Pats Vs. Dolphins

13 and 3.


7-Things For Sunday, Part II.


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3. Quitting…-  Not sure I buy the whole quitting thing. If it wasn't a division game. If it wasn't a rivalry game. If they weren't playing the Pats maybe. "I guess so," Jarvis Landry said. "As much as that goes to be said about that, this team just needs a W. Our team just needs a win. As much or as less as a spoiler role, us getting a W to end the season would be a bit of a high for us this year." It's so hard to say, but that does sounds like a guy who is a bit out the door already.

It seems the HC may have quit on them. He knows he is gone. He has failed at his first attempt to be an HC. "The message is, 'it's one week,'" coach Campbell said. "It's one week, it's one game. Let's give it everything we've got one more time and let's go fight one more time. I want to go out and I want to be competitive and I want to find a way to win this game. That's what we play the game for." That doesn't sound anything like the guy we faced in the first game.

Meanwhile the Pats are trying to get their grove back. "Yeah, we try to, whether it's this week or last week or any week, you're always trying to do that to a degree," TB12 said. "I think you'd love to be firing away on all cylinders. At this point there's still a lot of moving parts with our team, our offense, and it's just kind of the way football season is. We're going to do everything we can to try and play our very best this weekend depending on who's out there and things will take shape and what we'll do may be a little bit different. But whoever's out there we need to go out and execute at a high level. I think that's what it comes down to. If it's anything less than that than you don't give yourself as good a chance or opportunity to win the game, so we're going to try and go out there and play our best and see if we can put together four good quarters of football." They haven't had it for a few games.

They have to pull the offense together starting this week. "Yeah, and I think there's just, it's kind of football season for every team," Brady said about establishing a rhythm with the offense with so many missing player. "Teams deal with it at different times. It could be the first few games of the year, could be the middle of the year, late in the year. I just think you've got to compete, no matter who is out there, do the best you can do, see how it shakes out at the end of 16 games. You wish it would be perfect and you win 50-0 every week and no one would ever get injured, but that'll never happen. There are a lot of imperfections to football season. It's just over the course of 17 weeks with one bye, you only have a certain number of players, and you play teams at different times that may or may not be dealing with injuries themselves, or scheme things, some coaches get fired. There are a lot of things that happen over the course of the year. You just try and do the best you can do each week, and it is one game that you've got to try to win per week and then you just empty the tank, and then you start again next week with the preparation and practice and competition. You deal with your guys being injured, try and attack weaknesses of the other team, and then see what happens and then you start again next week. Right now this is Week 17 of that. Like I said, we could just empty the tank one last time and try and go get a win at a place that we always have a tough time winning, then I think we're in a good position. Then we'll see what happens the next week." If Edelman and Amendola get healthy they are the favorite to win it all.

But without them they have lost their rhythm, and can't find it practice. "Whoever's playing we just try to go out there and practice as hard as we can, which Coach [BB] talked a lot this morning about," TB12 said. "The only way to really improve is to go out there and practice and do things at a very competitive level so you can really see how things shake out on a practice field before you get to the game on Sunday. You only have three opportunities to do that per week. You try to gain confidence in everybody by putting everybody into a position to go out there and see if they can do it and compete hard and develop some confidence in what we're trying to accomplish, and then if it doesn't work and you're doing it full speed and you're doing it against scout team, getting a real live reaction and it's not very productive. Then you've got to try and make some changes before you get to the game. You can walk through all these things and, 'Oh yeah everything looks great,' and then you get out there on the field under live competition and it doesn't work. You just try to practice as hard as you can. Like I said, we've kind of had a lot of different guys out there so you put different guys in different positions and see what they can do." So do they risk going into Denver, and not having continuity in the Divisional round, to give Edelman and Amendola two more weeks to heal?

The Pats have something to play for. They need this game. The Dolphins don't. That is a huge advantage for the Pats. The question is how much are the Pats willing to risk to take this game, and what is the point where the Dolphin's finally pack it all in for the season.

Some say they have packed it in already. And if they were playing any team except the hated Patriots who beat their asses every year I would have an easier time buying it. The Pats need to be respectful to the Dolphin get up early on them, and let them fold. They have quite on their coach. They have quit on the team. And they have quit on each other. So the Pats just can't give them something to play for.

4. Tannehill- What happened to this guy. I bought the whole Tannehill thing. That he was the next guy up in the AFC after TB12 retired. "I feel like he's done a better job of running the offense, of getting us tempo at the line and things of that nature," Coach Campbell said. "I feel like his play-action throws have been better. There's a lot of things that when you're talking about the quarterback, they go hand-in-hand which means like protection and sometimes it's hard to have an honest assessment of just how good or not-so-good that he's done by that. We try to do as good of a job as we can critiquing as to when is it something that he needs to be better at? When is it something that protection needs to be better at? Sometimes you look at it "It's a bad throw, but is that because he couldn't follow through because somebody is in his lap? Or does he have time to get rid of it and he got spooked out of the pocket and shouldn't have?' I feel like as far as those things, he's had better command in the huddle, certainly everything needs to better than it's been as goes with this team, but he is growing." Only it didn't happened.

He was not good this year, and he seemed to get worse as the season wore on. He just hasn't gotten better. Where's the improvement. Heck, Tyrod Taylor is better than he is now. Ryan Fitzpatrick, right now, is a much better quarterback than Tannehill. Both those guys have worked very hard to improve as QBs and they have. Heck, EJ Manuel might have been a better QB than Tannehill this season. He certain has improved a ton more than Tannehill this year.

Of course the real problem he is facing is that his O-line has fallen apart again. He is getting killed. The Pats passrushers have to end the game for him early. He is so beat up that he should not be playing this week. So make him hurt early and often. He has been so beat down that it has been reported that he had internal bleeding last week. "He's doing okay," coach Campbell tried. "I mean he's a little sore but he moved around today. He practiced and he should be fine Sunday." I don't think so. Beat him down and go home early.

Plus, Brent Grimes wife went off on him, and essentially said he sucks. "I'm not concerned about it," Coach Campbell said about the controversy that is tearing his team in two. "I just wanted to make sure those two are okay and I know that they are, I've talked to both of them. I know that they've talked to each other and we're off to New England now. I feel like the issue is resolved." The Pats need to take that crack in the team and rip it apart in the 1st half.

His teammates want nothing to do with it. "I can't speak on behalf of anybody on this matter, on that situation. Honestly, I don't want to be part of it. I'm sorry to refrain your question to Coach [Campbell] and to Ryan, but I don't really want to be part of that topic." That is not exactly sticking up for your quarterback. That is ducking and running.

The Pats should just let him suck. This team is eating itself alive. The coach is not even interested in coaching them any more. If the Pats score early, I now believe they will quit.

5. They Have a Good Defense As Well- The best news in this game is that the Patriot's killer Cameron "friggin'" Wake is out. But they are still getting good penetration from the guys up front. "They're hard to block up front," BB said. "They're just hard to block: Phillips, Mitchell, whoever it's been in there with Suh. They're hard [to block]. Shelby is hard. Vernon is hard. The linebackers do a good job of getting downhill. They blitz Jones enough. He's got some disruptive plays, too. I mean they don't blitz him all the time, but he shows up in there with some negative plays, some disruptive plays. I'd just say in general it's hard to get them all blocked. If you put a couple guys on the down guys then you have the linebackers. You have Sheppard and Jenkins and Vigil, and those guys [are] running through and making plays. If you're too quick to get to the linebackers then you're singled on Phillips, Suh, Mitchell, whoever it is, Shelby, Vernon and that's a problem, too. They just have a lot of guys who are hard to block consistently. They mix in a little bit of stunting but not a lot. They play a lot of just basic good-technique defense and they just win a lot of one-on-ones with their fundamentals and their aggressiveness. They have good players, so it's a good group. It's not easy; it's hard." Which is the exact opposite of what we want. We want Brady clean and pretty all game.

They still have a couple of good edgerushers, but Wakes is the guy that stirs the pot. So the focus will be on Suh. "Yeah, he's hard to block, it's no question," BB said. "He does a good job of getting off on the ball, so guys that are late off the ball, tackle is trying to cut him off on the back side or a guard or a tackle who is late on a pass set on him, a lot of times he's by them. He's got good quickness, very good strength. Kind of like Watt, he's got the combination of power and quickness, so if you're overaggressive he can just arm over you or slip you. If you kind of play soft and wait for him to make his move he's got enough power to run through blockers. Guys that are in front of him like centers and guards. He can split those double teams, guys that try to combination block him. He's got good pad level and can split the double teams. He's made some really good plays in pursuit, screen passes and plays like that, running 25-30 yards to get to the ball. He's had a lot of disruptive plays and again similar to the Watt conversation, if you take away one thing he can hit you with something else. He's got a lot of different skills." They have to keep him away from Brady at all costs.

They have some interesting Corners, and Malcolm Butler has been compared to Brent Grimes. "Similar backgrounds, coming out of college," BB said. "I mean I would say the one big difference was Grimes, Brent was cut in training camp the first year and then I think he went to Europe and then he was on the practice squad and then he got hurt. Then all of a sudden whatever year it was, I want to say '09, he had a big year and then he became a franchise player. He kind of bounced around in the league and Europe and all that for a couple years and then all of a sudden he became a franchise player and signed with Miami what was it, three years ago right? This is the third year we've played him. Malcolm is a little bit different than that, but Malcolm kind of was never released, was never in Europe, kind of came in and made a team and then this year it's been, other than the one play last year, but this year it's been much more of him becoming more recognized as a player, where it didn't happen quite as quickly for Grimes. As far as playing style and all that, it's a little bit different. You don't see Grimes in a lot of press coverage. He's more of an off corner, kind of like Finnegan, with a lot of quickness and reading routes and playing with a little more space and then closing that space, whereas Malcolm, I'm not saying he can't do that, he just hasn't done it as much for us and has been I'd say more productive up on the line of scrimmage. I'm not saying they both can't do both. It's not one or the other but just their style of play and maybe part of it is the system that they're in, but when you just watch them play you see one guy on the line of scrimmage and the other guy off I'd say most of the time." But I still think Martin and LaFell will be better in this game than past few.

So how much do you risk Amendola and Edelman is really a key to this game. "Alright back on the Dolphins here, I think you can really see the way this team has evolved over the last few weeks since Coach Campbell has taken over," BB said. "Played very physically, very strong up front, which they have been, but I think the emphasis of physical defense, controlling the line of scrimmage, attacking the line of scrimmage I think they've done a great job of that. They lead the league in negative rushing plays. I'd say that's a combination of a lot of things. It's not all one guy. It's a lot of good football players up there playing with good technique and playing aggressively. Defensively they create a lot of negative plays, interceptions from Grimes and Jones, got nine of them between them. They get a lot of turnovers. We've got to take care of the ball. That's been a big factor in the Dolphins wins where they've been able to get a big edge in the turnovers." If Brady claims he doesn't need them in this game to reestablish their continuity than that is good enough for me.

Vernon is guy that can hit Brady, and needs to be doubled as well in this game with Wake out. "He's basically been on our left," BB said. "Coples is in there a little bit for him. Shelby has done a great job on the right side. He's had a lot of production. Moore plays over there a little bit, but they pretty much stay left and right. They're pretty much left and right." But on the other side is some guy named Shelby. Maybe he's great, but I'm not ah-scared. They have some good linebackers as well. But I think the Pats can run on this team. I also liked their Safeties, Rashad Jones and Walt Aikens in the Draft. But can they cover Gronk for a half. I just don't think so.

6. Backups Have To Step up- The Pats want to end this game in the 1st Half. They don't want any shenanigans to make the Dolphin think they can win this game. The Pats want to play with as many backups as possible and keep the ambulance moving towards a fully healthy team in three weeks. It looks like this is going to be a big game for the Back ups.

If Edelman can't go they are going to need Keshawn Martin to step up. "Keshawn's really taken advantage of his opportunities. He works extremely hard, he prepares to know his part in the game plan very well and practices well," BB said. "I think that he has demonstrated the ability to do the two things that we really tell our receivers they have to do, which is to get open and catch the ball. He's versatile. He can play multiple roles in multiple spots, which he has done in each game he has played in. He's demonstrated the ability to make plays under pressure and he's made some catches on third down and he's made some catches in the red zone. He's had to do some things for us, in terms of adjusting after the ball's been snapped. I really like the things that Keshawn's doing, really enjoy the person that he is. He's really a good kid, he works hard, he has a great attitude, he's bright and he's talented. We are fortunate to have him and like I said, he's really doing a good job of making the most of his opportunities that he's getting. We'll look forward to continued improvement and growth from him as we go through the rest of the season." He is going to have to step up in this game.

It's funny to think that if they rest Amendola and Edelman, Martin could be the key cog for Brady in this game. "Yeah absolutely," BB said. "Keshawn has done a great job for us. He got here and was starting to kind of get into the rotation and get some opportunities and all that, then he missed a couple games and that kind of slowed him down a little bit. But as he's come back and unfortunately as we've lost a little bit of depth at that position, that's been unfortunate for the guys that we miss, but it's given Keshawn an opportunity and he's really stepped in and taken advantage of that. Of course being in a system similar to ours in Houston, I'm sure that helped him to some degree. We've used him in different positions, really in all three receiver spots in our three-receiver groupings. He's been inside and outside, both on the strong side and the weak side, so he has good position flexibility. He's smart and he's also given us some plays in the return game. I think his running skills, running after the catch are good, and his running skills in the return game,  both punts and kickoffs, which again it's not the easiest thing in the world to find a guy that can do both. It's not the easiest thing in the world to find a guy who can do either one but to find somebody who can do both, again particularly given the situation that we're in at that position, the returner spot as well, he's really come through for us there. He's been a great addition, great teammate, and everybody likes to work with him. He's alert, he's sharp, ready to go, competes hard, practices well. I think he's improved significantly, both in his kicking game, ball handling and also his offensive receiving work, route techniques, ball skills, adjustments and so forth. Even though it was a later starting time, his performance has just kind of improved every week, and I think there is a lot of confidence in him. He's been able to help us and I'm glad we have him. He's been a great addition for us." He is not going to get any rest come Sunday.

Another guy who could have a big game is Steven Jackson. "Steven's got a lot of experience," coach McDaniels said. "I think that can help but I also think that each year is a different year and you get your body and your mind prepared differently from one year to the next. You've got to go back through all of those things that get you ready to play and I think that's what Steven's doing now and then the preparation for each individual week is certainly different in its own right. There are a lot of things that will dictate if a player feels different or similar to a year he played in the past or not. I will just say he's a big guy, he runs hard, he's always run hard and those traits serve you well in terms of making yards after contact and hopefully that will continue to be a strength of his." They really had to off set this defenses rush.

Jackson is a guy they could use to help off set the risk to Brady. "I think that will start just with the work week," coach McDaniel said. "Steven had really two days of practice last week so I think that it's fair to say that we wanted to put him in a situation that was fair to him based on the preparation and the work that he had done prior to the game. This week will give us another three days of good work and experience and exposure to him and for him to the offense that will give us an opportunity to expand his role, hopefully during the course of the game on Sunday. Sometimes circumstances or the situation in the game could dictate what you have to do offensively. Hopefully, we are not in too many of those situations where we can't use our backs, use our tight ends, and use our receivers the way that we would hope to, or design it for the week that we are playing currently. Hopefully, the three days of practice are going to be good for him, good for us and get him more familiar with different things in the offense and the goal would to be able to expand what he feels comfortable doing, which in turn, will make us comfortable putting him in those situations under pressure Sunday in Miami." They need to ground and pound this team into the exit they so desperately want to enter.

Remember he and coach Josh worked together when Josh was in St. Louis. "There are really two things there," Josh said. "One, I know the person and I've worked extensively with him in that year so I have a comfort level with him. I think our offensive staff, we've talked extensively about that, so we kind of know him better than anybody that comes off the street that we've never really been exposed to. Secondly, he's certainly had exposure to the terminology and the verbiage that we use here so I think that that helps him to close the gap in terms of what he knows and what he doesn't know. He's well ahead of somebody that would come in here with zero experience in our system and I think that would definitely help any new player that would come in at this point in time in the year." I think he plays a big factor in this game.

The Pats really want to shorten this game as much as possible, which means running the ball. The Pats cannot run the clock too much with the run game. If the Dolphin front seven quits, and the Pats can get first down without risking Brady, they will pound and pound and pound the Dolphins, and keep that clock moving in fast forward. And we will see a big slice Jackson.

7. 1st Half Game- The Pats have the same problem again this week. Who to rest and who to play. I wouldn't allow Hightower on the plane to Miami if I were BB, unless their was a Indianapolis HGH factory in Miami he could send his wife too. His knee clearly needs a few weeks off.

McCourty on the other hand might need some reps to scrap off some of the rust. I have no idea if he is ready or not, but if they can get him on the field they should do it. Otherwise I think you have to play everyone. If they can stuff the offense for a few drives it could turn into a route Fast.

The D needs to make this offense quit so this game turns into half a game. If the Pats can get up by 21-points the game is over. They can get Brady off the field. And run the ball early and often to take as much time off the clock as possible.

Really this game comes down to the 1st Half. The Pats want to be done with this game at Halftime, so they have to hit-hit-hit the physical and emotionally twisted Tannehill, who was just attacked by a teammates wife. "Offensively, again a very well balanced offense," BB said. "They run the ball well, average four and a half yards per carry, which is pretty good. They have a lot of big-play receivers, big average per catch with obviously Landry, who does everything well and his numbers are a little lower because of the number of short catch-and-run plays he has, but he handles the ball a lot plus he gets the ball on a lot of running plays with speed sweeps and slip screens and things like that. Then Stills, Parker, who has really become a big factor, have gotten a lot of plays out of Matthews – not sure what his status is this week but he's been a good deep-ball productive player for them. Cameron obviously and [Damien] Williams has done a good job coming out of the backfield, too, so they have a lot of guys who have given them a lot of big plays in the passing game plus a running game that's been consistent with good runners. Jay [Ajayi] and Lamar Miller have done a good job breaking tackles, getting a lot of positive yards, and Tannehill is obviously a threat to run the ball and has thrown the deep ball very well. The kicking game, the return game is always a problem with Landry: strong runner, breaks a lot of tackles, very aggressive. And they do an excellent job on their punt and field goal rushes, challenge your protections all the time, probably more than any team in the league. Certainly with punt rushes, nobody has rushed more than they do. But that doesn't really affect them too much because they can still return the ball and keep the coverage from getting down there so a lot of their return comes from guys getting held up in the line trying to protect. I think that Coach Campbell has made a very conscious effort to play the game a certain way. I think you definitely see that when you watch the film, and they've had good success doing it. They had an opportunity to beat the Colts there at the end of the game but they had I'd say a real tough pass interference call go against them. They had a touchdown called back a little earlier in the third quarter. Played well last week, beat the Ravens, beat the Eagles, so they do a lot of things well. Our goal is to play our best game of the year this week. That's what we think we need to do. Hopefully that's what we'll be able to do." If it goes further than that they can be risking resting their players.

Because wacky things happen in Division games. Plus if they get through this game healthy, the more they can play their starters the less rust will be on them in two weeks. So playing starters in the second half is not necessarily a bad thing.

Everybody seems to forget how rusty they were last year against the Ravens. The offense sucked to start the game, and the defense was lost. The Ravens got up 14-zip, and actually had two 14-point leads as they scored on the first drive of the 3rd quarter as well. The Dolphins game is as much about not allow the defense to rust over and the offense to lose it's continuity.

The Pats great defense from last year let up 21-points in the first half. They can't do that again in two weeks. But in the end the Pats defense only gave up a field goal in the 4th, and the Pats offense got a TD in the 4th, and that is what won the game. 

That is what they are trying to stop in two weeks. And maybe the best way to do that is to play the starters a little longer than you want. Maybe resting them out of this game is just too much time off. But of course part of the reason they dismantled the Colts in the Champ game is because they were so much more rested. It is their dilemma.

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