Patriots vs. Dolphins: 5 Ways Miami Can Actually Beat New England
However the team has enough reasons to think that they can cause an upset against the AFC favorites on Monday night. Despite being seven-point underdogs, this game should be much closer than most anticipate.
Here are five crucial things the Dolphins must do.
Don't Turn the Ball over
In the corresponding fixture last season, the Dolphins threw four interceptions. Three of those interceptions came from Chad Henne and two of those came when the Dolphins had a lead in the game.
Henne is entering his third season as a starter, so he needs to prove that he is a viable NFL quarterback. He does not need to be Tom Brady but the Dolphins will have to sustain possession and move the ball effectively.
Pass protection will be vital as Henne's chances of not turning the ball over will be better throwing from a clear pocket.
Take Advantage of the Patriots' Question Marks
While Henne cannot turn the ball over, he must also take shots deep. The Dolphins must try to get Brandon Marshall into the middle of the field, where he can threaten the Patriots' inexperienced secondary.
With Sergio Brown and Pat Chung the likely starters, the Patriots could be suspect to a mistake or two in coverage. Should any mental mistakes occur the Dolphins have to take advantage and put points on the board.
Devin McCourty is a very good cornerback but Marshall can beat him at times and make plays against any zone coverage the Patriots play.
This may not be so difficult considering the ambiguous nature of the Patriots' front seven as nobody really knows what to expect from them, especially after Albert Haynesworth's very inactive offseason.
Establish the Running Game
The Dolphins' best chances at winning this game is by keeping the Patriots offense on the sideline as well as putting points on the board with their running game.
Larry Johnson was re-signed after not originally making the roster.
Johnson needs to be used to batter the defense before Reggie Bush comes in to make big plays and take chunks of yardage. If they can get Bush into the secondary, he can make plays and be the spark for the offense, but they need to wear down the front seven with Johnson or Daniel Thomas first.
Shut Down the Two-Tight End Set
The addition of Kevin Burnett in the offseason is vital for the Dolphins' games with the Patriots. Burnett and current linebacker leader Karlos Dansby are both athletic enough to take care of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
This will allow the Dolphins to stay in their base defense and not allow the Patriots to run on them by being in their nickel set so often. The Patriots' two-tight end set is a vital part of their arsenal because it allows them to take advantage of matchups with their two tight ends and manipulate the defense to suit what they want.
Get Your Hands on the Football
Sean Smith and Vontae Davis are excellent corners, but neither have been good at coming up with turnovers for the Dolphins.
If the Dolphins can get better field position or even a score off of defense, then it will go a long way toward winning this football game.