What to Watch For: Dolphins vs Patriots
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Joe Calabro, GoLocalWorcester Sports Team
|Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense will look to slow down the Dolphins|
The Dolphins enter the game with a record of 3-0, while the Patriots come in with a record of 1-2 following back-to-back losses to Jacksonville and Detroit.
“We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We're here because of what we performed. It's not like we came in and someone gave us a 1-2 record. This is what we went out there and what we deserve, so I think for us, it's got to just put your head down and keep working and then you'll have an opportunity - like we'll have the opportunity Sunday to change it and go out there and get a win,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Thursday.
While it is still early in the season, the game feels like a near must win. If the Patriots lose, they fall three games behind Miami for the division lead.
“Well, these games are important. I mean, the division games, that's what it's all about. They're 3-0 and we're looking up at them, and obviously, we haven't played the way that we all think we're capable of playing. This is the next game, so it's going to be a great opportunity for us to go out there and see if we can put together four quarters of good football,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his Friday press conference.
If the Patriots do lose, it would mark their first three-game losing streak since the 2000 season, before the Brady era began.
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Patriots vs Dolphins
Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins will be the 106th meeting all-time between the two teams.
The Dolphins lead the all-time series 54-51 and won the last meeting. Between the two teams last December in Miami.
However, the Dolphins have not won a game at Gillette Stadium since September 21, 2008.
The Patriots are off to a slow start this season and have been getting off to slow starts in games.
Last week against Detroit, the New England offense opened up with three straight three-and-outs and ended up falling behind 13-0. New England didn't pick up a first down till late in the first half.
In the last two games (Jacksonville, Detroit), the Patriots have been outscored 37-6 in the first half.
"There's no magic plays and I said that after the last game. There's no like, "Hey, this is guaranteed to work or guaranteed to score touchdowns." It's about good execution and good communication, good concentration and making plays on third down. We've got to do a good job of that. We haven't done a great job of that thus far," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.
New England's slow starts can be traced back to the end of last season.
They fell behind in the AFC Championship game against Jacksonville and had to win it in the final minutes.
The Patriots also fell behind early in the Super Bowl and ended up losing the game to the Eagles.
The Patriots defense is ranked among the worst in the league in both passing and rushing.
New England gives up 263 yards per game through the air, good enough for 22nd in the NFL, and 143 yards per game on the ground, worst in the NFL.
The Patriots also give up 406 yards of total offense per game, 28th in the NFL.
"We've got to make plays. Like guys have got to make plays. We've talked about that this week of just a guy stepping up and making a play and then it's contagious. I mean, we've talked about that and we don't have someone that's going to come in and be the answer, third down that stops - you know, it's got to be the guys in the locker room going out there and just making a play," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Thursday.
This week, the Patriots secondary will be tested against Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant.
Stills is Miami's big target as he has hauled in nine catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
The Patriots run defense got carved up last week while trying to stop former Patriot LeGarrette Blount.
This week, they will look to contain Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake.
He's excellent. He's a good back. He's quick, fast, he can make people miss. He does a good job in line making people miss. He can attack one hole and very quickly cut to a different hole. So, yeah, he's hard, explosive through the hole - he can definitely take a 4 or 5-yard run and turn it into 20. He's, again, a very explosive guy with good vision," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his Wednesday press conference.
Last season, Drake had 193 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots.
Following last week's loss to Detroit, Brady appeared to make an appeal for running back James White to be more involved in the offense.
"He’s just a great player for us. He’s gotta be involved. Guys who can make plays are the ones that should be involved. And James is certainly one of them," Brady said about White in his post-game press conference.
White played just 25 offensive snaps against Detroit and had three catches for 14 yards and a touchdown. He also had four carries for 37 yards.
Including the touchdown catch, Whit touched the ball just two times in the first half.
Meanwhile, rookie Sony Michel ran for 50 yards on 14 carries and had one catch for -1 yard. He also dropped a pass that would have given New England a first down.
So far this season, Michel has 24 carries for 84 yards.
Will this be the week that Josh Gordon makes his Patriots debut?
Gordon was again listed as limited in practice on the Patriots Friday injury report.
"He's just studying his playbook every time I see him. He's in the playbook, just studying and just trying to get better," said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during his press conference on Friday.
Belichick added on Friday, "Josh is working hard on and off the field. He's done everything he can do."
If Gordon plays on Sunday, the Patriots wide receiver position consists of Chris Hogan, Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Philip Dorsett, and Bennie Fowler.
Former Patriots receiver Danny Amendola returns to Gillette Stadium on Sunday as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
After helping the Patriots win two Super Bowls and get to a third, Amendola signed with the Dolphins this past offseason for two years, $12 million with $8.25 million in guarantees.
"Well, he's a great friend, so I'm happy for him and his opportunity and he's playing well. He was a great player for us. I have a great friendship with him and we'll be friends for the rest of our lives," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his Friday press conference.
So far this season with Miami, Amendola has hauled in 11 catches for 100 yards and averaging nine yards per catch.
Meanwhile, the Patriots offense is ranked among the worst in the league, averaging just 19 points and 202 passing yards per game. Those numbers are good for 25th and 26th in the NFL respectively.
Amendola with Patriots
Amendola, 32, played for the Patriots for five seasons after signing with the team in 2013 to replace Wes Welker.
In his time in New England, Amendola helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls and get to a third Super Bowl, while proving to be a go-to guy for Tom Brady in the playoffs.
In 13 playoff games in New England, Amendola hauled in 57 catches for 709 yards and six touchdowns, including the game-winner the 2018 AFC Championship against Jacksonville.
His regular season numbers include 230 catches for 2,383 yards and 12 touchdowns in 9 games.