempts (31 carries for 156 yards). The Dolphins were able to run the ball at the Patriots, averaging 5.0 yards on 31 carries. The Patriots did a nice job containing Tannehill’s scrambles (1 for 12) and turned up the heat with six second-half sacks. Mike Wallace was the only Dolphin over 40 receiving yards and it took 10 attempts his way to get him the 41 yards he gained. Miami kept the streak of offense’s enjoying healthy third-down success against New England by going 8 for 14 against the Patriots defense. But the resourcefulness of the Patriots defense with sacks and timely turnovers won out in over a still-reeling Dolphins team.
Both young punters – Brandon Fields of the Dolphins and Ryan Allen of the Patriots – are having nice seasons. Julian Edelman’s been excellent in the punt return game. The wind – up to 20 MPH – could play some havoc with the long-range field goal kicking of Stephen Gostkowski and Caleb Sturgis, both of whom have been having very accurate seasons.

Gostkowski’s fine season continued with field goals from 34 and 48. Sturgis made a 52-yarder but had a 46-yarder hit the upright – a big momentum shift – and a 39-yarder blocked by Chandler Jones to seal it. The punt return game for both teams was unremarkable. Julian Edelman made a questionable decision to field a bounding punt with traffic around him but he secured the ball and made positive yards.  


Keeping Tannehill bottled up on the ground and defending Charles Clay. Both factors will be big on third down because the Dolphins are going to have players to stretch the secondary and Clay can be a dangerous intermediate receiver on check downs and flat passes. We’ve seen the Patriots struggle with that and last week they were poor at containing Geno Smith on some key scrambles.  
Tannehill broke contain and scrambled just once, gaining 12 yards. He did show his niftiness in the pocket when he was rolled out, throwing a touchdown to Brandon Gibson on a roll-out throw inside the 10 for the game’s first points.
Lamar Miller. New England’s going to get a steady diet of rushing attempts until it shows it’s dealing with them properly and Miller has been very productive even with him limited touches.
Miller got a season high in touches and was very effective with 18 carries for 89 yards. He also had three catches for another 23 yards. He wasn’t so much stopped as the Dolphins got away from the running game a bit.
Rob Gronkowski. Targeted 17 times last week by Tom Brady with mixed results, Gronk figures to be a notch better this week and will be a key to helping Brady on third down where New England has had some absolutely miserable days.

The Dolphins knew Gronk would be a focal point and corner Dimitri Patterson said his first quarter pick was a by-product of anticipating a throw to the tight end. Gronkowski ended up with two catches for 27 yards. He had a spectacular touchdown catch called back on an iffy holding call whistled on Nate Solder.
This turns into a high-scoring battle. The Patriots tend to play very well after losses and the problems the Jets caused them in the second half last week figure to be corrected. That means a better offensive showing from Brady who listened this week to questions about his accuracy and decision-making.
The Patriots were basically shut out in the first half. The Dolphins were shut out in the second half. The shootout never materialized as New England was rapacious defensively after the break.

“Combination of line, quarterback, running back, tight end and receiver. Some of that is also the combination of the previous plays. There are a lot more sacks on third-and-long than there are on third-and-short. I’d say it’s a combination of all of it. There’s certainly room for improvement everywhere, including on the coaching end. There are some things, a couple times the play we had on wasn’t a good play against what we happened to face. We have to stay out of that situation or find a different way to handle it. Things have come up a couple times on our end too. We all just have to do a better job all the way across the board. That includes everybody.” – Bill Belichick on the increase of sacks and pressure this season on Tom Brady.
It still doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to. Not by a damn sight. And, as Belichick said, the cause varies on every play.

“I’m not buying any of that..  This guy is one of the best ever.  They are playing well and we have to expect them to play extremely well at home, they do.  They are 3-0 at home, he’s pretty good.” – Joe Philbin, Dolphins coach, on Tom Brady’s struggles.
Philbin got an eyeful of why Tom Brady is the target of so much discussion, starting the game throwing for just over 3 yards per attempt in the first half (6 for 8 for 25 yards with a pick). In the second half, he was just 7 for 14 for 91 yards, but the results were 24 points for the Patriots offense after the break.

Patriots 31, Dolphins 24
Patriots 27, Dolphins 17