Patriots vs. Dolphins: 5 Second-Half Adjustments Miami Must Make
Contrary to our preconceived notions and popular predictions, the Dolphins' defense has actually lagged far behind the offense.
Miami's pass-defense has looked entirely overwhelmed by New England's well-balanced passing attack, yet Chad Henne has accrued a nearly perfect stat line.
In order for the Dolphins to escape their 2011 debut with a win, they must make a handful of adjustments—particularly on defense. The Patriots won't take their foot off the gas pedal, so it's up to Mike Nolan, Tony Sparano and this roster to make the proper alterations.
Replace Reshad Jones with Chris Clemons
Free safeties Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones battled for the starting job throughout training camp, but Jones won the ultimate affection of Miami's coaching staff with his aggressive, ball-hawk style of play.
However, the Dolphins' decision to start Jones came with a major and well-documented caveat: His aggressive nature often becomes a liability—and this is exactly what has transpired over the first half of the game.
Put Vontae Davis on Wes Welker
Even though he has only reeled in a modest two receptions for 25 yards, Wes Welker has been open early and often tonight. Bill Belichick has made a point of attacking Benny Sapp all night, and it is vital that he be relegated to cover one of New England's other wide receivers.
Vontae Davis has the physical build and athletic skill set to contain Welker, and he should be shadowing the former 'Fin for the remainder of the game.
Find a Way to Contain Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
Miami's struggles covering opposing tight ends are well-documented—just look at the box scores of any game in which they faced a marquee tight end over the past few seasons.
Replacing Channing Crowder with Kevin Burnett was supposed to alleviate this sore spot, but Patriots tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have combined to catch five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Because New England boasts such an effectively well-balanced attack, it's difficult to conjure any kind of plan to halt this duo. Either way, Mike Nolan must think of something or Hernandez and Gronkowski will continue to slice this secondary apart.
Get Pressure on Tom Brady
The Giants showed the world how to defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII: get pressure on Tom Brady.
Miami has enjoyed past success against New England employing a similar strategy, but they have failed miserably tonight. Brady has had absurd amounts of time to sit back in the pocket and wait for plays to develop.
Between Cam Wake, Jason Taylor, Koa Misi, Randy Starks and Jared Odrick, there is simply no excuse for such a lack of pressure.
Get Larry Johnson or Lex Hilliard Short-Yardage Carries
Reggie Bush has posted some promising numbers in his Dolphins debut, but has struggled notably in short-yardage situations. He failed on back-to-back attempts to convert a 2nd and 3rd-and-2.
Rather than allot these short-yardage carries to a scat-back, Tony Sparano should be giving bruisers Lex Hilliard or Larry Johnson an opportunity to convert these plays.