What to Watch For: Patriots vs Dolphins
Sunday, December 09, 2018
Joe Calabro, GoLocalWorcester Sports Team
“Obviously, trying to win the division is a great step and this will really allow us to do that. They’re going to really challenge us. It’s going to be a physical game – they’ve been talking about that. I know we’re prepared for just having the right mindset to go down there and play a really great complementary game,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.
The Patriots come into the game with a record of 9-3 overall, while Miami is 6-6 on the season.
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
See What to Watch For in the Slideshow Below
Patriots vs Dolphins
Sunday’s game will be the 107th all-time meeting between the Patriots and Dolphins, including the postseason.
Miami leads the all-time series 54-52 over the Patriots.
New England beat the Dolphins 38-7 earlier this season at Gillette Stadium.
“This is a lot different team than we saw earlier in the year, eight weeks ago. They've changed some personnel things. They’ve done a really good job of winning close games, playing good football situationally and that's how they’ve won a lot of close games,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference on Friday.
The Dolphins have won four of the last five games in Miami.
See What to Watch For in the Slideshow Below
South Beach Struggles
Playing in Miami has been no easy task for the Patriots over the last several years.
In fact, New England has lost four of their last five games down on South Beach.
“Well, I think they play well and we don’t. But the reality is, none of that stuff matters. This week it’s really this team against that team and we’re going to have to play well. They play good at home – they’re 5-1. They’ve got a good defense. So we’ve got a big challenge, should be fun,” said Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.
Brady is 7-9 in Miami overall, and 1-5 against the Dolphins in December.
By comparison, Brady is 85-32 in all other road games and 25-2 in all other December road games.
Game time temperature is expected to be in the low 80s. Over the last 10 years, the Patriots are 3-6 in road games in which the temperature was above 80.
"Look, it is what it is out there. So whatever it is, it is," said Belichick during his press conference on Wednesday.
Look for the Patriots to be run heavy on Sunday.
Miami enters the game as one of the worst run defenses in the league, ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed per game with 144.7, and 27th in yards per carry, allowing 4.96.
In three of the last four games, the Patriots have run the ball 30 times.
When it comes to who is getting the ball, rookie Sony Michel has rushed 144 times for 649 yards and five touchdowns this season.
He averages 4.5 yards per carry.
James White has rushed the ball 76 times for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
He has also hauled in 74 passes for 659 yards and six touchdowns.
Rex Burkhead returned to the Patriots last week after missing most of the season with injury.
In only four games, he has 31 rushes for 1-6 yards.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is not having one of his better seasons, and last week he might have had one of his worst games.
Against the Vikings, he had three penalties, caught three passes for 26 yards and has not had much of an impact on the offense, despite playing all but two plays over the last two weeks.
"I feel like obviously, I can be more effective, for sure. But what I've been doing is just putting practices together. Working hard. Doing what I've been asked to do for my teammates, coaches. Just gotta keep doing that and keep sticking to that,” said Gronkowski during his press conference on Friday.
So far this season, Gronkowski has just 35 catches for 530 yards and two touchdowns.
“Any time that he’s out there, I have so much confidence in everything he does. If they don’t cover him, he gets it. If they cover him, it gives other people opportunity. Our offense the other night was a lot of different guys getting it, and that’s a good way to play offense. Run it, pass it, inside, outside, deep, short, middle, perimeter – that’s a good style for us. Hopefully, we can just keep that going,” said Brady.
The Patriots secondary and defense is coming off a shutdown performance against the Minnesota Vikings, where they gave up just 10 points.
Sunday’s game will present another opportunity.
The Dolphins offense ranks 25th in points per game with 20, 29th in yards per game with 302, and 28th in passing yards per game with 199.
Miami’s lead receiver is old friend Danny Amendola, who has 48 catches for 469 yards.
Running back Kenyan Drake is second with 40 catches.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has 13 touchdown passes and six interceptions on the season.
He sports a completion percentage of 66.3.
With a win, the Patriots would clinch the AFC East title.
It would be the Patriots 9th straight AFC East title and 16 overall in the Brady/Belichick era.
"Obviously, trying to win the division is a great step and this will really allow us to do that. They’re going to really challenge us. It’s going to be a physical game – they’ve been talking about that. I know we’re prepared for just having the right mindset to go down there and play a real great complementary game," said Brady on Friday.
Getting the division out of the way will allow the Patriots to focus on clinching a bye in the playoffs.
Currently, New England is the second seed behind the Kansas City Chiefs.