A Few Appetizers:
I’m definitely getting a little frustrated writing about how “the Patriots don’t lose two in a row”. I’m kind of a superstitious guy and I feel like it could end up jinxing the boys if we keep saying it all the time. Forget about history; history as meant shit this year. We are watching the development of a new New England Patriots team. Especially as far as defense is concerned.
The Patriots are yet to find their identity as a team and us fans are hoping that this discovery happens sooner than later over the course of the next five weeks. So in keeping with forgetting history, let’s move on to the facts about this upcoming game.
The Patriots strength will be tested. After one devastating loss to Indianapolis and one heartbreaking performance against New Orleans, New England has to stay focused on the AFC East. A two game lead is worth nothing with five games left in the season and two of them being divisional matches. The Miami Dolphins are 5-6 on the season, 3-2 in the East, and 3-4 in the AFC. The Patriots are 7-4 through 12 weeks, 3-1 in the East, and 5-3 in the AFC. These numbers show the urgency of needing a win. Defeating Miami will make give the Pats possibly a 3-game lead and a 4-1 record in the East while dropping Miami to 3-2 in the division. More important than not losing two back-to-back games, in my opinion, is the fact that the Patriots have only swept the Fins two times since 2001. Miami always presents a tough fight, no matter how either teams’ seasons are going. It will take focus, confidence, and hunger to propel New England to 8-4 and their first ‘real’ road win of 2009.
Oh! I almost forgot… Has anyone heard from good ol’ Joey Porter this week? I sure haven’t. Is it possible that some south Florida linebacker has learned his lesson about trash-talking? Probably not; but it’s still nice not to have to hear his crap.
The Ronnie-Brown-less Weekly Match-Ups:
* Tom Brady vs. Miami Secondary – 21-36, 237 yards, 2 INTs, and NO TDs. Nope those aren’t Chad Henne’s numbers last week, they are Tom Brady’s. Cool. One of his worst performances in recent memory. He’ll need to snap back to form against this battered, young secondary. Moss and Welker will be freed up a lot more this weekend and if they aren’t, Brady must not get frustrated. There are a TON of other weapons for him to throw to: Faulk, Watson, Edelman, Aiken, Stanback, etc. My only real concern for Tom this week is that he keeps his head on. He also needs to let go of the ball faster. If he can drop back and get the ball out early, defenses will be helpless. With time, he will make the Fins pay for the pain the Saints put him through. The most important match-up responsible for passing success, however, falls on the offensive line…
* Protection vs. Rush – The offensive line picture appears to look like this: Sebeastian Vollmer needs to be a part of our protection scheme. Whether he’s starting or rotating in, he needs to be active. Matt Light looked a little weak (being respectful) on Monday Night and I’m sure a short week + a road game won’t put him in top form. Steven Neal, the Patriots best lineman this season, came back last week and hopefully can return to dominating form this week. I’m not quick to say Light has been replaced, but I am seriously thinking about it. Miami lacking Jason Ferguson is good news for the Pats. The offensive line can mainly focus on Randy Starks, Jason Taylor, and my man Peezy. The bottom line is this: if the guys up front can hold their blocks better than Monday and make their holes, Tom Brady and Laurence Maroney will be able to run recklessly on the Dolphins.
* 6-Gamer-Maroney vs. Miami De-fins-e – Can anyone believe that Maroney has rushed for 8 TDs in 6 consecutive games? My friend Prince can; but that’s about it. Maroney has been surprising to say the least and if wasn’t fumble-happy following his first rushing TD of the game, he would be one of the best backs in the second half of the season. He has been running harder and making smart cuts. He still doesn’t have the kind of vision that Faulk or the top backs have, but he is really working hard and it is paying off. The biggest challenge in this game is ball protection. If Maroney holds on to the rock, he will score and he will move the chains. Porter, Channing and the rest of the Fins don’t stand a chance against a strong, stiff-arming Maroney. He knows he’s helping his team and he wants to win as well as prove himself. I’m excited for the possibility of Maroney’s second 100-yard game this weekend.
* Randy Moss vs. Vontae Davis – Last time these two played, Davis cried. That should tell you enough. Vontae got a lucky pick off of Brady, and he barely had possession; this time he won’t be so lucky. After a 2-game slump from Moss, I expect him to get some good yardage and get it quickly. Randy and Tom will want to test this young defense and set the pace for the game. Vontae Davis is a good CB though, it will take a good, strong effort from Randy Moss. Hopefully some double coverage will get thrown Moss’ way and open Welker in the middle of the field.
* Tedd Ginn Jr. vs. NE Special Teams – New England’s kicking teams have not been special by any means this season. The coverage has looked vulnerable at times but decent enough to be able to stop Ginn. Big-time playmakers like Aiken, Slater, and McGowan will have to make good, disciplined tackles while staying in their lanes. Eliminating that speedster is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to defeating the Dolphins. At least eliminating him on kicks; we don’t really need to worry too much about him receiving.
* Chad Henne vs. One Sorry Defense – I was disgusted by the secondary’s performance on Monday. Merriweather made sure he wasn’t going to the Pro Bowl by screwing up on two huge passing plays. Bodden acted like his season ended after his 3 INTs against the Jets. Don’t even get me started on why Wilhite started over Springs. And no one could tackle. That, actually, was what pissed me off most. How can you be paid millions of dollars and compete at the highest level on one of the League’s most respected teams and miss tackles?! I don’t have the answer but I’m sure Bill Belichick did this week at practice. I definitely expect an improvement in the defensive backfield on Sunday. Miami doesn’t pose half as many threats as New Orleans did and New England will be looking to, hopefully, make a statement. The other issue i have with this defense is their pass rush: it’s non-existent. These guys have to get off their assess and make quarterbacks worry. Successful teams have a pass rush. I don’t know why they can’t create pressure but it is imperative that the learn how to do it soon. Chad Henne, however, isn’t a terrible quarterback; he has 3 TDs and 4 INTs in his last 3 games but has only lost one. The key to throwing him off is pressure. Without much of a potent passing game, we’re due for a lot of action on the ground.
* Ricky Williams vs. Vince Wilfork + Friends – Vince swallows up running backs in the middle. That’s a given. When Ricky pops it outside though, it will be up to Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, and the linebackers to make tackles and keep him under control. The wildcat hasn’t been as dominant as it was in 2008, but Williams still does work on the grass. He’s got
792 yards and 9 TDs this season… he looks good. In the Dolphins loss to the Bills he had 115 yards and a touchdown. Regardless of whether the rest of the team shows up doesn’t matter; Ricky usually always shows up. If he starts racking up yards under the radar, this game could end up being way closer than anyone wants it to be. Missed tackles CAN NOT happen. That’s just inexcusable.
This game will be played with a lot of intensity, as every game between these two usually is. I can’t stress enough how necessary a win is on Sunday, but I’m sure 90% of you share my feelings. Thanks for reading, as usual… I hope you’re full.
Tags: Pre-Game Meal